In an article for the Daily Telegraph, Zahawi wrote that the removal of poems by poets Larkin and Owen from a GCSE course was “cultural vandalism” and called for reinstatement.
He said: “The decision to remove these poets from the OCR GCSE English Literature specification is cultural vandalism. It betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what great poetry is about.”
This is not the first time that Zahawi has been critical of removing works by classic authors from school curriculums. In 2016, he condemned the decision to remove Shakespeare’s Macbeth from a GCSE English literature course.
Zahawi is not the only one who criticised the OCR’s decision to remove Larkin and Owen from its GCSE course. In an article for the Guardian, writer and poet Simon Armitage described the move as “a sad day for poetry”.
Armitage wrote: “These are two poets who sang about love and death, war and peace, with a sincerity and directness that can still break your heart.”
He added: “Their poems are not yesterday’s news. They are as vital and relevant today as they ever were.”
The OCR has defended its decision to remove Larkin and Owen from its GCSE course, saying it wants to include a more diverse range of authors.
In a statement, the OCR said: “Our new specification offers students a wide range of poets from different cultures and traditions. We have included poets from the Tudor period through the 21st century, including women and black and minority ethnic poets.”
Then, in a separate but related development, the BBC announced that it would be dropping Larkin’s poems from its GCSE English literature anthology.
The BBC said that the decision had been made “to meet the needs of a more diverse range of students”.
However, some have criticised the BBC’s decision, with poet and writer Anne Fine saying that it was “a great pity” that Larkin’s poems would no longer be included in the anthology.
Fine tweeted: “A great pity Larkin is being dropped from the new GCSE anthology. His poems are short, direct, accessible – and still speak powerfully to today’s teenagers.”
According to a Cambridge University Press section, the OCR is still planning to include Larkin and Owen in its A-level English literature course.
It is not yet clear whether the BBC will also drop Larkin’s poems from its A-level anthology, but one for sure, the next generation of students will have to study without some of the most well-loved and respected poets of our time.
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