Scots authors must win curriculum places on merit

Jean Anderson (Opinion, September 13) argues that Scottish literature should be a compulsory part of the Higher syllabus, yet doesn't give any reason why Scots authors should be so favoured.

If "English teachers know more about American, French and English writers than those of their native land", surely this must suggest teachers consider these authors have greater literary merit, and would be able to teach these "foreign" works with greater enthusiasm and ability - and hopefully instil a lifetime's interest in literature within pupils who could return to Scots fiction when they are older.

Isn't it a bit insulting to Scottish authors, the implication that no one would choose to teach their work, so it will become com-pulsory? Putting our authors in this cultural ghetto, unable to stand alone against world literature, diminishes the achievements of our writers. Sir Walter Scott is considered the father of the modern novel, a fact we can be proud of. However, it doesn't make me want to teach his works.

I cannot comment on Jean Anderson's experiences as an English teacher, only my own. The majority of Higher pupils I teach are not readers. Some boast of never having read a book from beginning to end, instead relying on teachers spoon-feeding them through Standard grade. However, this is not possible in Higher and the pupils will actually have to read the book, perhaps even twice; therefore it is important that they can make a connection with the book they are taught.

To present them with Sunset Song at Higher simply because the author was born within the same land mass to me seems ridiculous. Rural Aberdeenshire at the turn of the last century has about as much relevance to 21st century inner-city Scots as "My life in the bush of ghosts."

The aim of teaching Higher English should not be to prolong the shelf life of Scottish authors who are past their sell-by date but to instil in young people a love of literature which will last their lifetime. When doing this, teachers should be allowed to use the best texts available - Scots, English, Czech, Columbian or whatever. They should not have their hands tied behind their backs by the SQA.

Gordon Cairns Glasgow.

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