Guardian readers, teachers and academics respond to the controversy around the Cambridge university English syllabus

Many thanks for Priyamvada Gopal’s excellent piece on the moral, intellectual and cultural necessity of widening the literary canon and curriculum (English teaching has to go beyond elite white men, 28 October). As an English teacher, I am passionate that my students come into contact with – and love – all manner of great literature, from wherever and whomever it may come. That includes Chaucer, Shakespeare, Coleridge, et al – but by definition it must also include many others, including Morrison, Tagore, and Breeze.

Some years ago, I taught The Color Purple. My students were roughly split down the middle in terms of enjoyment and engagement – to be expected with large classes of adolescents. I did my utmost to support everyone to engage as far as possible, and to work critically with the text: students in the main did well. Less expected, and more troubling, was thinly veiled hostility from some outraged parents, complaining that it wasn’t “proper English”. Despite explanations that it was vernacular African-American English, and just as valid as, say, Burns’ Scots English, or indeed the language of another novel option, Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (which I also love), they remained unconvinced.

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