Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dozens of British Schools Send Back Free Boring Classics

From London comes word that "dozens of schools" in the U.K. have refused to accept 300-book sets of the classics that the Millennium Library Trust has provided them free of charge. Why? Because the books are too boring and unattractive to "tempt" their students.

Dozens of schools have rejected gifts of free classic books because today's pupils find them too 'difficult' to read, it has emerged.

Around 50 schools have refused to stock literary works by the likes of Jane Austen, William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens after admitting that youngsters also find them boring.
...pupils are more interested in Japanese comics rather than literary greats. "Kids love action and adventure," Miss Read said. "They want books that excite them and are current. They love fantasy.

"The books for nowadays are Manga, the Japanese comic books that you read from back to front."

The librarian went on to say that the classics were "unattractive". She said: "I think they are unappealing to youngsters and you've got to fit them into your school bag."

Another school, which rejected the free 'Everyman's Library' books, wrote: "The paper jackets are ugly and unattractive and the binding is dull and boring.

"What is needed is the familiar paperback format with attractive jacket and abridged versions."

Another school complained: "The books are so unattractive they are unlikely to tempt any pupil."
Mr Campbell, who has raised £9million to pay for the books, told the Guardian yesterday: "It never occurred to me that anyone would turn this offer down.

"I didn't expect most school pupils to want to read Homer or Virgil, but I thought that there was more than a reasonable chance that quite a few could be coaxed to read (Gabriel Garcia) Marquez, Primo Levi, (Ernest) Hemingway, (Evelyn) Waugh or even Chinua Achebe."

He added: "Where I have less sympathy is where librarians or teachers have clearly thrown in the towel and don't believe anyone in the school can be inspired to read beyond the bare syllabus minimum.

"I can't believe that one would have had a refusal of such a gift in any other country in Europe, certainly not in Eastern Europe. These books are the DNA of our civilisation. They should be available to everyone as they grow up."

However, not all the responses were negative. One school librarian wrote: "We are a low-achieving high school, but we're improving. I would never have been able to find the money in my meagre budget to buy copies of these classics."
The students in schools where the books have been rejected are very obviously being ill served by their school librarians and I have to wonder why those librarians are not sacked for displaying such a high level of stupidity and shaming their schools this way. It appears that "dumbing down" is becoming as much a problem in the U.K. as it has become in America. If students are not challenged they will do as little as it takes to get by, and that's the fault of poor teachers and school administrators like these who themselves seem to have become cultural illiterates. Shame on the lot of them.


  1. How incredibly sad! Sure, not all kids will be rocked by Dickins or Austen, but that doesn't mean you should SEND THEM BACK! Where can I sign up for some of those books???

  2. I had seen something else referring to both faculties and librarians in England thinking classics were too difficult and too boring. It may have been related to this, but I find it difficult to believe that anyone in education could make such remarks. Especially in the face of such a generous gift!

  3. I think I can find room in my house for a set of those books that were sent back. I may have not picked out some of these books to read in school but that doesn't mean I wasn't grateful for having read them. Sometimes children need to be made to do something which they will appreciate later. At least I have to tell myself that as a parent or I wouldn't dare to have children.

  4. Well this is thoroughly disheartening. Thanks for posting; I doubt I would have ready about it here in the States.

  5. I am absolutely shocked. I read "Jane Eyre" when I was 12, but didn't fully appreciate it until I was in my 40s. However, I read "Wuthering Heights" many times during my teen years, LOVED IT!! It was my favorite novel of my teens, all that emotional angst...what's not to love for a teenage girl??!! Did I mention I LOVED IT!!?

    How sad kids today don't appreciate classic literature. Oh, well, someone should hold on to those books until these kids are in their 40s. Then they will line up around the block for free copies and tell all their co-workers how lucky they were to get them (grin)!

  6. Stephanie - I think we'd all be in line for a box of 300 books if the schools don't want them. I have to admit that was my first thought, too.

    Jenclair - I think those librarians are in the wrong business. They seem to have given up and don't want to challenge the kids anymore. They should quit and walk away before they do any more damage to the students, IMO.

    Matt - I absolutely agree. That's what education is all about. Letting students decide for themselves what they will study is a huge mistake, one that seems to be getting made more and more at the university level, in fact. Get in line for the books, buddy.

    Ted - it's sad, but maybe this kind of publicity will shame the schools into making sure that the right people are in charge there.

    Sylvia - I feel your pain. :-)

    Laura - I agree. Look at all of us here who would love to get our hands on those things. Isn't it funny what happens when you grow up and realize why you studied the classics in school? Kids at these schools unfortunately won't get that chance.

  7. This almost made me cry, since you chose P&P as the picture. Very sad. I hope my (future) children will want to read classics.

  8. Now, I feel all superior to those lazy reading Brits. I mean, come-on, I had to read Iliad and The odyssey in 7th grade and in a public school!

    High-five, knuckles, fancy handshake coming at-ya Mr. Apple for making us read boring classics! :D

  9. What the? I'm so confused! They were free! Why send back something that was free, just because you assume they won't leap off the shelves in hordes?

  10. AAAUUGH!! This physically hurts. I was trying to tell my mother and I stuttered; I didn't even have words.

    Japanese Manga are comics!! They turned down tried and true (and mostly popular, I might add) classics so their students could read comics!!

    I just went on a 30 minute rant to my mom about this, so I won't do it here, but this makes me want to yell, scream, cry, strangle ignorant librarians...

    Our poor kids these days. :(

  11. Eva - I find it impossible to understand what these people were thinking. They embarrassed themselves, for sure. I think that your future children will be readers with a parent like you...nothing to worry about.

    Maggie - I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to the system and teachers that exposed us to the real thing rather than taking the easy way out. We apparently were luckier than we knew.

    Dewey - It's just mind boggling, isn't it?

    Annie - I totally agree with you. Those shameful librarians and administrators need to be replaced before they damage anymore children.

  12. Wow. Mind boggling sums it up. They assusme the kids won't read them and so they don't even want to stock them in the slim hope???

    It looks as if that survey is true. One in four people never read a single book all year long last year. (USA, granted.)

  13. It really IS impossible to put yourself into the minds of the people who made the decision to reject the free books,isn't it? It's still hard for me to believe that they actually work with schoolchildren.

  14. As I used to say in passing to my sons when faced with public stupidity, "I'm speechless, which, in this instance, is a very good thing..."

  15. I think that's the perfect response to this kind of stupidity, Jill. :-)