Back in Australia in the late 1960s, my teacher introduced us to a book called To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
She told us it would change our lives for ever, revealing a world to us far removed from our own: deepest Alabama during the Great Depression, a society torn apart by racism.
Looking around my class of all-white kids, I couldn’t see the relevance at first, until I read the book and fell in love with the characters — Tom Robinson, the innocent black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, and Tom’s lawyer Atticus Finch fighting to save his life — all revealed through the eyes of Atticus’s unforgettably courageous six-year-old daughter, Scout.
Back in Australia in the late 1960s, my teacher introduced us to a book called To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (pictured) and she told us it would change our lives for ever
So how bewildering that, to ‘decolonise’ its curriculum, James Gillespie’s High School in Edinburgh (pictured) has banned the masterpiece from the Scottish equivalent of GCSE study
Little wonder it captivated our class, or that it had become an instant classic on publication.
Its messages about prejudice and justice resonate with anyone who reads it; so beautifully written — and so unbearably sad — it can break the hardest heart.
No one could come away with anything less than a burning sense of the evil and cruelty of racism.
So how bewildering that, as part of its mission to ‘decolonise’ its curriculum, James Gillespie’s High School in Edinburgh has banned this masterpiece from the Scottish equivalent of GCSE study, claiming it plays into an outdated ‘white saviour’ narrative, contains the N-word and that its representations of black people are ‘dated’.
Well, in the book the ‘white saviour’ Atticus is vilified for even trying to defend Tom.
Yes, the book contains racist language: precisely to expose the racism of its society. Teenagers don’t need to be protected from offensive language in great literature: they are old enough to see these words for what they are.
And as for ‘dated’ — are we now to ban any book written or set in the past?
Perhaps teachers at James Gillespie’s High School might reflect on their own history before rushing to cancel others. Pictured: Curriculum leader Allan Crosbie
Perhaps I’m too busy basking in my unconscious ‘white privilege’, but I know that had it not been for Harper Lee, this white kid from the Perth suburbs would never have had her eyes opened to the hideous reality of racial prejudice — nor become so acutely aware of early white Australians’ shameful treatment of Aborigines.
Perhaps teachers at James Gillespie’s High School might reflect on their own history before rushing to cancel others. Gillespie was a very rich 18th-century merchant who is believed not only to have owned slaves himself but to have traded with the slave-owning tobacco plantations of Virginia.
The hypocrisy of banning Harper Lee’s text, while keeping his name above the school gates, is a sin to make poor Tom Robinson weep.
MY SHIRT’S ON ENGLAND
Tomorrow night I’ll be watching the England v Italy final at home with friends wearing my lucky shirt, which has not been washed since the start of the tournament a month ago.
No pizzas, of course: I’ll be serving up M&S burgers at half-time — when we will, no doubt, be at least 1-0 up. But I hope fans show some sportsmanship.
Don’t boo the Italians during their national anthem, as we did the Danes, and no dangerous laser pen nonsense. Let’s have pride in our game and do our best for England — as Gareth has told his boys. It’s coming home…
OO-LA-LA! SOPHIE’S GUIDE TO LE CHIC LOOK
Dressed in a simple black and white sheath dress on the Cannes red carpet, actress Sophie Marceau said the secret of eternal French chic is to ‘keep it simple, not overthink and simplicity is the key’.
Dressed in a black and white dress on the Cannes red carpet, Sophie Marceau (pictured with Andre Dussollier and Francois Ozon) said the secret of eternal French chic is to ‘keep it simple’
Clearly not a view shared by Anne Boleyn actress Jodie Turner-Smith, who wore a mammoth concoction of a bustier with a white and yellow feathered train.
Jodie lost her head when she chose that monstrosity.
A nation of petrol-heads, myself included, sighed as Simon Cowell showed off his new £250,000 electric Porsche sports car, guaranteed to go from zero to 60mph in four seconds — in complete silence.
Surely the throaty vroom of a Porsche accelerating is one of the most perfect sounds on earth, now silenced to save the planet. In Heaven, I’m guessing, the Porsche still roars.
NEW BALLS, PLEASE!
Is this the year Wimbledon went woke? Boris Becker was castigated for calling Marton Fucsovics’s girlfriend Anett Boszormenyi ‘very pretty’ and John Inverdale attacked for making a lame joke, saying ‘it’s always good to have a girlfriend called Anett’. (Get it? ‘A net.’)
Ever since the infamous 1976 ‘Tennis Girl’ poster, which revealingly showed a young female tennis player from behind and graced a thousand teenage boys’ bedroom walls, the game has been sexy. Women players make fortunes from raunchy magazine shoots and product placements.
And what red-blooded woman did not lament Roger Federer’s departure this week?
Is there anything more escapist than watching a magnificently fit man bouncing the balls around — while you’re sitting on the sofa next to someone whose tummy is bigger than a KFC family bucket?
Father-of-two Luke Ashton, 40, took his life after his online gambling spiralled out of control, the betting firms feeding him extra credit to make sure he kept fuelling his addiction.
During the run-up on ITV to the England v Denmark game, I counted four gambling ads in just one commercial break.
How do the bosses of these companies sleep at night?
DEMI STILL MAKING A SPLASH
Thrice-married actress Demi Moore, 58, slips on a swimsuit with daughters from her second marriage to Bruce Willis — Rumer, Scout and Tallulah — all looking spectacular.
She’s promoting the booming Andie Swim company, in which she is an investor.
Thrice-married actress Demi Moore, 58, slips on a swimsuit with daughters from her second marriage to Bruce Willis — Rumer, Scout and Tallulah — all looking spectacular
Their enticing promise? That — unlike many swimwear brands —a woman of any age can order online, try it out at home then return it if it proves unsatisfactory and get a full refund. An inducement for mid-life divorced women everywhere.
Who among us who’ve cherished a pet was not moved to tears by the story of Carlos Fresco’s journey with his dying labradoodle Monty to their beloved Brecon Beacons?
Carried in a blanket-lined wheelbarrow, Monty eventually died peacefully in his sleep at Carlos’s feet after his last adventure. A similar rite of passage to the one I made with my dying three-legged cat Ronnie to the Suffolk seaside.
He still loved hopping in the sand and chasing butterflies, even when we both knew he was on his last legs — the ones he had left, at least.
Bad enough that you can die from Covid, doctors now see a link between the virus and long-term erectile dysfunction. Now that really does make the spirits droop.
- Denouncing Britain’s withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years, Tory MP Tom Tugendhat asks: ‘If persistence isn’t persistent and endurance doesn’t endure, how can people trust us?’ It is neither our job nor our duty to police lawless nations. The Afghan war has cost us £37 billion — and achieved nothing.
- Huge relief at No 10 as the PM is (largely) cleared over his £15,000 freebie break to Mustique. I hope Carrie is happy with a bucket and spade break in Bognor this year . . . something tells me not.
- Chancellor Rishi Sunak is weighing up the ‘fairness’ of continuing the ‘triple lock’ for pensions against the burden to us taxpayers. Yet how ‘fair’ it is to increase the state pension by 8 per cent, while NHS workers are offered a paltry 1 per cent and the extra £20-a-week for the working poor on Universal Credit is phased out?
After tennis ace Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open to protect her mental health, refusing to speak to the media, we now learn she received ‘kind words’ from the Duchess of Sussex. Meghan, suddenly feeling Naomi’s pain? Pass the Valium!