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'To Kill a Mockingbird' among US classics nixed from British exam curriculum

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Harper Lee, the author of the novel 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2007. (Source: White House photo by Eric Draper) Harper Lee, the author of the novel 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2007. (Source: White House photo by Eric Draper)
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(RNN) - Several classic works of American literature are being removed from Britain's General Certificate of Secondary Education curriculum in favor of British works, the Guardian reported.

The report said Michael Gove, the education secretary, insisted on the alterations to the secondary education curriculum.

OCR, one of the largest exam boards in British education, will release the revamped national standards this week for accreditation.

Among the notable works on the curricular chopping block are the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller and the novella Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

The Steinbeck novella was studied by 90 percent of British teens taking the English literature exam in the past, a statistic that "really disappointed" the education secretary, according to the Times.

The redesigned syllabus, used to prepare high-school aged children for their competency exams,  also de-emphasizes 20th century works to focus on older literature such as "Shakespeare, 19-century novels, Romantic poetry and other high-quality fiction and drama," according to OCR.

Gove has been widely criticized on social media. Some of Gove's detractors accuse him of making choices based on anti-foreign sentiment, including Arthur Miller biographer Christopher Bigsby, professor of American studies at the University of East Anglia.

In this vein, actor Chris Addison commented about the controversy on Twitter: "Bloody foreign books. Comin' over 'ere, stimulatin' our intellects."

The Department for Education defended the curriculum change, the Guardian reported, stating that the move bans no books.

"It does ensure pupils will learn about a wide range of literature, including at least one Shakespeare play, a 19th-century novel written anywhere and post-1914 fiction or drama written in the British Isles," the department stated.

Students take the GCSE in the 11th year of schooling, and can earn a grade from A to G, with A being the highest level of certification.

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