Anthony Horowitz was interviewed in Saturday’s UK Times.
Given that the online piece is only accessible to subscribers, I have selected several quotes, with brief commentary.
He says early on in the interview, with reference to the much-publicised letter to The Times signed by a host of children’s authors and experts in early childhood:
“I thought the letter was weak and unhelpful,” he said. “Of course we all want to do better for our kids, but that doesn’t mean Michael Gove doesn’t. Nobody on the Left seems to want to give him any credit for wanting to help the situation.They endlessly demonise him. But I admire him because he’s actually doing something, not sitting there doing what the letter suggested — consult, have committees, hear what the teachers and the children have to say — which are synonymous with doing absolutely nothing.”
Hardly a position that will endear him to the majority of his fellow authors. But Horowitz has never minded being a maverick, and actually, when you take into account the things he says in the remainder of the feature, he is not as supportive of Gove as that first quote indicates.
Immediately afterwards, he is saying:
“There are far too many expectations now of children. They must get A stars and go to university and compete and perform from the day they arrive at school. Actually it’s all nonsense. Adults muddle through without constantly being graded and children should too. I feel sorry for kids who are constantly expected to perform and shine for parents and politicians who do neither.”
And then, before long he is sounding even less in sympathy with Gove:
Education, he said, should be a process of self-discovery rather than an endless round of tests. “It’s about enlarging your interests and stirring your curiosity, not coming away waving a piece of paper after endless cramming and resits. It must be soul-destroying for teachers and children knowing that all adults seem to care about is boosting national targets and statistics that have no meaning. It’s communist.”
He even takes Gove to task over specific policy:
In Horowitz’s view, the Education Secretary has gone too far in wanting children to read only Middlemarch rather than Twilight. “They need a bit of everything. What matters is that children have the time, leisure and enthusiasm to read, even if it is about vampires.
“Alan Johnson kindly said children shouldn’t read Pride and Prejudice, they should read me. Michael Gove has taken the opposite view and is trying to force great literature down kids through his new curriculum. That’s insane . . . When I was 7, was I reading Thackeray? No, I was reading Tintin. I have visited almost every country he goes to except Tibet and the Moon. It was Tintin who inspired me to write.”
And then, echoing David Almond’s distaste for media’s negative portrayal of children and teenagers:
Horowitz, who has two grown-up boys of his own, worries that adults spend too much time denigrating teenagers. “I go round many schools to talk to children and they are fantastic — more pleasant and generous in spirit than our generation.
“Social networking has given them more sociability and a cohesion we never had. We all buried ourselves in our private lives and lost touch with each other. The younger generation is so much more aware of each other’s successes and difficulties. When a friend of mine died his house was filled with teenagers who wanted to comfort his son.”
There is, in his view, too much angst about the modern world. “We have got in a complete tizzy about pornography and it needs to stop. Every child will not be destroyed by looking at porn on the internet. Yes, there are some very nasty things online but the internet’s force for good is considerably greater and children learn to discriminate.”
It all adds up to someone who sounds very much to be more in the camp of the Times letter’s signatories rather than in that of the man he purports to admire.