Leaving Cert English prescribed materials

Sir, – A rereading of The Handmaid's Tale may be in order for Victoria Madigan (Letters, July 27th) to understand, as made very clear by Margaret Atwood in the novel, the dangers of censorship of "unsuitable books" and the literal interpretation of fragments of a text rather than understanding the text as a whole: culturally, socially, and historically.

As an English teacher, and a woman, I am happy with the inclusion of these thought-provoking, contemporary texts on the Leaving Cert list of prescribed materials.

A little more faith in the critical thinking skills of our senior-cycle students is needed. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 6.

Sir, – The texts mentioned by Victoria Madigan are not forced upon students but are chosen by the teacher.

Using their knowledge of the texts and of their own students, a decision is made as to the most suitable for a given class. The notion that novels are being foisted on sensitive young minds is simply incorrect. From my experience, the process of choosing a text is done with careful reference to a class’s capacity to explore the themes and issues within it. To suggest that teachers are blithely subjecting students to sexualised content is somewhat insulting.

The novels mentioned, Room by Emma Donoghue and Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, do indeed contain adult themes. However, to reduce both to being “sordid” does them a great disservice. Both texts display an immense humanity and central to both are themes such as the enduring strength of the human spirit, resilience and parental love. Those who see only what is sordid may benefit from a less narrow-minded reading of the texts.

Teachers use these texts as vehicles to engage and inspire students, to allow for a critical engagement with issues that are not always palatable.

Rather than censor the curriculum, it should be lauded, as through it, teachers and students can explore challenging themes in the safety of a classroom. – Is mise,



Co Cork.