September 25, 2013

Michael Gove: teens should send poems, not sexts


Michael Gove.

What is it about government ministers and sex these days? While last week Russia’s children’s ombudsman suggested that children would learn more from reading Russian literature than from sex ed classes at school, now Michael Gove, Britain’s Education Secretary, is urging British kids to send love poems instead of sexting.

Gove was commenting on the launch of a new app, ‘Love Book’, which includes famous faces such as Helena Bonham Carter reading love poetry, and allows users to record themselves reciting a poem and send it to their loved one(s).

In a shameless attempt to promote the app and push his educational vision as relentlessly as ever, Gove said, “It [the app] will allow children to make sense of their own feelings in a way that is more graceful, expressive and beautiful [than sexting].

It’s an understatement to say that I’m not Gove’s biggest fan but there is something quite nice about the idea of children sending one another snippets of verse as an indication of their romantic feelings, instead of emojis. Gove then went on to ruin a couple of poems for the rest of us by revealing that his favourite poems are Matthew Arnold‘s ‘Dover Beach’ and George Herbert’s ‘Love’.

Gove’s comments inadvertently beg another question, which I’m sure the kids worked out way before me: just what would have all this old love poetry have sounded like if there had been smartphones and sexting? ‘Dover Beach’ might issue a call that ‘Ah, love, let us be true/
To one another!’ and be an exercise in the elegance of the written word, but if John Donne could have sext a version of ‘The Flea’, you know he would have done, and in the age of the smartphone the ‘unique distance from isolation’ in Larkin’s ‘Talking in Bed’ may have been somewhat compromised by the infinite scroll of Twitter.


Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.