ON the topic of dubious books disappearing from the school curriculum (“Goodbye y’all: School calls time on ‘dated’ Mockingbird and Mice”, and “Blyton racism row rages on”, The Herald, July 5) who wrote the following, and of whom?

"He impressed me greatly – the sense he gave one of huge but crippled power, the reedy voice and the banal words in which he tried to express ideas which represented for him a whole world of incoherent poetry. I did not know him well enough to like or dislike him, but I felt him as one feels the imminence of a thunderstorm. But I did not realise the greatness of his personality until I had been some time in the country. Then I felt that in all sorts of people – simple farmers and transport riders, commonplace business men, Jewish financiers who otherwise would have had no thought but for their bank accounts, even trivial, intriguing politicians – he had kindled some spark of his own idealism. He had made them take long views. Common as their minds might be, some window had been opened which gave them a prospect. They had acquired at least a fragment of a soul. If it be not genius thus to brood over a land and have this power over the human spirit, then I do not understand the meaning of the word."

That is John Buchan’s description of Cecil Rhodes, in his autobiography Memory Hold-the-Door (Hodder and Stoughton, 1941). Of the British Empire, Buchan later wrote in the same book:

"Our creed was not based on antagonism to any other people. It was humanitarian and international; we believed that we were laying the basis of a federation of the world. As for the native races under our rule, we had a high conscientiousness; Milner and Rhodes had a far-sighted native policy. The 'white man’s burden' is now an almost meaningless phrase; then it involved a new philosophy of politics, and an ethical standard, serious and surely not ignoble."

I was minded to expurgate the objectionable elements from these quotations, but surely that is the whole point. If you “cancel” Harper Lee, or John Steinbeck, or Enid Blyton, or for that matter John Buchan, rather than reading their works exactly as they were written, then you cannot possibly begin to understand how they thought.

We may believe that past generations had moral and ethical blind spots. When future generations come to judge us, what will our blind spot turn out to be? I believe we now live in the age of the Pharisee. The Pharisees were experts in the culture of cancellation. I seem to recall that Our Lord, who had compassion for corrupt minor officials, prostitutes, and even murderers, had no time for them.

Dr Hamish Maclaren, Stirling.


AS a child I loved the novels of Enid Blyton ("Issue of the day: Blyton racism row rages on", The Herald, July 5). I remember the sheer joy of getting the latest Adventure story with my birthday book token. There was a whole series of these Adventure books that my friends and I eagerly read. Much later I moved on to more sophisticated stories by Dickens and Trollope. I do not remember any of us thinking that tiny children were still being sent up chimneys or being forced to sweep streets, starving and with no chance of an education.

I remember reading Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck and finding it moving and relevant to what was going on in the southern states of America at the time. I saw the the film To Kill a Mockingbird and went straight to the book, having not already read it. Again relatively informative, and easy to understand the principles of the story.

So I am appalled that certain so-called educationalists are considering banning these texts from school reading lists. They may be dated as claimed, but they do tell us of the terrible struggle black Americans had to be recognised as worthy of the same treatment as their white neighbours. These books are part of American history and if we don’t learn from history then we are in danger of repeating it. Let the third-year pupils read then discuss these books, that is a far better way of approaching difficult issues. Give them air. They might learn some valuable lessons to take forward into life.

Blacklisting such titles may make them into the very books the children are determined to read, as Lady Chatterley’s Lover certainly was when I was 16.

Celia Judge, Ayr.


THE suggested removal from the curriculum of books such as Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird is a worrying reminder of the infamous burning of books that Nazi students in 1933 claimed were "un-German". These actions stand as a powerful symbol of intolerance and censorship.

While we all agree that colonisation and racism are and were repugnant, surely it would be more sensible to use these works as role models in an attempt to change attitudes rather than trying to eliminate historical facts.

Isobel Hunter, Lenzie.

* OH, for God's sake. How about banning the Bible next? There's lots of racism, slavery, and general smiting and mayhem in it.

Irene Conway, Giffnock.


AROUND 90 per cent of Scots support the proposed Holyrood bill to legalise assisted dying for the terminally ill. It is important that it is clear that this legislation will give the ultimate choice to the patient, not society, nor the medical profession.

The NHS in Scotland employs in the order of 160,000 staff, many of whom will deal with the terminally ill on a daily basis. One imagines many if not most are in agreement with the proposed legislation, yet a letter signed by 0.11% of them against it is supposed to dramatically alter the dynamic of the debate ("Medics warn of ‘cruel irony’ of assisted dying move", The Herald, July 5).

These 175 individuals believe that irrespective of what a dying person wants they know better what is good for them; they will happily give you drugs to keep you alive and hopefully pain-free but not enough of the same drug to slip peacefully into what lies ahead.

That is as graphic a metaphor for how our society actually works as one could get.

David J Crawford, Glasgow.


THE Our Duty, Our Care group intervention in the assisted dying debate suggests that medical practitioners as a group are overwhelmingly against proposals to facilitate assisted dying. In fact, this is not the case. Surveys show that 51 per cent of members of the Royal College of GPs favour a supportive or neutral stance, as do 61% of BMA members. The Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Physicians have also responded to the views of their members and adopted a neutral position on this issue.

Medical practitioners are required to acknowledge the needs and wishes of their patients. Those who stand in the way of supporting patient autonomy in this matter do so from an outdated paternalistic approach to medical care.

Dr Bob Scott, Retired GP, Drymen.


ANAS Sarwar should read independent scientific research before making political statements on Covid (“Covid third wave “spinning out of control” fears Sarwar”, The Herald, July 5).

Critical evidence for managing the Covid pandemic is test results from PCR. A critical part of PCR is the Ct (cycle threshold), and this is the number of amplifications required to create enough DNA for analysis from a sample from a patient. Information on what Ct values are being used by testing labs has been sparse or non-existent, but a 2021 study lead-authored by I Engelmann reports that labs often use Ct values provided by PCR kit manufacturers which are between 37 and 40 cycles.

A more accurate method of diagnosis for Covid would be to take a sample from a suspected Covid patient and attempt to culture it inside cells, but this would be too time-consuming for mass screening of millions of people. Engelmann cites a 2020 study lead-authored by J Bullard where diagnostics were carried out on samples from PCR-Covid-positive patients by way of culturing. Bullard concludes “Our study showed no positive viral cultures with a Ct greater than 24”.

How many of the positive cases that we see daily on TV are false positives?

Geoff Moore, Alness.

Read more: City teachers bid to dump classics