E.R. Braithwaite’s To Sir With Love is one of the first autobiographical books I’ve read. It was back in my school days when our English teacher asked the class to grab this book from the school library and give it a read, in turns. We were to have a discussion on this book in about ten days when the entire class was done reading the book. I remember how grateful we felt after the discussion and the respect we had for our teachers was increased tenfold.
Here’s why I believe To Sir With Love should be made a compulsory read in all schools.
Set in the East end of London in 1950s, this book is about a black man struggling with racial prejudices. Braithwaite is an educated man but is unemployed. He decides to teach in a school but his skin color gets him a job in a secondary school known for notorious, unruly, ill-disciplined students. The students drive away most of the teachers with their snarky comments and bad behavior. Braithwaite now has a tough job to do. He too was unwelcome among the students and becomes a victim of their pranks. However, he couldn’t afford to hang up his boots.
To Sir, With Love is about how Braithwaite transforms these unruly kids into respectful human beings. He teaches them how to love and respect others irrespective of color. Their relationship grows from bad to worse, only to transform to amicability and ultimately, fondness. Braithwaite treats them as adults and incorporates life lessons in his teaching, instead of imparting only textbook knowledge. He preps them for what lies beyond their school days and their transformation from rowdy teenagers to young responsible adults is what gets a reader hooked to the book.
Braithwaite has much to tell us about that era with all sorts of prejudice based on race and class existed. He speaks of racial discrimination and injustices prevalent in the then society with utmost honesty. He doesn’t mince words when it comes to describing his experiences and emotions.
“In Britain, I found things to be very different. I have yet to meet a single English person who has actually admitted to anti-negro prejudice. It is even generally believed that no such thing exists here. A negro is free to board any bus or train and sit anywhere, provided he has paid the appropriate fare. The fact that many people might pointedly avoid sitting near to him is casually overlooked. He is free to seek accommodation in any licensed hotel or boarding house – the courteous refusal which frequently follows is never ascribed to prejudice. The betrayal I now felt was greater because it had been perpetuated with the greatest of charm and courtesy.”
An inspiring and exceptional novel, To Sir, With Love is a must-read for all students and also those who aspire to be teachers.
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That’s all for now!
Have you read To Sir, With Love? What are
I hope you’ll drop by tomorrow too.
My theme for the A to Z Challenge this year is ‘Celebrating the Bibliophile in me’, where I would share the books, authors and fictional characters that I love, loathe and tolerate.
Ah, there could be more!
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