Attention – there’s a tension!

Quote from todays Guardian – “There’s a tension between teaching a love of literature and skilling them up for life”.

Apparently, learning outcomes, mission statements, class room objectives, targets, measurements, assessment range / variety / breadth, etc are all more important than the content of all the learning. The joy of a good story has been replaced by analysing the grammar structures in it.

Have we gone too far? Is learning now so structured and rigid that it’s all about ticking boxes and the joy of discovery and creativity and exploration is dying?

On the one hand, yes, there are now a lot of boxes to be ticked in order to ensure the appropriate quality control is taking place.  Making sure all the boxes are ticked is a full time job in itself. As for interpreting the boxes……. Asking  a representative sample of academics from across a number of colleges / universities what they understand by “students are capable of critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis of new and complex ideas”. While there might be broad agreement on the generalities, there are likely to be as many answers as numbers in the sample.

On the other hand, guess who’s celebrating his 70th birthday today. There’s a reason why Seamus Heaney is our most celebrated poets here in Ireland. His works are represented on the school curriculum for a reason. Here’s an interesting interpretation .  All commenters have an opinion. Yes, some are more supported and insightful than others but there’s no denying the range of viewpoints and opinions on the meaning of the poem.

Poetry is a form of written expression that’s particularly interesting.  The meaning of the words is intricately bound up how they are presented. Meter and rhyme are as critical as the words and both are mutually interactive.

There is a happy medium. Discovering and exploring the works of the great poets, dramatists and novelists requires an honest connection with both the words and their structure. Isn’t that balance what English teachers should be aiming for.? Isn’t it?


Posted on April 14, 2009, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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