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Old 17th May 2004, 20:59   #21
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Originally Posted by NottyImp
My step-son is just taking his GCSEs now and in English is, of course, studying Shakespeare. Except that he isn't. What he is studying is a book of extracts from the play, with associated, but quite limited exercises. As far as I can tell, he does not have a full copy of the text, and will never actually get to read it (he's too lazy to anyway, as it happens).
Things have gone downhill very quickly then, as I know I read all of MacBeth for GCSE (not to mention Far From the Madding Crowd - every bloody word of it - The Crucible, and a selection of WWI poetry), and all of Romeo and Juliet the year before (whoever thought that that was a good play to teach to 13 year old boys? Especially with a text that explanied all the innuendo .... the poor things were so embarrassed, and as I went to a mixed school, having girls there seemed to make it worse for some reason )

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Old 17th May 2004, 21:07   #22
Colyngbourne
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Another teacher friend regularly teaches Romeo and Juliet at GCSE level and everybody loves it, and appreciates all the bawdy talk from the nurse. They also seem to enjoy comparing the Zefferelli version to Baz Luhrmann's. I too studied Macbeth and Far From... and Seamus Heaney's poetry and a variety of short stories (can't recall who wrote them, I'm so ancient). For those we were allowed to bring the text into the exam, but we had to know it backwards. For A level, I felt as if I knew King Lear and Othello off by heart.
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Old 17th May 2004, 21:15   #23
rick green
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Almost all of my literary skills (such as they are) came from reading and unconsciously emulating what I had read. It was (and is) a process of osmosis.
True enough. When I read Plato, I started speaking in dialectics. when I read Shakespeare, I was mysteriously possesed by a knack for ribald wit.
And as this is a political forum, let me deposit my conspiratorial 2 cents and say that this "dumbing down" of society is likely an intentional means of social control by the elite social sectors. I can't imagine anything more dangerous to the status quo than a literate, curious, passionate & principled citizenry.
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Old 17th May 2004, 21:21   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colyngbourne
Another teacher friend regularly teaches Romeo and Juliet at GCSE level and everybody loves it, and appreciates all the bawdy talk from the nurse. They also seem to enjoy comparing the Zefferelli version to Baz Luhrmann's. I too studied Macbeth and Far From... and Seamus Heaney's poetry and a variety of short stories (can't recall who wrote them, I'm so ancient). For those we were allowed to bring the text into the exam, but we had to know it backwards. For A level, I felt as if I knew King Lear and Othello off by heart.
I think that the boys were just a year or so too young - sex was still embarrasing (10 years ago there weren't so many pregnant 14 year olds) - and this was just pre Luhrmann - that came out while I was doing my A-Levels - have I ranted before about why I didn't do A-Level English Literature?

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Old 18th May 2004, 10:12   #25
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No you haven't; rant away, Hazel, I'm all in favour of rants. :D

The thing about education in general - and literacy in particular - is that whether you come from a traditional perspective, or a more radical one, it just has to be a good thing. You can argue just as easily that a literate work-force is good for England, as you can that it empowers the working class. So why do we cock it up so badly - or at least seem to make little progress beyond the levels we've had since the war?
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Old 18th May 2004, 17:17   #26
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As I shockingly have found a topic to which I might add something...

I did a bit of recruiting with my employer a few years ago and saw all kinds of hysterical stuff. Most of it is gone now, but I can remember two particular gems:

1) Listed as a job responsibility: "Convince clients to roll their asses out of their portfolios" [I'm hoping he meant "assets"]

2) Listed as a personal skill: "Possess an inherent ability to escalate problems"

He takes problems...and he makes them bigger. As second nature.
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Old 18th May 2004, 17:48   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NottyImp
No you haven't; rant away, Hazel, I'm all in favour of rants. :D
Here we go then!

As background to this I finished my primary school's set reading scheme at the age of 8 (I could have done it sooner, but was too busy reading other things) and then went on to 'free reading'.

When I was choosing my A-levels, the syllabus came with a longish list of books (about 6 sides of A4) - these were the 'approved' books for reading in your spare time (only 5% of you free time reading could be trash - and the implication was anything not on this list was trash) it contained the usual list of classics, both modern and C18th/C19th, but there was no 'light relief' if you see what I mean. Not only was I not keen on the set texts, but I had already read pretty much everything I was going to want to on that list.

But what annoyed me the most was the implication that at 16 I was no longer to be trusted to pick my own reading material. I wouldn't have minded so much if these were supplementary texts that I could choose to read, but to be told that it was this and nothing else was beyond belief. Also I couldn't stand the woman who taught it anyway ... she was very much the type that thought she had the right to control our free time .....

Instead I took English Language at A-Level, which was taught by the woman who recommended Wyrd Sisters to those in her GCSE Macbeth group that were interested in something different!

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Old 18th May 2004, 19:19   #28
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I recall receiving a similar kind of list both after O levels and over-summer reading for university but it didn't bother me unduly. I read what I was interested in, plus a few more out of duty, and read as much other 'trashy' stuff as I liked. I think it's pretty much the job of English tutors to set predictable reading lists, and then hope you have the energy and time to cover both them and your own interests.
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Old 18th May 2004, 20:25   #29
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It was her arrogance in presuming to tell me what to read and what not to read that bugged me - I had been big and ugly enough to choose my own reading for half my life by this point.

Did they have the stupid 5% theory - and were they likely to try and enforce it? Even though I didn't take her class she still tried to criticise what she saw me reading in my lunch hour!

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Old 18th May 2004, 21:07   #30
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No, thankfully we didn't have the 5% theory and the teachers didn't keep strict tabs on what we read in school hours - but those were the days when we had a decent school library with a wealth and range of books - 20,000 of them.
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