From the archive - Heroes of the year? Oh yeah

15th October 2010 at 01:00
27 December 1963: The Fab Four upped the tempo on debate about popular culture's place in class

This has been the year of The Beatles. Whatever triumphs or disasters 1963 has held for the rest of us, for countless thousands of young Britons it has been a time when the world has revolved around these four energetically nonchalant young men.

Educationists should be thinking about them. But is that not a trite suggestion? What have educationists been doing already? Some indeed have had no option but to think about The Beatles. By all accounts the young men dominated half the O-level English compositions this year in at least one examining board's GCE.

Here, we say, is an adolescent obsession which we must understand and turn to advantage. Translated into classroom tactics that means a conventional response. Let us show, says the progressive teacher, that we are not reactionaries. We, too, can string along with Ringo. That way we will catch the attention of the class and the path will be open to higher things. We will start with Roll Over Beethoven and take them by progressive stages to the posthumous quartets.

So the theory goes. When shall we ever learn? We are dealing today with young people who have no intention of submitting to this shoddy deception. It is fatuous to be patronising about them.

Only connect! These Liverpool boys have achieved a degree of communication overnight that all the educational pundits in being could never aspire to in a month of Sundays. We tire the years debating how to get across to the young. They open their mouths and in a second half the youngsters in Christendom are sharing their world.

The young today have a candour, born perhaps of the Bomb, that accepts no assumptions just because they are accepted and takes over no values untried. For all their ignorance they set us an example of intellectual honesty that should make us feel ashamed. If we cannot match their integrity we shall never get on terms with them. We shall start by squaring the hypotenuse or expounding the ablative absolute. They will be humming to themselves All My Loving, I Wanna Be Your Man, or Hold Me Tight.

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