English classic argument;Letter

13th August 1999 at 01:00
Bel Mooney's article ("Tempt the young to read best of the old,"TES, July 30) is based on prejudice and hearsay.

This article is part of, but hopefully the tail-end of the torrent of uninformed comment over the past few years which has caused such bitterness in English departments across the land.

I have yet to meet an English teacher who does not love and teach "great" literature: why does Ms Mooney think that graduates who have read English become teachers of English?

I have also yet to see state school which have enough texts for teachers to choose from, let alone students. Choice and chance would be fine things. When was Ms Mooney last in an English classroom? Has she studied A-level syllabuses? Has she heard of the 16-plus changes coming into effect next year requiring more pre-1900 texts?

It is true that a few - a very few - authors have been removed from the national curriculum prescribed reading lists, with the intention of including more 20th century writers - who may themselves become "classic" after December 31. Has Ms Mooney read the new lists, dominated as they still are by "great" writers?

And as for Shakespeare, those students who go on to A-level study four plays: one each at key stage 3 and 4, and two at A-level. I bet that is more Shakespeare than Ms Mooney ever did at school. But if the syllabus were not so dominated by the great man, there might be more room for some of the other authors Ms Mooney mentions.

I have come to the conclusion that I am wasting my time teaching literature: I will become a columnist and write fiction.

P M Rooke Head of English in a comprehensive school 33 Brownlow Road Lake, Isle of Wight

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