Past TimesEd

13th June 2003 at 01:00
75 years ago June 9, 1928

To inquire into the reasons for fixing the longest holiday of the year in August and early September is, perhaps an idle task, for long custom obscures rational explanations. But the time was probably fixed in a remote period when England was an agricultural country and when the time of learning was determined by the work of the farm. Perhaps also there was some truth in the argument that August was the hottest month of the year, and therefore an unfavourable time for study. There are places where these two reasons are still valid, but hardly in England.

50 years ago June 12, 1953

There has always been a good deal of humbug about speech training, or elocution as it once was. A distinction can be made, in theory anyway, between slipshod speech and local dialects. The first deserves to be corrected as do all slipshod habits; an alternative to the second should be taught because, for reasons both good and bad, it is a handicap to the ambitious. Yet, as things now are, if you want to philosophize, talk economics or political theory, to become a salesman, a telephonist or a committee man some closer approximation to standard forms is required. This the schools may reasonably be asked to assist.

25 years ago June 16, 1978

As the election approaches, the major parties are massaging their manifestos. The outline of the Conservatives' election stance on education is becoming clearer, and Mr Norman St John-Stevas is doing his best to square the mixture of views. There is no magic formula which can eliminate the sharp differences of emphasis between Mr St John-Stevas and Dr Rhodes Boyson, nor yet those between, say, Tameside and Leicestershire, on the best approach to secondary organisation.

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