For those who have followed the thread on this blog relating to my argument with firstly Michael Gove and subsequently Nicky Morgan via the DfE and its drafters, I have had what I suspect will be the last communication of this issue, and also one that has – inadvertently I feel – acknowledged the basic principle of my challenge: that the English Literature subject content and Order for teaching from September 2015 effectively bans the inclusion of American authors from being set for examination [please search out and follow that trail for a fuller context].
An additional contextualisation before presenting the core of this posting: I had just after the general election posted on this blog that I was going to resign from this continuing challenge. Two reasons – this was my genuine feeling of overall deflation, but specifically on the realisation that I wasn’t getting anywhere with the DfE, especially after a second phone call with a spokesperson at the DfE’s Ministerial and Public Communications Division when I wasn’t allowed to speak with anyone who even remotely had the capacity to answer my specific questions [where the drafters were clearly out of their depth]; it was also a decision I made as a rather weak jest in the light of Farage having resigned along with Clegg and then Miliband.
Not wishing to ever be compared with Farage, I actually withdrew the posting about my resigning even before Nigel’s turnaround, but more significantly, I also got a reply from someone at the DfE’s MPCD which seemed to have some knowing, and I assume was in response to my second phone call where I had been as demonstrative as I could politely be.
Thus my writing now, and I am going to conclude by posting my response to that DfE letter [just the essential details] which I think is clear enough in its quoting and other references to indicate where some essence of acknowledgement of my challenge has been made, but also how the pathetic obfuscation and evasion continues:
Thank you for your letter of 7th May in response to mine to Nicky Morgan. I appreciate you addressing some of my specific questions – at the very least, a courtesy long overdue in my previous correspondence with others, including two drafters in your division.
It is good to see some level of agreement, though this is largely platitudinous – to be honest – and of course there is yet again no direct response to my central and persistent challenge that there has been the effective banning of American texts from the study for examination in GCSE English Literature from September 2015.
However, the one telling and deeply ironic ‘agreement’ you have made with my challenge is in your fourth paragraph, though it is indirect and I can’t be sure you are aware you have made it: I won’t quote in full, but in acknowledging that awarding organisations raised concerns about ‘increased requirements for breadth [that] would reduce requirements for depth of assessment’, and that this was agreed and therefore the four text areas for study also agreed [and made compulsory by the Order], this completely counters your and others’ argument that awarding bodies and/or teachers could simply add the American texts! This was one of my precise arguments: I had asked, for example, about where awarding bodies would find ‘extra’ marks for further study outside the four agreed areas and thus, as you have detailed, effectively reduce depth of study as well as the ability to assess and reward for that. In essence what you have stated does totally, but apparently inadvertently, make my very point.
Unfortunately, further observations you make continue with the avoidance and offer very tenuous corroboration with what I expressed: an example of this rather peripheral ‘agreement’ is your concluding paragraph where you in essence re-present the point I had made about the difference between ‘reading’ and ‘studying’, where instead of acknowledging the clarity I had asserted, you rephrase my point as if it is of your making. Clever, but of no value. Your penultimate paragraph is similar if more obtuse: you acknowledge the accuracy of my challenge about unseen texts being poetry texts in the various new specifications [not prose as claimed in previous correspondence with two of your drafters] and then throw in the meaningless observation ‘the subject content for the English literature GCSE allows the exam boards to examine students on any type of text in the examination’. You of course mean ‘unseen’ texts, but so what? They haven’t, this choice of poetry has been approved by Ofqual, and I have been consistently challenging the situation on how it is, not what it could be.
The worst offense – although to be fair to you Mr Haynes, it is exactly the same obfuscating and evasive spiel I have been receiving since day one of my genuine and informed challenge – is to state ‘the fact that the works you mention are not included in specifications should not prevent teachers from teaching or encouraging children to read them in key stage 3 or key stage 4’. This is an obnoxious platitude as it completely circumvents my precise point, and is rudely trite: of course teachers can teach and encourage students to read various texts, but my point has consistently been these texts cannot be set for examination. I know you know this and I know you will yet again ignore this. But I have to state it, just for maintaining the integrity of the facts, even if this is a completely one-sided expression of those.