But there is another factor that he [Alex Thomson of the University English association – my note] and others believe has played a bigger part in putting students off English. And that’s what is happening to the subject in schools, where spelling, punctuation and grammar (referred to by the acronym SPaG) have, under the core knowledge curriculum championed by schools minister Nick Gibb, come to dominate. Education consultant Myra Barrs is among the critics of what she calls a “new formalism”, in which content and meaning are sacrificed to a recipe-type approach (take an adverb and some wow words, add a pinch of unusual punctuation …) You don’t have to be against the traditional staples of grammar or Shakespeare to see the pitfalls of this, or the constricting effect of the enormous importance placed on GCSE grades.
This is from Susana Rustin’s article Why study English? We’re poorer in every sense without it in yesterday’s Guardian here.
Her argument is more expansive than this – and do read – but I have highlighted because SPaG and similar is a critical presence across the English curriculum and assessment at all ages [and therefore teaching, naturally] and it is something I have continually attacked on this blog.
The diminishing of experience in the English curriculum imposed by the philistine Michael Gove as then Education Secretary also continues its negative impact. Then there is the target culture that hasn’t disappeared, despite suggestions of it waning.
I am now making my way through the document Knowledge and the Curriculum highlighted in the opening paragraph and will no doubt become increasingly enraged. It may not be so much the theories of E.D. Hirch [though these undoubtedly will] but the endorsement of that other Tory educational moron Nick Gibb* who has the audacity to make this prerogative for himself
No single writer has influenced my thinking on education more than E. D. Hirsch. Like any book which becomes seminal in one’s intellectual journey, I distinctly remember the first time I encountered Hirsch’s work.
where this self-claim to being cerebral – as well as about education – is so often patently obliterated by the stupid things he actually says, for example, when making defenses/explanations of English Key Stages 1 and 2 testing.
*Nick Gobb, Schools Minister, who gets this apt re-naming because the letters ‘i’ and ‘o’ are next to one another on the keyboard, so this genuine error and accident of meaning [as in the creativity of being found] makes more sense above and beyond the ‘knowledge’ of his actual surname.