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Old 26.05.2014, 09:58
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Obama - hear, hear

New English literature GCSE ditches American classics for pre-20th century British authors such as Dickens and Austen

Maev Kennedy
Sunday 25 May 2014

The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/education...hael-gove-gcse

Perhaps the US should axe Dickens and Austen from the curriculum? It never ceases to amaze me that children are prodded into reading from the earliest ages, only to deny them the pleasure at age 13+ when the reading list must "serve a purpose", in this case the purpose being defined by an education secretary with waivering ramparts of respect and support.

Sooner or later the English literature choices and the history curriculum could do with a major updating - post 1914 is now a whole century and one shouldn't need to wait or even go on to university to study anything considered contemporary.
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Old 26.05.2014, 10:30
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

Anything has to be an improvement on the "relevant to da kids" crap they made us read at my old comprehensive school.


"Science Fiction Omnibus", anyone? "Rogue Male"?
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Old 26.05.2014, 10:55
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

Because the question will arise, here the answer.

What kids read in Swiss schools:
http://www.lesequiz.ch/ZKL/Lesequiz.htm
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Old 26.05.2014, 11:37
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

Wow..I don't really get the overly regulatory "quality control" moves. Kids enjoy reading when they don't have to. Same with art. Anything subjectively interpretable. I enjoyed Dickens, Austen when I was little and others because they were not on my reading lists. We had about 30 books a year to go through, kept reading journals, all the kids. Maybe teachers need more space, academics trusting their choice, whatever they pick. Motivated teacher means interested kids. I ordered a UK novel about a young female bassplayer this year, as one of the books to work on in classes, kids like to read even if they don't own up to it... I think if teacher presents the old maybe boring classics in an intriguing way, they don't have to be pushed on kids. What's that great movie called..thug kids and Michelle Pfeiffer as a teacher..
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Last edited by MusicChick; 26.05.2014 at 11:49.
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Old 26.05.2014, 11:47
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

Very interesting article, thanks. Will print and re-read later- a lot of food for thought here- even though I am definitely NOT a Gove fan.

You seem to have been very unlucky with your Comprehensive school DB- all the Comps are taught at, and my girls attended, had brilliant English Depts, with really and truly dedicated teachers with a great love for the English language and literature. They knew how to make the kids excited and passionate about their language and also literature, not just the bright kids- but all of them- and the repercussions went far beyond English- with discussions about racism, injustice, class and religious wars/intolerance, etc. A shame that you should judge the whole of the Comprehensive school system on the failures of your own school- as there are many, and I'd even say, a huge majority, of great comprehensive schools out there, with brilliant teachers. In my 30+ years in UK comprehensives, I've never ever met a 'bad' English teacher, I realise now, racking my brains to think of any.

Last edited by Odile; 26.05.2014 at 11:59.
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Old 26.05.2014, 12:06
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

That's right, because the Comprehensive school experiment has been a resounding success, social mobility has increased over the last forty years and England and Wales always come out at the top of OECD educational achievement lists. Isn't it great to see all those comprehensive school kids in government and the professions, running the country on egalitarian principles?


I'd hate to see what the alternative might have been like...
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Old 26.05.2014, 12:19
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

Now that is another discussion...and I agree still a big problem in the UK, and in France too. Not sure it is because of poor teachers or poor teaching in comprehensive schools- I think it goes a lot deeper than that.

Fortunate to know many young people, my own included, who were very successful at comprehensive schools and who have reached the upper echelons of their professions later too. As said, another discussion to be had elsewhere perhaps. I can only tell it as I saw it- all the English teachers in the comprehensives I taught at were brilliant, I can't pretend they were not just to please you and your anti-comp agenda. All- no exceptions.

Maybe you are too young to remember the alternative - Sec Mods and Grammar schools- where the kids going to sec mod because they had failed the 11+exam just ended up on the scrap heap, forever lableled as failures from the age of 11, without a decent apprenticeship system to pick them up. Great those who passed the 11+ of course- but a terrible fate for the others- and would be even worse now without the industries like textile, mining, etc- to swallow them whole aged 15. The alternative as was, certainly does not bear thinking about. Your comprehensive was perhaps poor - I don't know- but overall it has proven to be a great system. The lack of mobility is due to other factors, I am quite sure.
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Old 26.05.2014, 12:25
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

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Wow..I don't really get the overly regulatory "quality control" moves. Kids enjoy reading when they don't have to. Same with art. Anything subjectively interpretable. I enjoyed Dickens, Austen when I was little and others because they were not on my reading lists. We had about 30 books a year to go through, kept reading journals, all the kids. Maybe teachers need more space, academics trusting their choice, whatever they pick. Motivated teacher means interested kids. I ordered a UK novel about a young female bassplayer this year, as one of the books to work on in classes, kids like to read even if they don't own up to it... I think if teacher presents the old maybe boring classics in an intriguing way, they don't have to be pushed on kids. What's that great movie called..thug kids and Michelle Pfeiffer as a teacher..

Dangerous Minds?
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Old 26.05.2014, 12:28
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

Quote:
all the English teachers in the comprehensives I taught at were brilliant

... which is why at least one of them was put on Special Measures by OFSTED for the following reason:



Quote:
Attainment
Attainment has remained consistently low over the past three years and students have made significantly less progress than they should in English and mathematics.

"Brilliant" is such a subjective word, isn't it?
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Old 26.05.2014, 12:40
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

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Dangerous Minds?
Is that what it was? It was a cool movie. Thanks. My long winded spiel was actually about the spirit of it, I think it's the way kids learn how to work with lit that affects their literacy. Not what books are picked, as some kind of perceived quality seal. That requires dedicated teachers who have faith, commitment. Those do miracles even with poor quality lit and eventually bring kids to seek quality on their own. Not the dreaded "what did the author mean to say".. Ped universities gotta step up and teacher's salary, career growth, especially for the young ones. It used to be a prestigious career (I think here it is better in terms of that than anywhere). But it reflects simply value in society put on edu. Not sure if pushing classics assures edu. We should inspect how kids work with texts in a class, the texts are teplates, kids will search if we entice them. Giving kids smart books isn't gonna make them learn, even if the teacher's manual contains all the answers. Austen vs Lessing debate is a secondary issue.
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Old 26.05.2014, 13:37
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

It is indeed subjective- and so is the concept of 'comprehensive' too. In a small town where there are 2 schools, 1 private and 1 Catholic, which cream all the brightest students- and the so called comprehensive school is 'left' with those who do not come from homes where education is not really valued- the word loses its meaning. One also needs to evaluate what is meant by 'not making sufficient progres' too.

It could be a truly interesting dicussion and debate- and I would love to organise a real discussion and debate on the pros and cons of different school systems here, face to face- as there is so much at stake- as I am not sure it will be possible here on EF- for all sorts of reasons.

if anyone is genuinely interested in such an open debate, I'd love to host this.

But one thing is for sure, from my own experience, is that the concept of mobility has little to do with the education rather than the politico-social environment, and possibly even more so in the UK.

Last edited by Odile; 26.05.2014 at 14:29.
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Old 26.05.2014, 14:03
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

What is a comprehensive school?
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Old 26.05.2014, 14:07
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

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What is a comprehensive school?

A secondary level school for all pupils, supposedly to bring all kids together regardless of ability or social class.


The reality, as you might expect, is completely different. Comprehensive schools are at least as segregated as gymnasia/technical schools, except that there is no opportunity for bright kids to escape a rough/failing comprehensive school (unless their parents pay for them to go to a private school or move to a posh area with a "nice" comprehensive school).
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Old 26.05.2014, 14:14
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

It is a school that takes all students, from all walks of life, backgrounds, academic level, etc, etc.

Students are streamed individually for most academic subjects- and taught in mixed groups for others. For instance a child could be in group (set) 1 for maths, physics and French, set 2 in German, chemistry and geography and set 3 in (say) history- and remedial group for English (for instance if coming from abroad with another mothertongue)- and other classes like art, sport, music, etc, being taught in mixed groups.

Previously (until late 60s circa) in England- the school system was split in Grammar Schools for the more able/academics, and Secondary Modern or vocational, for the least academically able- separated aged 11 by an exam.

BTW, in England, a Public School is not public at all, but the 'crême de la crême' of private schools, like Eton, Harrow, Sherbone, Radley, Charterhouse, Rugby, etc- which are only accessible by the very rich.

What is called a public school in the US is called a state school in England. Most of them are now Comprehensives, and have been since the 70s.

I personally know many kids who have gone to Comprehensives in poor and deprived areas who have done very well and went on to study at university btw. Teachers in such schools really relish the prospect of teaching the brightest and give them a lot of attention to ensure they do succeed.
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Old 26.05.2014, 14:15
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

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That's right, because the Comprehensive school experiment has been a resounding success, social mobility has increased over the last forty years and England and Wales always come out at the top of OECD educational achievement lists.
The UK has a very mixed educational system, as you well know.

I don't profess to know what systems are used in all countries, but the comprehensive system has been in use since the 1970s in Finland, and the schoolchildren there have scored first, first, second, third, and sixth in the reading section of the last five PISA studies.

Given that, I could as easily claim that it must be the rest of the mixed system in the UK that is failing the British children.

Quote:
Isn't it great to see all those comprehensive school kids in government and the professions, running the country on egalitarian principles?
That couldn't possibly be self selection bias, of course
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Old 26.05.2014, 14:31
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

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What is a comprehensive school?
A comprehensive in UK terms is the equivalent of a US local high school. I don't have anything other than personal experience to base my opinion on, but think many local US high schools are at an advantage as regards the breadth of their student body as fewer students are creamed off to attend fee-paying independent schools. I went to a regional high school that drew from 4 towns of varying socio-economic backgrounds (we had the McGraw-Hill of publishing fame types alongside the children of factory workers, and a few Mafia families - for trivia sake it is the same school featured in The Sopranos)
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Old 26.05.2014, 21:03
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

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Because the question will arise, here the answer.

What kids read in Swiss schools:
http://www.lesequiz.ch/ZKL/Lesequiz.htm
I went to school here and haven't even read 10% of the books on this list


Question though - is it really that regulated in the UK, US and apparently other countries? I.e. there's a detailed book list everyone has to read/teach in school?
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Old 26.05.2014, 21:07
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

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I went to school here and haven't even read 10% of the books on this list


Question though - is it really that regulated in the UK, US and apparently other countries? I.e. there's a detailed book list everyone has to read/teach in school?
Nope. According to the article:

Quote:
The Department for Education said: "In the past, English literature GCSEs were not rigorous enough and their content was often far too narrow. We published the new subject content for English literature in December. It doesn't ban any authors, books or genres. It does ensure pupils will learn about a wide range of literature, including at least one Shakespeare play, a 19th-century novel written anywhere and post-1914 fiction or drama written in the British Isles.

"That is only the minimum pupils will be expected to learn. It is now up to exam boards to design new GCSEs, which must then be accredited by the independent exams regulator Ofqual."
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Old 26.05.2014, 21:46
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

Your post sparked my interest in what Irish kids are reading for the Leaving Cert these days: Here is the plan for the 2015 exam. I must admit there is a lot of stuff on there, I've never come across.....

Interesting to see Maeve Binchy's Circle of Friends is one of the main texts. Published in 1990, so that is cool....

On the other hand WB Yeats's "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" is a new one on me. First published in 1919, I guess it is a sign of the times, that that is now considered acceptable!

Mind you no sign of Joyce slipping in there....
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Old 26.05.2014, 21:51
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Re: Obama - hear, hear

If you look at University courses you can study English Lit, or American Lit (or both).

The GCSE course is called English Lit…. could you argue that To Kill a Mockingbird is not English Lit? (discuss).

Regardless, I studied TKAM at school 18 years ago, I think it's about time for a change… even if only for the teachers sake.
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