You may begin…

June 21, 2012 § 3 Comments

In my son’s parents’ evening last night, trying to reassure his English teacher that we, and he, valued the subject (we’d put our feet in it by talking about his particular enthusiasm for science), I quipped that despite not enjoying English at school, I was now a poet!  She looked a bit jaded.

Now Michael Gove (via the Daily Mail) has declared his intention to reintroduce O Levels.  If he succeeds, my son and his peers would be the first to have a bash at it.  Well, we’ll see: but these two things have got me wondering about creativity and the curriculum.  My O Level English, as far as I remember, focused on developing functional skills – writing persuasively, responding to comprehension texts: writing poetry was something you largely left behind (suitably double-backed) on the primary school wall.

Things may have changed with the introduction of GCSEs – I have had no experience in schools, so I don’t know.  I do have friends who work as Writers in Schools; and a writing development project called Signposts does great work with young writers in South Yorkshire.  But both of these initiatives suggest that creative writing exists outside of the Key Stage 3 – 4 curriculum, and is consequently someone else’s concern.

Is this the case?  If so, is this one of the reasons why creative writing – and the production of poetry in particular – is perceived by the majority of the population as something peripheral, lacking intrinsic value, even?  Is the close analysis of texts (in the English Literature curriculum) deemed a more important skill to our society than the skills of production?  Is this part of the increasing emphasis on consumption?

I hope not.  I hope that those with more experience in secondary education than me will be able to show how the curriculum is a richer place, with English more closely aligned to other subjects – visual and performing arts, for example – which put creativity at the centre of things.



§ 3 Responses to You may begin…

  • Ann Walker says:

    Thanks for your comment on my blog Rob – interconnecting themes.

    One of my favourite quotes about education is from the poet Robert Frost – “I am not a teacher but an awakener.”

    The best teaching and learning challenges, inspires and fuels our curiosity. I’ve seen this in your own teaching and projects, including memorable presentations by adult students at the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield.

    I hope that your son and his peers benefit from a suitably rich curriculum that prepares them for a life to be lived well.

  • Hi Rob

    Thanks for yet another thought-provoking post.

    I’m not sure there’s such a dichotomy between consumption and production in this particular sphere. Speaking personally, learning how to take a poem apart during Eng Lit O-Level was a critical experience for me, in two senses, forgive the pun. It didn’t trigger my interest in writing poetry until a few years later, but it certainly got me interested in reading poetry.

    I think Critical Reading – maybe Creative Reading? – is more important than Creative Writing; the former is, I think many would agree, a prerequisite for the latter. Get the reading done and the writing may follow. And discourse analysts would see skills in Critical Reading (whether formally or informally acquired) as a prerequisite for any kind of serious unravelling of the propananda and public relations around us. And that, I think, is a pretty important skill.


    • Rob Hindle says:

      Thanks Alistair – and point taken: I may have undervalued creative reading in this; and undoubtedly the reading did eventually stimulate the urge to have a go myself. My point is (and this is a personal view), it was only when I tried to put together a sonnet myself that I really understood the mechanics of the thing. And let me into others’ work, authentically, when I returned to them.

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