The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Travel writing?

Posted on: February 7, 2008

At least I got my A-level English when it meant something.

(At that stage aren’t students taking the subject because they want to, with the knowledge that it’s gonna be about Conrad, Hawthorne and Achebe and not bloody McEwan? Do you really need to be wheedling them with tv book club approved texts?)

Update: John Sutherland states that reports have been misleading and that the book club was only used as an example of what sources students could use to get ideas about what books to select for the modules in which they’re given that choice. I’m only slightly appeased — I still protest against making any post-1990 category compulsory.  It looks fairly stupid to me when educators, who presumably don’t believe that classics are “dull or boring”, constantly link anything exciting, thrilling and revelatory to the new and recent. I don’t know what to think when an evil Penguin USA executive is wholly taken with ways to repackage and reintroduce older works to newer generations while Oxford and Cambridge examiners are more concerned about getting in on the fabulously new. And this move is aimed at 6th form students (working at taking the Oxbridge A-levels for they are different versions) who, again I must stress, are typically the sort of students who are perfectly satisfied, even, my word, excited about Conrad and Eliot. What’s going on in the UK? What am I missing here?

Travel writing, FFS. You want to mark bloody papers with analyses of Bill Bryson walking about in Brighton?


5 Responses to "Travel writing?"

People say I am a snob, but there is something morally WRONG with something like this.

Richard and Judy selection as A Level text? I think I would rather go for the Oprah Bookclub. At least there’s a chance she might pick “Anna Karenina” as one of her books.

Dumbing down the syllables don’t make your students smarter – you just mass-produce more third rate students. A muscle has to be worked to grow – same as the mind. Why are we giving them cozy easy reads to “educate” them?

Am I losing touch with the world? I really can’t see why people would think this is a good idea.

I don’t think you’re a snob at all. We both simply have standards and I, at least, am a bit wary of educators giving over too much to student’s complaints about boring, difficult syllabi.

If it’s any consolation this new path taken by the board leads to Oprah as well as Richard and Judy. Me, I’d rather teachers make some references to contemporary literature in class and let the students pick ’em up themselves if they’re so inclined.

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