Letter: English teachers oppose government-prescribed book list

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The Independent Online
Sir: Bryan Appleyard's (16 March) lambasting of English teachers objecting to the prescription of children's reading by politicians is very regrettable.

He entirely mistakes the purposes of a genuinely cultural education, which has everything to do with developing the child's capacity to make a personal response and nothing to do with acquiring a token familiarity with someone else's Famous Hits list: John Patten's All Time Greats, Sheila Lawlor's Golden Oldies.

It is of no consequence at all that I was introduced to English literature through the personal enthusiasms of my English teacher: a strict diet of Saki, Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton - authors I have had little time for since. What counted was the good man's ability to light in me a life-long passion for books.

Reading, like all the arts, is fundamentally an education in love, a matter of delight - of happiness even. That the Tory establishment finds its own satisfactions in a particular literary canon is entirely incidental to the English teacher's task of inducing children into the practices of sensibility. Love - including a love of reading - is a matter of grace rather than favour.

Teachers must be supported in their determination to preserve the study of literature from becoming just another Trivial Pursuit.

Your sincerely,




17 March

The writer is a former English teacher.