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.
The writer is a former English teacher.Reuse content