LETTER:Teaching children the relative value of Schubert and Blur

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The Independent Online
From Mr Steve Greenfield and

Mr Guy Osborn

Sir: Your report of Dr Nick Tate's comments ("Pupils `should value Schubert over Blur' ", 8 February) on the teaching of culture raises several very interesting points that require a thorough public debate.

It is futile to argue in favour of the supremacy of "high" culture over "popular" culture, as the definitions are inevitably fluid and different pieces of work are not immediately comparable with each other unless the most meaningless general terms are adopted; for example Bleak House and American Psycho both classified as books. They are both influential pieces of work and to favour one over the other is merely to import a set of subjective criteria to the selection process.

It is the very diversity of the various forms of culture that enhances society; creative work should be admired without the need for labels. (Cantona and Nureyev are two examples of superb creative and artistic interpretation of their own art form, both brilliant but different.)

The real challenge is to view cultural products for their value regardless of their mode or time of creation.

Surely the task of educators is not to impose dogmatic views of "good and not so good" perspectives of work, but to enable children to develop their powers of critical awareness so that they can make informed choices as to what has value.

This is essentially a matter of informed individual choice, so we need to move out of the sterility of Dr Tate's proposals into the wider issues of the importance of (popular) culture, how it interacts with society generally, and more specifically the education process.

Yours faithfully,

Steve Greenfield

Guy Osborn

Centre for the Study of Law

Society and Popular Culture

University of Westminster

London, WC1

8 February