While I consider what aspect of educational reform I should submit for my application to do a doctorate in education, my year 12 student tells me that her school does not require the reading of a set text for the advanced English syllabus. The text in question is a beautifully crafted play by Edson known as “WIT”. This poignant play is to be studied alongside John Donne’s collection of poems. Put simply, both texts explore the spiritual and emotional anxieties experienced in the face of death. Both are texts which leave one rather speechless

The class has been given extracts and notes and told that this is all they need. The evocation of language, the delicacy of characterisation and the potential for students to understand the very nature of human mortality has been sacrificed yet again.

My year 11 and 12 students tell me that they are not reading Merchant of Venice, Othello, nor Much Ado about Nothing , they are merely looking at excerpts – chosen by the teacher and then watching a cinematic representation. Whole acts of plays, beginning and endings of texts are no longer considered valuable and the application of school pragmatism is now an accepted norm.

The irony is of course lost as students read novels such as Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty Four and Educational authorities scramble to understand why reading and literacy is fast declining.

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