I wrote this nine years ago, and it’s hugely worse now - think of all the school texts and children’s literature that would be banned from the classroom today.
‘Textbooks are dying out in classrooms because teachers see them as 'regimented and old-fashioned', Elizabeth Truss said yesterday.
The Education Minister said rampant ideology in schools that teaching should be 'unstructured and free-flow' meant just one in ten ten-year-olds are issued with them now.’
- Andrew Levy, Daily Mail, 3 December 2013
There are three reasons why teachers have abandoned textbooks and now labour till all hours of the night to lay the track on which their train will run the next day:
1. Revolutionaries. As I have said before, at the large comprehensive where I used to teach the head of English told me that the last act of the previous incumbent was to put all the English coursebooks into a skip in the playground and set fire to them, thus ensuring that the wicked old way of teaching from that sort of book would be gone for ever. This was in the mid-70s, and when I told this to others I found out that the same thing had happened in at least two other schools, at about the same time. I will bet my pension that, like the man who campaigned for the end of corporal punishment, the people who did this did not stay in the classroom, or possibly even in teaching.
2. Constant curricular change. How is it possible to write a textbook when the course content alters frequently? Every education secretary jerks the tiller in a different direction: grammar exercises, no grammar exercises, phonics, no phonics, Shakespeare, no Shakespeare.
3. Ofsted. Inspectors and advisers - some of whom may have been like those in (1) above, or taught or sponsored by them - not only don't want to see textbooks, they even frown on worksheets. We are expecting an inspection soon and we are told that our lessons will be classed as failing if they are text-based rather than activity-based.
Teacher is a fool. Education is a stupid job for clever people - you have to be clever to do it, you have to be stupid to take it on. Only periodic deep economic recessions and the institutional ageism in the British workplace keep the "profession" supplied, sucking in young idealists and middle-aged bankrupts and keeping them so busy that they fail to escape again.
And goodness know how much (colour, laser) photocopiers cost annually, compared with the wear-and-tear cost of replacing texts in the old days - the days when, as in modern-day China, South Korea etc children were set work to do and did it.
Still, we now get better, technicolour paper airplanes and higher-quality scrap in the recycling bins.
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This quote has been firmly lodged in my brain for the best part of sixty years -
“Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom and go to the library and educate yourself if you've got any guts. Some of you like Pep rallies and plastic robots who tell you what to read.”
― Frank Zappa
I left school at the age of sixteen after wasting five years in Grammar School. It didn't rot my brain, it just bored me and did not teach me anything which was of any use in later life. (a slight exaggeration, we had a very good art teacher for two years and I did learn German and French but I didn't know at the time that they would come in handy when I later worked in Germany and France)
Burning text books? Hard to believe but at my Primary School we were reading Gulliver's Travels and Don Quijote. Does that happen now or have those two books also been incinerated or banned as inappropriate?
p.s.That is the correct spelling of Don Quijote by the way. My English language translation has a note to the effect that the 'x' indicates the 'catalan' origin of the tale which is untrue; Cervantes was born in Alcalá de Henares which is in the heart of Castilla - La Mancha.