This week’s wheezes are twofold. The scrapping of the rather excellent Speaking and Listening component in the English GCSE and the condemning of pupils who can’t achieve C grade at English and Maths to staying in school until they do or for as long as it takes. You need the C to get the job in our whizzo global marketplace. Fail these exams and you Fail in Life.
All a bit punitive and pedagogically suspect.
Some pupils just hit the conceptual buffers, especially with maths. I did. It took me four goes to pass the old O level. Euclid’s postulates, Pythagoras’ theorems, Isosceles Triangles, and much else, were quite beyond my tiny brain.
Like Einstein, I was rubbish. My teacher, “Hosh” Johnson, barked and bounced a board duster at my skull. The consequent concussion did not render me any more numerate. I just bled copiously and required stitching.
But the English seemed to be a breeze. Crazed pedants couldn’t stop me. Milton’s prosody? Ablative absolutes? Transitive verbs? Easy peasy. Spelling too was a cinch, perhaps because it didn’t involve GBH. But some just can’t do it – like WB Yeats, Jane Austen, Scott Fitzgerald – and Philosopher King, Nigel Molesworth. They couldn’t spell for toffee and could well have been stuck for yonks in a modern classroom.
Let us imagine a worse case scenario. Let us zoom into the future, say 2025, and into my “Darwin Was Wrong” Academy lesson (£50 a go).
My pupils, Dave Mania and Dennis Plum, still sit raging, balding and bored in my “Illiterates R Us” class. They wear the grim bling of a “D” medallion. They are now middle aged. I am probably posthumous. I’m still droning on about grocers’ plurals, conditionals, modals, gerunds, predicates and oxymorons and antitheses in Pope’s “Dunciad” – my words fall on deaf ears, like Govean ultimatums at an NUT conference. And the clots still can’t spell “accommodate” or “haemorrhage” or “vicissitudes” or differentiate between “should/could/would”.
Nor can I anymore. I’m losing it too. Are there enough transitives in this column? Can I do the Oxford comma? Is “cinch” (see above) correct? Who kno eh? Still, it seems we must all trudge on for as long as it takes or til death do us part...