Why I Don’t Think English Has Ever Been Taught Correctly

The latest batch of GCSE results are now out.  Congratulations if you got the grades you wanted and commiserations if you didn’t.

My favourite subject at school was English (even though my GCSE result in that subject when I left school was an E – it took a few attempts to get it up to a C).

I am horrified every time I read that the Government have tinkered with the GCSE English Syllabus because none of the alterations they have made get to the core problem.  English is much more than a language and it should be taught in its full expanse.

Taught correctly – English can have hidden health benefits.  I am not talking about being able to communicate with Medical Professionals either.

“Reading for Pleasure” is apparently a dying artform nowadays because students are forced to read dull, uninspiring, books as part of the syllabus.  Either that or they get doses of Shakespeare which make no sense because they are taught with modern pronunciation instead of the “Original Pronunciation” (that is a bit like me watching a drama about Dutch history where all the actors are speaking with posh English accents – it makes so little sense to me that I switch off both literally and metaphorically).  I attended a brilliant talk by Professor David Crystal on the subject of Shakespeare in the Original Pronunciation.  Some of the plays, etc, actually started to make sense after that.

As for “Creative Writing”???  Forget that – too much focus appears to be put on using the “correct” grammar, syntax, and punctuation at all times.  I very much doubt if authors like Shakespeare, Roald Dahl, etc, would be allowed to publish their writings today due to the fact that they invented some of the words we still use now.

Both of the above-mentioned strands of English continue to have health benefits – for me anyway.  I love nothing more than to be able to totally disappear into a book when I really want to just chill out.  As for the “Creative Writing” element – that can go from writing a blog post like this one or it can be writing a story or an article about my thoughts and experiences.  I call it “Head-emptying” – and some people (myself included) are lucky enough to get paid for their “Head-emptying”.

My favourite teacher was the first English teacher I had in Secondary school.  In fact, it is partly thanks to him that you are reading this.  He didn’t “Teach” – he educated and inspired me by letting me find my own way of writing (both in his English lessons and later when I joined a Creative Writing group he ran).  At a talk I heard him give he said he saw his students as “vessels” to nurture instead of robots to cram with information.

If I had my way “Reading for Pleasure” and Creative Writing would have the same status as physical exercise when it comes to attempting to improve people’s health and lives.

In the same way that PE lessons have been known to put people (myself included) off the idea of exercise for life – I fear the way English is being taught nowadays is putting people off reaping the health benefits of both reading and writing.

I realise this may sound like a rant from an ex- teacher or a famous author – I am neither of those.  What I am is someone who has reaped the benefits of my uses of the English language – and who would love it if the next generations were given the opportunity to do the same.

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