Wednesday, November 25, 2020
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Reader’s Comment of the Day: Today’s teachers lack the cultural breadth of their predecessors

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In response to Chris McGovern: China’s teachers expose the self-indulgence and sloppiness of our schools, Bugle wrote:

 My father, who died recently, went to secondary school (not grammar) in East London and left at age 14. He wrote grammatical English with perfect spelling and could do mental arithmetic quicker than I can use a calculator. What he chiefly seemed to remember was the severe discipline. He was employed throughout his working life, never claimed benefits, never committed crime, and raised a family with one woman.

I went to a public school and can remember many boring monologues but I still remember now a great deal of what I was taught. The school had an atmosphere of achievement and competition, but also an inflexible discipline. Punishments were various and onerous: enforced exercise, copying sheets of repetitious prose, detentions hours long in a grey room and set at the most inconvenient times – and then there was the cane. The teachers were mostly civilised and cultured eccentrics with a knowledge extending far beyond their own subjects. I think it is this in retrospect that I value the most.

Many teachers today lack that broad culture. Competence in elementary skills such as grammar and spelling is lacking, and they are trained to be dispensers of the National Curriculum. Lessons must be tailored to children with minimal attention spans and must be exciting and entertaining, often based on pre-digested material (downloads). Then there is the discipline, or lack of it.

Clearly, the downward trend is self-reinforcing and probably inevitable. But it is certainly not progress. If we keep on as we are, and the Chinese keep on as they are, they will devour us.

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