Donaldson has named four purposes of education that Welsh teachers should be concerned with. English teachers should be particularly stirred by them when Literature is under attack and when those children who need to be given access to the best ideas in the best language are having an impoverished curriculum. I call on all good English teachers to speak up and to speak up loudly in support of the reinstatement of Literature to its former status.
- Ambitious, capable learners–
- ferret out information and continue to research out of interest and love of subject
- develop intrinsic motivation for learning.
- read for pleasure and are curious
- can call on memorised information
- are able to make predictions based on logic
- ask questions about texts
- use reason to argue a case or interrogate one
- have curiosity and integrity in searching for the truth
- know how to enjoy, use, skim, scan and transform texts
- Enterprising, creative contributors
Reading is not a passive act but a creative one which finishes the writer’s beginning. As fiction writer Ursula Le Guin has stated, without a creative reader, a story is only marks on the page. Enterprising, creative contributors –
- takes time to gestate an idea after and during reading
- can read creatively and enter the imaginative world of a narrative
- takes risks with interpretation and opinions
- expects the unexpected
- can modify and change pre-existing texts
- can cope with new situations in reading
- enjoys surprises
- enjoys predicting
- enjoys discussing ideas that stories present
- listens and takes on board other ideas
- is willing to accept a zone of uncertainty and deferred gratification in order to understand
- Healthy, confident individuals
Research has shown that reading makes people happier and is good for our psychological health. Healthy, confident readers;
- gain confidence by reading aloud
- use phrases learn by heart to understand themselves and others
- improve mental health by connecting with stories
- find mindfulness in poetry
- through reading increase empathy with others and greater understanding of themselves
- Ethical,informed citizens. Informed’ is an interesting word which some have taken literally to mean ‘facts’, but an informed citizen would ideally have empathy, a sense of the past, and a general knowledge about society. These are characteristics of someone who has read widely and have a sense of identity and morality through reading.
Reading enables pupils to –
- find a space which allows pupils to discuss issues and situations ‘at arm’s length.’
- have a sense of value and worth of themselves and others
- develop a social conscience
- be put in situations of moral dilemma where evil flourishes if good men say nothing
- gain a better understanding of past ideas and decisions
- develop empathy
- stand in someone else’s shoes.
These are just the tip of the iceberg when examining what Literature can do in educating the whole person. English teachers need to say these things, say them often, and and share their testimony with peers, parents and pupils.