Stuff I Found

Monday, April 28, 2008

Harry Potter = Required!

According to this article:

Harry Potter has taken his place alongside such greats of English literature as Shakespeare's Hamlet and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and is required reading for A-level English students.

A critic says:

"The point of English literature is to provide works that have stood the test of time and that allow people to understand their place in the world as others have understood it.

I forgot how much I loathe the study of "English literature"! It's an art, isn't it? And, like every art, isn't "greatness" subjective, in the eye of the beholder? Time is not a test that determines objective greatness, nor is popularity for that matter. The real "point" of the study of English literature, it seems, is to give English teachers something to do.

That being said, I don't think Harry Potter is "great" (nor do I think Shakespeare is all that "great"). I hate the idea of a selective group of people deciding for everyone else what art is important and what is not.

(The Fountainhead is great, read that. Ender's Game is pretty darn good too; literature doesn't have to be old-style Shakespearelly confusing to be "great" to me.)

[Students] will have to write a 1,200 to 1,500-word piece of coursework comparing the "approaches" of J.K. Rowling and the other writer.

Examiners will mark students on how they relate story lines and the activities of Harry Potter and his friends to the context of the times.

Poor students!! :-(

It's important to keep in mind that the ability to write good... er... well is definitely an important skill, but I don't think forcing students to analyze any literature they're not interested in helps at all.

But fears that the curriculum is being dumbed down have been bolstered by plans announced earlier this month for 'flexible' GCSEs which will allow students who fail sections to retake them.

Critics said it would give them a false sense of their abilities and make the exams "almost impossible to fail".

Woah! A false sense of their abilities? Is that the point of the exam? I'm not really sure what the GCSEs are (and I'm not going to go look it up because this computer goes too slow), but to me it seems like learning is more important than assessing and judging students and their "abilities." Right now I bet the exams may already be giving plenty of students and teachers false senses of their abilities.


  • Ender's Game was a pretty good book.

    But no book can stand up to the utter awesomeness of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:10 PM  

  • Not even The Game of Gynwig?

    By Blogger Sean Hannifin, at 3:29 AM  

  • GCSE's are exams at the end of two years of compulsory study at the end of the school system in the United Kingdom.

    Years 10 and 11 are the GCSE years. The highest mark is A* (or A+ as you may understand it) and the lowest score for a pass is a C-.

    Students are expected to achieve 5 scores in between A and C on average. The amount of GCSE's that you have to study depends mostly on your school. Everyone has to study English Literature, English Language, Mathematics and "Double-Science" (counts as 2 GCSEs). Most schools make you also learn a foreign language, make you choose to study History or Geography, and choose a "Design Technology" (woodwork, sewing, electronics or food technology etc.). You then get to choose two of your own choices (I chose ICT and Music).

    I personally disagree with the GCSE system, mainly because it very nearly gave me a nervous breakdown! Joking of course, but not by much. Because I was fairly academic, I was made to study a grand total of 13 GCSE's, which was a ridiculous workload for a sixteen year old to carry. I even had to study two languages, French and German, when I struggled to even learn one!

    Seriously, the sheer amount of coursework (large projects that counted towards our final grade) that had to be completed, coupled with the revision had had to be done was just silly. In a newsletter home, our Headmistress (or Principal as you may understand the title) said that we were expected to do over 3 hours of coursework and revision every day, with extra on the weekends. I really wish I was exaggerating, but I am not.

    When we had to analyse Shakespearean sonnets, we all put forth our thoughts and our English teacher (who was also our Headmistress) told one student that he was wrong. I pointed out that it can be argued that in English, there are no wrong answers. Our English teacher then physically said the words "Don't be ridiculous, I'm not teaching you about English, I'm teaching you how to pass an exam."

    By the way Harry Potter may not be high art, but it's enjoyable enough, it's certainly less of a headache than comparing Sense and Sensibilty, Othello and Edgar Allen Poe's collected poems!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:01 AM  

  • Many thanks for the comment! Yikes, GCSE system sounds torturous. :-( Grrr, makes me angry... the people that support these systems surely believe they're educational and important, but I'd argue they're mostly a waste. And how can they not realize this if they say things like "I'm teaching you how to pass an exam" as they do here in the US as well for AP exams (and SOL tests in the state of Virginia). Aaaggh!! In the big scheme of things, why teach that?! Life is not an exam to be passed!

    I might be preaching to the choir here though, but in the next 10-20 years, as a new generation takes over, I hope things change... surely they will, they have to...

    Anyway, thanks again for your informative comment! :-) Oh, and I'd definitely much rather read Harry Potter than Sense and Sensibilities!!

    By Blogger Sean Hannifin, at 12:50 AM  

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