A Dialogue between Caliban and Ariel

The title is taken, of course, from the poem by John Fuller – which is worth reading in it own right: lines like “bells call out the music of the sea”  are just beautiful.

What has haunted me, however, since I first read it, is the line in Caliban’s villanelle “A language learnt but nothing understood.”   By emphasising decoding over enjoyment and comprehension,  the notion of learning to read/reading to learn, a purely instrumental view of reading, is this not what we risk? And in “slimming down” the National Curriculum, do we not risk a dulling-down (as opposed to a dumbing-down) of what is taught in schools?  Classics and dull learning (not that Latin need be dull, of course) come back under the banner that says we must not deny any child a right to succeed. But succeed at what? Succeed in a system that creaked and groaned when I was at school? Some might, from a paternalistic model of education, see the teacher’s role as setting language on the tongues of Cailbans, but is their profit on’t to reproduce or at least be compliant in outmoded ways of learning?

I return again to the animated (in both senses) Ken Robinson.

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