I read this article on the Guardian website today. Although it's a complete cliche to say so it made me feel ragingly old (not the well written article, the content).
I am only ten years post GCSE and when I took them the English Language course was clearly the one that was positioned towards being able to write your own speeches, letters and other daily text one might use in the real world. Of course some of it was also geared towards those with an interest in creative writing and so on and I found that very enjoyable but I'm sure those that didn't could manage to suffer it in much the way I suffered Maths- because it's school and you kind of have to.
Engish Lit. was clearly about your ability to understand, respond and analyse text. This is obviously something anyone who reads fiction uses but it's also something you use in everyday life. Again I enjoyed it and I actually think most people did- but it's school and it's a requirement and people shouldn't have to be lured into doing work by allowing them to read a ghost written biography or whatever.
Virtually everyone at my school, which had a mixed background make up, enjoyed to Kill a Mocking Bird. Would they all have picked it up by themselves? hell no. Did they/ we all universally love the book from then on? yes. This is why good choices of books need to be made by exam boards and teachers alike- to encourage reading and appreciation of literature for it's own sake.
We are told it's good for our bodies to do physical activity throughout life and this pattern is started at school where we do sport for our health and to teach us to be able to play sports and hopefully enjoy them. Why don't the Government, or whoever is putting the pressure on for these dumbed down courses to be run, feel the same about reading? Reading helps keep my mind sane which is good for my health and makes me a happier more well rounded member of society. I'm not saying you should have to read literature the way people coudn't say you have to do sport (thank goodness!) but I'm saying it's an option children should be shown how to enjoy. Those encouraging this shouldn't assume children will only be able to appreciate autobiographies of footballers or child stars, given the opportunity they might adore Jany Eyre, or Pride and Prejudice or any of the classics. At least encourage them to try! If they have to introduce other texts why not one of these rather than a whole course dedicated to them.
The idea that there needs to be a third GCSE for being able to read and write leaves me feeling ancient an aghast. Surely if you leave school without being able to read and write there is quite a serious problem?
Okay rant over.
Picture courtesy of: http://www.photo.net/photo/pcd0942/reading-17.jpg