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This article is taken from PN Review 48, Volume 12 Number 4, March - April 1986.

Against Excess Paul McLoughlin

Despite frequent exhortations to 'teachers of English', the debate surrounding the perceived 'crisis' in English studies continues, with a few notable exceptions, to exclude those teaching in institutions outside 'Higher' education. I point not to any rejection of contributions from such quarters (though I doubt many were sought) but rather to the disturbing lack of continuity that characterizes English teaching from the early years of schooling through to university level. The immediate concerns of teachers in schools and colleges may vary enormously, but they all spring from a view of what English as a discipline is, or ought to be. The writings of Jacques Derrida, for example, may seem far removed from the demands of an O-level Literature class, but if the teacher of that class is genuinely interested in English, s/he will not only want to know what the prevailing theoretical pre-occupations are, but s/he will also know that such theoretical pre-occupations will eventually (and perhaps rightly) filter through the entire educational network. I say 'perhaps' because the traffic is conspicuously one-way. What is happening in schools, what debate there is, appears seldom to be of interest to higherlevel departments. The current debate has important implications for secondary school teachers like myself, the more so if it looks like forging a new orthodoxy. We do well to attend to it.

One might ponder Bruner's dictum - 'Any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development' - ...


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