New Chairman Has Strong Opinions
The following is an article by Diane Benn, PR consultant of the Bronte Society who kindly sent us the release:
Richard Wilcocks, the new Chairman of the Brontë Society, has strong opinions on the way that classic literature is taught in English schools.
Recently-elected by the Council of the Brontë Society, which runs the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, Yorkshire, Richard Wilcocks said, “Young people are given insufficient time in the classroom for in-depth study of texts. This is often in spite of the best efforts of teachers.”
Mr Wilcocks should know what he is talking about, because for many years he worked in the world of education, as a teacher and as an examiner with the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance. He has also been a journalist, has lectured for the British Council at the University of Poznan in Poland and, amongst other qualifications, possesses a Master’s in Drama and Theatre Arts.
Strong interests apart from the Brontës include the theatre and music – he sings with the Leeds Festival Chorus. A family man, he lives in Leeds. He continued:
“Many more people are drawn towards the Brontës by forces outside schools, for example by new adaptations of novels like Jane Eyre by the BBC.
“A series of Government initiatives in schools – with the admirable objective of improving standards of literacy – has led to a situation in which love of reading and literature generally is being rather neglected in favour of a rigid ‘framework’ approach.
“For at least the last decade the definition of English as a subject has been increasingly prescribed. The emphasis on capital L Literacy is becoming a significant encroachment on English as a creative and humanistic domain, because it does not appear to give more than a token acknowledgement for the value of literature.
“I believe in the sharing of ‘real’ texts, whether described as classic or popular. This enables personal growth and the study of literature to come together. This sharing – through reading, creative writing and improvised drama – was the feature of the Brontë children’s early educational experiences which led to the great works which followed later.
“The forces which drove them in a nineteenth century parsonage are universal, and can be harnessed in many other environments including that of a twenty-first century classroom.
“Currently-prescribed practices in the official literacy strategy require pupils to focus on fragments of text, seldom on whole texts which might elicit a ‘whole’ response. This discourages the formation of a profound personal relationship with a work of literature.
“The best teaching is based on the stimulation of the imagination, of course, and teachers can get plenty of advice on that from the Parsonage, which is rapidly developing into a regional centre for the Arts.”
Mr. Wilcocks is also the editor of the Bronte Parsonage Blog.