enitharmon: (Default)
(You can read about this, and the offending poem which apparently will incite knife crime, here)

I was going to write an ode of my own, but I decided I could do better than that by dedicating this poem by one of my absolute favourite poets and pillar of Victorian probity, Robert Browning. I'm dedicating this to the AQA ("Absolutely Quackers Already") examination board.

Porphyria's Lover
The rain set early in tonight,
The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
And did its worst to vex the lake:
I listened with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;
Which done, she rose, and from her form
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,
And laid her soiled gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,
And, last, she sat down by my side
And called me. When no voice replied,
She put my arm about her waist,
And made her smooth white shoulder bare,
And all her yellow hair displaced,
And, stooping, made my cheek lie there,
And spread, o'er all, her yellow hair,
Murmuring how she loved me — she
Too weak, for all her heart's endeavor,
To set its struggling passion free
From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
And give herself to me forever.
But passion sometimes would prevail,
Nor could tonight's gay feast restrain
A sudden thought of one so pale
For love of her, and all in vain:
So, she was come through wind and rain.
Be sure I looked up at her eyes
Happy and proud; at last l knew
Porphyria worshiped me: surprise
Made my heart swell, and still it grew
While I debated what to do.
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string l wound
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
I am quite sure she felt no pain.
As a shut bud that holds a bee,
I warily oped her lids: again
Laughed the blue eyes without a stain.
And l untightened next the tress
About her neck; her cheek once more
Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss:
I propped her head up as before,
Only, this time my shoulder bore
Her head, which droops upon it still:
The smiling rosy little head,
So glad it has its utmost will,
That all it scorned at once is fled,
And I, its love, am gained instead!
Porphyria's love: she guessed not how
Her darling one wish would be heard.
And thus we sit together now,
And all night long we have not stirred,
And yet God has not said a word!
enitharmon: (Default)
I broke my ties with the Labour Party years ago. I'm a Liberal Democrat these days, although struggling to find my feet there (I feel like the only one in town, sometimes). But I did give the best years of my life to Labour and some links are hard to break completely. I empathise a lot with Gordon Brown, beleagured by crisises not of his making (it all smells of stitch-up to me).

All the same, yesterday I felt I was finally alienated from Labour when I heard Bill Rammell, higher education minister, defending cuts to the Open University. Harold Wilson felt, rightly, that the OU was the jewel in the crown of his administration. It's part of OU legend that, when the Conservatives came to power in 1970, that they were ready to smother the infant OU in its cradle and would have done so but for the ferocious intervention of a junior education minister. Her name? I'll let you guess. Amongst other things, it can't be denied that she believed in opportunities for self-improvement.

And now a government, a Labour government, is scuttling round saying it's not right to let people study art history or philosophy when it would be better to churn out people with skills useful to business and bits of paper to make them feel good about it, (but, importantly, not with the skills or inclination to question anything and rock the boat.)

Now, here's where I'm going to get controversial. Nobody is entitled as of right to a university. Just as nobody has the right to play Premiership football, or to dance with the Royal Ballet, or have a show at the Tate Modern, although nobody disputes those. Everybody has a perfect right to aspire to any of those things, but they are achievements, not rights, they are not meant to be easily ac hieved, and they have to be earned through a combination of aptitute and effort.

Once, I sat on an Open University committee as a student representative. We wasteda whole morning once, with a bunch of headbangers demanding more and more ludicrous things, like quarter-credits and sixteenth-credits and credits stretched out over several years and more accessible subjects, while the chair (Professor David Potter, Dean of Social Sciences and a lovely man) rolled eyes at each other. In the end, the chair brought the discussion to a close with the observation that " a degree is supposed to be difficult." If you let everybody have one, then it ceases to be an achivement. I've been on far too many courses which had no challenge but generated a certificate at the end. Bully bully, I don't treasure the certificate for ever because it's meaningless. It goes in the bin. So much more needlessly wasted paper.

There's an obsession with getting degrees for poorer people. I have to say here that when I visit Ormsgill, or Whitley Wood, or Lower Knowle, I don't see obvious signs that these places are full of young people yearning to get to grips with Kant. I can accept that some people there are more than capable of successfully completing a degree course and that social conditions don't help them. But I don't think that the way forward is to create lots of pseudo-degree course in basketweaving, plumbing, or whatever. Nowt wrong with being a good basketweaver or plumber - I couldn't do either and they are valuable achievements in their own right and achievements to be admired as much as an academic degree, but you don't need a degree to be a basketweaver or a plumber or a systems analys - yes, I had a perfectly good career in IT without a Computer Science degree.

Of course, everybody could do with a good grounding in critical thinking, but that's precisely what government policy seems to be studiously avoiding. Can't have the masses getting uppity, questioning what they are asked to believe and do. That might be subversive. Keep them in line, only encouraging them to engage with harmless subjects that are useful to the economy. It's no accident that whenever there's a revolution, it's the intellctuals who are eliminated first,
enitharmon: (Default)
If anybody else on the BBC (which ought to know better) or anywhere else talks about Clostridium difficile as if it were French and not Latin, I shall scream.

For fuck's sake, it's pronounced diFICKilay, not diffiSEEL!


I just screamed.

What happened to proper education?
enitharmon: (Default)
In the Observer this morning there's something guaranteed to set my teeth on edge.

Just to show that I have no axe to grind, I have a BSc(hons) in Physics and a BA(hons) in Literature and Philosophy, so I have form on both sides.

It annoys me no end whenever I see a suggestion that somehow a science degree is more valid than one in the arts or humanities. I know which of my two degrees I found more challenging and rewarding. The BA demanded more critical thinking and working off the rails, without the comfort of a 'right' answer at the end. The important thing is learning to think critically and with confidence. With that skill you can turn your mind to anything. Without it you are simply following somebody else's rules.
enitharmon: (Default)
I don't often find myself in disagreement with Julie Cohen, although life would be so dull if we didn't disagree sometimes. Something came up at last night's Reading Writers meeting which let toi such a disaqreement - albeit amiable.

It comes down to how one is supposed to write for young people. When I was a teenager there were no 'young adult' books. I longed for the day when I turned thirteen and I was allowed to leave the Children's Library behind and use the 'proper' library. I read Graham Greene and Margaret Drabble and Evelyn Waugh and Emily Bronte and John Steinbeck and Henry James, and the various Pan Books of Ghost Stories and Horror Stories (some of which were pretty gruesome.

These days, such things are dismissed as 'inappropriate'. Young people have got to be presecribed reading matter scientifically calculated for their age, for it has been decreed (allegedly by educationsists but more probably by bean counters) that at age N they will have a Reading Level of R and if anybody deviates from that - especially if the Reading Level is greater than R - we don't want to know (they are probably elitist). Also, the protagonists of the prescribed literature must resemble the reader in age and social standing as precisely as possible and it is well-known that all children live in single-parent families at the top of tower blocks. (For some reason though, children are permitted to read about hobbist and elves as protagonists but not intelligent, well-heeled young ladies from late nineteenth-century Boston). And heaven forbid that a teenager should be challenged by a polysyllabic word and have to use a disctionary!

I wonder what harm is supposed to come to teenagers if they are exposed to Henry James, or Val McDermid, or Margaret Atwood?

I can't help feeling that all this publishing-by-formula is stifling reading by suppressing flights of fancy. Film-making by numbers has killed the cinema, should it kill books too? Or am I being jaundiced?

I would tell would-be writers to write what they feel, and the hell with the publishers' bean counters.
enitharmon: (Default)
The Royal Society of Literature invited the Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, Philip Pullman and Joanne Rowling to nominate ten books that every child should read before they leave school. And good grief, what a kerfuffle it's caused!

You can read my full take on this at my Blogspot. Meanwhile, here's my list. What's yours, I wonder?

  1. William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet
  2. Emily Bronte: Wuthering Heights
  3. Charles Dickens: Bleak House
  4. Robert Browning: Men and Women
  5. George Eliot: The Mill on the Floss
  6. Virginia Woolf: Mrs Dalloway
  7. D H Lawrence: Sons and Lovers
  8. Graham Greene: The Power and the Glory
  9. Angela Carter: Nights at the Circus
  10. Toni Morrison: Song of Solomon

(And as with all lists, it's painful having to leave things out.)


enitharmon: (Default)

April 2017

91011 12131415


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 24th, 2017 10:18 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios