Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Irrelevance Of Relevance

Just adding on a bit to yesterday's post. After writing it I found myself thinking back to when I first began teaching, some time in the last century, long ago in the last millennium, and how I used to get the heebie-jeebies when various worthies in the world of education told me that I needed to teach books in the classroom - novels and short stories they meant - that kids found relevant to their own lives, which they could relate to. Basically the idea was that if you were a working class kid from Manchester you only wanted to read about other working class kids from Manchester, and anything else was so outside your experience that you'd never be able to make sense of it so it would bore you.

Now I suppose this sounds vaguely plausible and has a primitive logic about it. Except if you happened to be a working class kid from Manchester, as I was, and knew it wasn't true. Actually I wanted to read about pretty anywhere else than Manchester, finding it, and myself as part of it, pretty dull generally and very much worth escaping from. It was only when I got a lot older and a good deal more sophisticated that I realised that even the most quotidian of existences is utterly fascinating. (I need to thank James Joyce for that lesson.)

As a young teacher when I read novels with kids in classrooms my prime aim was to take them somewhere else other than where they were to escape the prisons of place and self. I like to think it usually worked. It certainly helped me survive in the classroom since it invariably kept everyone quiet.

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