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International Socialism, Summer 1961


Peter Ibbotson

Admass Education


From International Socialism (1st series), No.5, Summer 1961, p.32.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


English for Maturity
David Holbrook
Cambridge University Press. 21s.

Analysing popular literature in The Uses of Literacy, Richard Hoggart develops the thesis that mass literacy has opened new worlds to new readers. But how far, he asks, has mass literacy also been exploited to debase standards and behaviour? On balance has society really benefited from the mass consumption of magazines, books, films and TV? Raymond Williams refuses to despair; in Culture and Society he insists on the relationship between artistic and social development, and in The Long Revolution he says ‘The extension of culture has to be considered within the real social context of our economic and social life.’

Hoggart and Williams are the analytical protagonists of a theory of popular culture; Holbrook is concerned to translate their theoretical analyses into practice; English for Maturity is a handbook for practical action in the classroom. He deplores the admassification of society and our children’s avid uncritical consumption of cheap comics and inferior books spawned with oyster-like fecundity by such authors as W.E. Johns and Enid Blyton. Like Williams he realises the interdependence of culture and society: “the lack of assurance in the work of the secondary modern school is the index of a prevailing uncertainty about life itself”. He therefore pleads that secondary modern schools, where after all three-quarters of the nation’s children are trained and have their capabilities for living created, shed their inferiority complex and their pathetic imitation of grammar schools.

In short, English for Maturity is a vital textbook of strategy in the educational war against cultural apathy. Its presence in the forward-looking teacher’s armoury is indispensable.

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Last updated on 17 February 2010