ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

International Socialism, Autumn 1966


Gerry Lynch

Teach Yourself Failure


From International Socialism, No.26, Autumn 1966, p.37.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


English versus Examinations
Brian Jackson
Chatto & Windus, 18s.

English, more than most subjects, is emasculated by the examination system. Essentially concerned with the development of each individual child’s ability to express not only his self but what that self can become through language development, English hardly fits into examinable categories. Yet by an ironic twist it is the GCE qualification most demanded by the labour market, and so the schools must jump through the hoop.

Jackson’s book is a handbook on guerilla warfare for English teachers. Examinations are the enemy – ‘anti-subject’ – and the book offers ‘strategy and tactics’ in the form of a selection of lesson material drawn mainly from the magazine Use of English. All the lesson material stresses the individual’s language development, as opposed to the stress laid by examinations on some kind of general standard of English. The teaching of examination English usually becomes a training course in examination technique, and the set of old examination papers becomes ‘the ultimate text-book.’

Altogether the book offers a crushing indictment of the examination system and a useful collection of lessons in liberally taught English. One quibble though. All the selections preoccupy themselves with eliciting a sensitivity from the child that presumes an objective conception of his self. But such an objective conception is dependent on a highly wrought language code that many children, particularly among those from working-class backgrounds, simply do not have.

Top of page

ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 14.12.2007