The ultimate purpose of education is to inspire its recipients to want to know, and to teach them to think – logically, constructively, laterally or creatively as the need arises. The basic necessity is to teach them the three Rs, by whatever method works.
How you achieve this has already been discussed here by those wiser than I, but one thing stands out – one size doesn’t fit all. I’m probably the living proof of this. The teachers for whom I give daily thanks are the ones most people disliked intensely.
When I was in fifth class, I lived with my grandmother for a year while my parents were overseas, and attended a small local school where most of the classes were composites. Mr Ferguson, who taught fourth, fifth and sixth (9-12 year olds) was old school when old school was old school, and taught us to parse sentences, partly by rote.
Most of the kids there probably blotted it from their minds as quickly as possible, and kids today wouldn’t know what it means, but for me, it imprinted the basic rules of sentence construction so indelibly that they became subconscious writing tools. I break them often, but at least I know what I’m doing, and why. Grammar is out of fashion. The result is depressingly (distressingly) clear.
My high school English teacher was quite different: a small, ferocious Scot who inspired fear, hostility, resentment, respect, admiration, and in my case, love. (Shame I can’t say that without having to explain that I mean it in the purest sense, not an innuendo in sight, but I say it nonetheless.) She had no tolerance for laziness, shoddiness, disrespect, inattention or fools, but she encouraged and supported me when I was sinking fast in the morass of boarding school and gave me a life raft: the beauty and infinite possibility of English in all its manifestations.
She also made sure that none of us left school saying ‘different to’ or ‘bored of’. If she were still alive, reading the papers these days would give her a heart attack.