I am currently reading John Le Carré’s second George Smiley novel ‘A Murder of Quality’ and have been struck by the language of teaching used by some of the characters. The book was written (and by assumption set) in 1962 but it is suffused very much with a pre-(second World)war feel. This is partly because the book is very much in the spirit of a Golden Age detective story and partly because it helps reinforce the notion of the private school in question being Terribly Old Fashioned and desperate to hang on to pre-(Great)war class structures and sentiments. As an aside, this resonates strongly with two other novels I have just finished, ‘The Village’ and ‘Tory Heaven’, both by Marghanita Laski and both of which I cannot recommend highly enough.
As an ageing teacher however the main point from Le Carré’s story that strikes me as interesting is when the teachers at the Old Fashioned Private School refer to doing “exam corrections” and to “correcting work”. Immediately I read those words I am myself transported back to own childhood and vividly recall teachers talking in same language (this despite own school hardly being an Illustrious or Celebrated Private School but a Bog Standard Secondary in Scotland).
It strikes me that many teachers of the Traditionalist Persuasion might appreciate a subtle shift back to using the term ‘corrections’ when perusing students’ books and work. Indeed, on reflection I am somewhat startled to think that Mr Gove did not propose this when he was Ultimate Leader of Education in England and Wales. What is our role as teachers, after all, if not to correct misconceptions and to highlight Where It’s Gone Wrong?
And on that bombshell…