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Mikeharvey

Being Well Read

Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate, was on the radio this morning talking about the poor knowledge of the Bible and the Classics that his students bring to his classes. He says he finds it a stumbling block especially when teaching Shakespeare and Milton.  Students often don't know some of the most familar myths and legends or the most famous Bible stories.  If this is true, what can be done about it?  It has taken me a lifetime to become aware of lots of tales.  I acquired my knowledge of Pyramus and Thisbe, not from Ovid, but from Shakespeare's parody in "A Midsummer Night's Dream". I remember being told the story of Orpheus and Eurydice when I was about eight and it's been with me ever since. As for the Bible, I've been familiar with these tales from an early age, having been brought up in a church-going, though not obsessively so, family.  And what do you do if a child's teachers don't know much about these things? I'm sometimes rather shocked at the ignorance of some young teachers of literature.  One teaching Shaw's "Pygmalion" didn't know why it was so called.  When I taught literature I read a great many of these tales with my classes. Plenty of Greek myths, Beowulf, Tristan and Iseult, some Indian stories and so forth.  But I was interested in these stories myself, and I think that helped.
I expect a teacher of Art Histry might have similar problems.  Half the pictures one sees in galleries would be incomprehensible without a knowledge of the Bible or mythology.
lunababymoonchild

Well, I don't know too much about the Bible or the Classics either and I only have a passing knowledge of Shakespeare.  I know the famous bits of the Bible because of the films and I have read Beowulf but not Milton.

Never heard of Pyramus and Thisbe but I have heard (but not read) of Ovid.  I was told the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice at school and my mother read the Children's Bible to me when I was a child.  I loved The Arabian Nights so am somewhat familiar with those and was taught what you might call the more famous Greek myths at school e.g The Minotaur.  I'm sure that I was told why Pygmalion was so called but can't remember - if I was teaching it though, I'd make it my business to find out.  Tristan and Iseult, I'm only vaguely aware of.  

That said I did get, I'm finding, a very good education all round and am aware of a lot of things that children are not now aware of when I was that age.  As I've said before, it's not possible to teach everything to everybody so choices have to be made and the timetable today seems to be filled with things like what a transvestite is and how to treat one.  That and the fact that not too much seems to be expected of pupils in the way of achievement or behaviour.

The answer?  I think that discipline in the classroom is no bad thing i.e pay attention to the teacher, but beyond that, I really don't know.

Luna
TheRejectAmidHair

It isn't really possible to have even a reasonable grasp of Western culture without having at least some knowledge of the Bible and of the classics.

Of course, there is the question of degree - i.e. how much of the Bible and the classics does one need to know? And also, there are many things one can absorb at second hand: one does not necessarily need to have read Ovid's Metamorphoses to know the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, or of Actaeon; and neither does one need to have read The Iliad to know of the Trojan War.

But for all that, I increasingly get the impression that the expression "well-read" tends to refer mainly to being well-read in contemporary and in modern literature (especially novels); and that the past is increasingly becoming an ever more foreign country.
Sandraseahorse

There seems to be an attitude problem with some students:  "Why should I be expected to know that if it happened before I was born?"

Also, many see classics as "elitist".  I remember about 20 years ago having a heated discussion with my boss who said that he had been to a dinner party and people had been astonished because he didn't know the names of any of the Roman or Greek gods.  He claimed that you would only know that sort of thing if you went to a public school and therefore the other guests were merely being snobbish at him for going to a state school.  I told him, quite truthfully, that I read books about  Greek mythology at my state primary school but I could see that he didn't believe me.
TheRejectAmidHair

Sandraseahorse wrote:
Also, many see classics as "elitist". 


I think the calssics are "elitist": only a small fraction of the population - i.e. an elite - will ever know or care for them. But I don't see why that should be seen to diminish the value of the classics.

I don't think "elitist" is necessarily a dirty word. The main point is to try to ensure that the elites aren't formed merely on the basis of wealth or of social status.
MikeAlx

I agree with Himadri. I went to state schools - albeit probably better ones than the average. Can't say I took in much of the Bible (though I do know the main stories through a sort of cultural osmosis), but I did enjoy Classical Studies, which was a compulsory subject for our two years before O-level 'options'.

I only know Ovid through Ted Hughes' wonderful 'Tales from Ovid', which was on the reading list for the creative writing course I took some years back. The Orpheus myth I learned mostly through Russell Hoban's novel "The Medusa Frequency". I do recall we had an illustrated children's book in our house with many of the Greek and Roman myths in it - in particular I recall the story of Persephone and Hades, the mythical explanation of the seasons. I also read Leon Garfield's retellings of the myths, 'The God Beneath the Sea', at some point.

I'm quite well-versed in the Arthurian stories, mostly because I became fascinated with them as a child after seeing some dodgy old Arthurian film or other (a Danny Kaye one, I think).

I'm afraid I'm entirely ignorant of Milton - and the other cornerstone of British Christian literature, Pilgrim's Progress. I've also yet to tackle Dante. I suppose my antipathy to Christianity puts me off a bit from these works, though I heard a radio programme on the Inferno a while back which certainly whetted my appetite.

Part of the problem is surely the recent challenge to the idea of a 'canon' - in multicultural Britain perhaps we should complain about our childrens' ignorance of the Upanishads or the Koran as well as the Bible? But you can't read everything...
Evie

Pilgrim's Progress is fabulous, Mike.  And it was written in the days when Christianity and Christian experience were something more muscular, less personal, less emotional than they often seem today (none of this 'having a relationship with Jesus' that I put up with for about 20 years of churchgoing.  You can read it for its wonderful language and imagery, and while you may not agree with the theological importance of the message, it is a good story with an inner strength that, I think, overrides issues to do with a personal world view.

I too have to do a lot of remedial work, as an art historian dealing mostly with Renaissance and medieval art, in terms of filling in the lack of knowledge of the Bible and classical mythology.  But I only really know the Bible because I was taken to church as a child, the church youth group was a very active part of my small town life when I was a teenager, and in fact I kept going to church until my early 30s - I didn't learn much of the Bible at school. My knowlege of classical mythology is still patchy.
Evie

You can test your knowledge of the Bible in ten questions here:


http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_7893000/7893592.stm

I got 9 right, but the one I got wrong wasn't about the Bible, it was about which novel a story from the Bible appears in - I guessed, and guessed incorrectly!  But I did know all the others.
TheRejectAmidHair

9/10 for me as well. I didn't know which book of the Bible mentioned Lucifer.
MikeAlx

6/10. Not great, but a bit better than I expected. I will admit to some 'educated guesswork'!
MikeAlx

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
9/10 for me as well. I didn't know which book of the Bible mentioned Lucifer.

I got that one right - but only because I knew which ones it wasn't.
TheRejectAmidHair

Mike makes an important point about "cultural osmosis". It's absolutely true - much of our awareness of culture comes from "cultural osmosis" rather than from our reading. Going back to Sandra's anecdote above, I'd guess that most of the people at the party Sandra's friend went to would have acquired their knowledge of Greek mythology through cultural osmosis rather than from reading Homer & Ovid.

But the problem is that osmosis can only occur if what one is absorbing is present in one's environment. And when it comes to what we refer to as "high culture" (i.e. not merely the classics and the Bible), it is present to a far lesser degree than it used to be. I don't think I had read any of the Bible when I was at the age my daughter is now (13), but I certainly knew more about the Bible than she does now: and she is not really to blame for that.

It's not just the classics and the Bible. When I was growing up, classic drama - Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekhov, Greek plays - were shown regularly on television; arts programmes and science programmes did not deal exclusively in vapid soundbites (and of course, there only was terrestrial TV in those days); libraries still felt it worthwhile to stock classic literature, and didn't sell off pristine copies of the Essays of Montaigne for a mere couple of quid; record libraries were well stocked with classical music; chatshows broadcast at peak viewing hours were happy to have writers, academics and classical musicians as guests; and so on. Whether or not one chose to take advantage of all this - it was all around you, and "cultural osmosis" was that much easier.

But things are noticeably different now. Of course, you can still hunt out the essays of Montaigne or the cantatas of Bach if you want - but such things aren't around you to anywhere near the extent they used to be: you have to hunt them out, and you're not really likely to hunt anything out if you're not aware of what needs hunting out in the first place.

In short, the process of "cultural osmosis" is nowhere near as effective as it used to be: you cannot absorb things that are not around you.

Mike also raises the question of the canon in a multicultural environment: if the Bible is to be part of our canon, then why not the Koran or the Upanishads? One can't, as Mike says, read everything! I think this would be a valid issue to raise if the Upanishads or the Koran had entered the canon as well, but that has not been the case: we have instead the worst of all worlds - the Bible in receding from our collective consciousness (i.e. it isn't even around us to the extent that cultural osmosis can occur effectively), and the Koran and the Upansihads haven't entered our cultural consciousness either. The multicultural issue thus seems to me to be something of a red herring.

And in any case, while the Koran or the Upanishads should certainly be on the reading list of anyone who cares about culture, I don't think any part of the world need apologise for focussing primarily on its own culture. And the primary culture of the West is Western culture: I really don't see any problem with that at all. (And I speak as a first generation Indian immigrant who is rather proud of his Indian background.)
MikeAlx

I should clarify that when I wrote 'cultural osmosis' I was including more recent literature, as well as the other media Himadri mentions.

I do agree that the critique of the canon in the context of multiculturalism and/or radical relativism - however well-intentioned - has often resulted in a denigration of culture as a whole, rather than an enriching absorption of other cultures - which is a shame.
Gul Darr

The question about Jonah was an educated guess, but I got 10/10. However, I suspect I'd get about 1/10 if it were a quiz on the Classics!
county_lady

I'd like to read Ovid but which edition/translation?
Apple

8/10 not that good considering I came from a highly religious family! having said that I can't remember the last time I actually read from the bible as I rebelled against it all years ago when I was a teenager so I'm quite surprised I did as well as I did!

I think we all know what I am going to say on this thread before I even post it, we did not learn anything about any classical literature or anything at school, the closest we got was a class group read of the book Boys from the Blackstuff that was the only book we ever studied at school and most of the time we watched the tv video of it rather than read the book and we never finished it because of the strikes. I had never heard of most of the authors or books mentioned until I joined this site, and up to a couple of years ago I had no idea about some of the greatest works of literature ever, and even now some of the works mentioned in the opening post are still alien to me and I don't have the foggiest what they are. We were never taught Beowulf or Greek Myths or anything like that the first introduction to Beowulf for me was Ray Winston saying "I've come to kill your monster!" in that animated film recently.

But having said that, Himadri who has read everything that has ever been written! (slight exaggeration I know but it seems like that sometimes when he talks about books which I never even knew existed - and I mean that in a good way!) but because I'm totally ignorant of great works of literature and don't have the foggiest when I read his posts and listen to what he has to say (virtually speaking) and other well read posters on the site I am learning from that and as a result seeking out books which I would never in a million years have dreamed of trying to read and ok I think some of them are a load of crap which is probably partly down to the fact I don't understand them or an appreciate them on the level at which they are intened to be understood but there are some which I have (understood that is)  and enjoyed and as a result I am becoming better read although I don't think I'll ever be able to reach the levels of appreciation that the likes of Himadri and others have reached.
TheRejectAmidHair

To answer County Lady's query on translations of Ovid, Ted Hughes' Tales of Ovid, as its title implies, doesn't cover the entire work: it picks out two dozen or so out of literally hundreds of stories. The most easily available translations of the whole work are those in Penguin Classics (translated by David Raeburn) or in Oxford World Classics (translated by A. D. Melville): both have been well received. (The Raeburn version is the one I read.)

Another version you may consider is  a version by David Slavitt published by the John Hopkins University Press: I haven't read all of this yet, but I have it on my shelves, and dip into it often. It is a free translation, but despite the liberties it takes with the original, it is considerably livelier and wittier than either the Oxford or the Penguin versions. This could be a classic case of being free with the letter, but close to the spirit. This is certainly the one I plan reading next. And to be frank, I prefer this to Ted Hughes' Tales From Ovid, which is at least as free with the original.

(Another version which I have only dipped into in bookshops - but which read very well  - is one published by Norton, and translated by Charles Martin.)

Of considerable historic interest is the 16th century translation by Arthur Golding (available in Penguin Classics); and one from the early 18th century, translated by a acommittee of poets and scholars headed by John Dryden. The latter is available in Wordsworth Classics, and is quite charming.

(The Golding version was much admired by Ezra Pound, and is the translation Shakespeare would have known: but Shakespeare's education in Stratford Grammar School would have equipped him to read Ovid's original version.)
Thursday Next

I think the boss who didn't know any Greek or Roman gods was not paying attention at school - these things are part of the Curriculum!
lunababymoonchild

I got 5/10 and most of those were guesses.

Luna
county_lady

Himadri that information is fascinating and of course now I want them all. Surprised
MikeAlx

I do recall someone on our course having a 'dual text' edition of the Metamorphoses, with Latin and English on facing pages.

I enjoyed Ted Hughes' rendering in and of itself - superb use of language, I thought - but as I haven't read any of the translations, I suppose I have nothing to compare it with.

I think if I was going to investigate Roman literature, my first port of call would be Virgil's Aeneid (especially after listening to the 'In Our Time' about the fall of Carthage the other day).
TheRejectAmidHair

Hello Apple,

We all tend to read what interests us most, and, despite having been an avid reader since my early rteens (which is a long time ago now), I remain very badly read in many areas. When it comes to contemporary & modern literature, for instance, there are any number of people on this board who are far betterread than I.
Apple

Himadri -  ...and you talk about me putting myself down - don't be so modest! If I'd read a quarter of the books you have and understood and found things in them which even the author didn't know existed, I consider myself to very intelligent and well read!
lunababymoonchild

I'd like to get this sorted out, but if it's a separate thread do let me know and I'll start one.

What does being well read actually mean?

For example, I've been reading - regularly - by myself since I was four (and choosing my own reading material since then) and I have not read the vast majority of authors in the current BR Cup.  I have heard of most of them, but not read them. Does that mean I'm not well read? I haven't read the Bible and not too much in the way of the Classics, does that mean that I'm not well read?

As has been pointed out before, it's not possible to read everything and I certainly read what I'm interested in and drawn to - and that's what I'll continue to do - but what is the standard, the benchmark, just exactly what is being well read?

Luna
lunababymoonchild

Ha! Idea

Further to this, I found the following whilst browsing the information superhighway : How to Be Well Read

What do you think?

Luna
Joe Mac

Humph! Five out of 10. The only one I 'knew' I got wrong because I wasn't paying attention. Much tougher than I expected, but then 'cultural osmosis' is only good for so much, I guess.
Caro

Even with a grounding in Christianity (church every Sunday and a religious assembly every day at my secondary school) and an avid interest as a child in Roman mythology (this was what my Pears Cyclopedia had rather than Greek), I still find myself feeling quite ignorant when reading certain authors.  TS Eliot, for instance, requires quite a strong knowledge and I think perhaps Joyce does too.  And then you need quite a lot of historical knowledge (much of which I don't have) to fully grasp some writers.  I remember reading Don Juan by Byron at university and so many of the people were unknown to present-day (and young)  readers that we needed a lot of help with who they were and what he was mocking.  

I sometimes wonder how people without this information DO pick up any, let alone, all references.  Many of them, I know, pass me by and my reading is diminished because of it.  

But you can't know everything and you can't reference everything.  And I for one am not quite interested enough in ancient philosophy, thought and ideas to read up greatly on them.  Sometimes you need to read a book with a good set of notes.

Cheers, Caro.
Apple

Luna Wrote:
Quote:
I'd like to get this sorted out, but if it's a separate thread do let me know and I'll start one.

What does being well read actually mean?

For example, I've been reading - regularly - by myself since I was four (and choosing my own reading material since then) and I have not read the vast majority of authors in the current BR Cup.  I have heard of most of them, but not read them. Does that mean I'm not well read? I haven't read the Bible and not too much in the way of the Classics, does that mean that I'm not well read?

As has been pointed out before, it's not possible to read everything and I certainly read what I'm interested in and drawn to - and that's what I'll continue to do - but what is the standard, the benchmark, just exactly what is being well read?

Luna


Well I have always taken "well read" to mean that its not the quantity of books that you have read but the literary quality, for example the Classics, Shakespeare and those others mentioned in the opening post, I know I'm not well read, I don't understand or get Shakespeare, never heard of some of the cup authors before and what I wrote in my previous post.  But people have said to me that I am well read in my pet subject of the Second World War as I have read widely on the subject and am reasonably knowledgeable on it, so I think it can also be taken in that context as well, if you have read loads on a certain subject and therefore knowedgeable in it you are well read in it.  But then again I could be talking out of my arse and everything that I have just said is a load of rubbish but thats how I take it to mean!
Caro

Sounds pretty good to me, Apple.  I think there is also a comparative aspect to this too - in my small district I would feel quite well-read but on this board I don't really.  I am forever being reminded of all the books I haven't read.  

As regards Bible quiz - aarrgghh!  I only got 3/10.  But I don't know what events take place in what books, apart from Genesis and the first books of the New Testament really. They seemed to be what was concentrated on when I was a child.  Should have done better with some of the guesses, I think.

Cheers, Caro.
TheRejectAmidHair

I seem to remember talking on the BBC Board about what exactly is meant by the term "well read". Obviously, the expression is pretty meaningless without a context. If the context is the history of WWII, say, I suspect that you, Apple, are "well read" in that area, whereas I most certainly am not.

If our context is Western culture in general (and let's just limit this discussion to Western culture), then the list of books that one should read is enormous. This list should encompass philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, etc etc); the sciences (Newton, Darwin, Einstein, etc. - although the sciences are perhaps exceptional in that secondary texts can be at least as valuable as primary texts); economics (Smith, Ricardo, Marx, Keynes); theology (St Augustine, Thomas a Kempis, Aquinas, etc); poetry (Homer, Pindar, Horace, Virgil, Dante, Heine, Pushkin, Leopardi, Yeats, Eliot, etc etc); drama (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Shakespeare, Moliere, Ibsen, etc); prose fiction (Boccaccio, Rabelais, Cervantes, Richardson, Austen, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Proust, Joyce, etc etc); history (Thucydides, Froissart, Gibbon, Bloch, Huizinga, Braudel, etc.); and so on and so forth. Basically, there's no end to it. And, without any false modesty at all (false modesty is not something I've ever believed in!), I have only read a very small fraction of what I think one should have read to be considered "well read".

After a while, one realises that one won't have time to read everything that is worth reading. A lifetime isn't enough. But the only reason for reading such important pillars of Western culture is not self-aggradisement, nor to exhibit to others how "well read" you are - but simply because of the wonderful life-enhancing experiences these books have to offer.

But as I say, context is all-important. I doubt we'd describe someone as "well-read" just because they've read every single issue of Viz!!

Don't get me wrong - I like a bit of smut myself, and often enjoy Viz - I just don't think that reading Viz contributes to my being "well read"!
Apple

Caro Wrote:
Quote:
I think there is also a comparative aspect to this too - in my small district I would feel quite well-read but on this board I don't really.  I am forever being reminded of all the books I haven't read.  


That is so true - I missed that bit! When I am at work I cannot discuss with anyone there what I am reading because most of the time they have never heard of what I am reading and I just get blank looks (pretty much the same sort of blank looks I give my monitor when I read about authors and books on this site!) and if you try to explain in detail what the book is about when they say "What's that about then?" I tend to get an even blanker look, and when I was reading the last Harry Potter book (along with the majority of the people in the staff canteen!) the general talk was about the films rather than the books.

Also I have found that since I have been reading more and participating in this site my vocabulary has expanded and when I am talking to people at work now and I say something they will look at me and say what does that mean?


Himadri Wrote:
Quote:
If our context is Western culture in general (and let's just limit this discussion to Western culture), then the list of books that one should read is enormous. This list should encompass philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, etc etc); the sciences (Newton, Darwin, Einstein, etc. - although the sciences are perhaps exceptional in that secondary texts can be at least as valuable as primary texts); economics (Smith, Ricardo, Marx, Keynes); theology (St Augustine, Thomas a Kempis, Aquinas, etc); poetry (Homer, Pindar, Horace, Virgil, Dante, Heine, Pushkin, Leopardi, Yeats, Eliot, etc etc); drama (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Shakespeare, Moliere, Ibsen, etc); prose fiction (Boccaccio, Rabelais, Cervantes, Richardson, Austen, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Proust, Joyce, etc etc); history (Thucydides, Froissart, Gibbon, Bloch, Huizinga, Braudel, etc.); and so on and so forth. Basically, there's no end to it. And, without any false modesty at all (false modesty is not something I've ever believed in!), I have only read a very small fraction of what I think one should have read to be considered "well read".


Well out of that list I've only actually heard of a handful: Nietzsche, Mike mentioned him the other day I think, something about him being mad (or did I just make that up) Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Marx, (I'm presuming that is Karl Marx if not then I don't know) Shakespeare, Austen, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Proust and Joyce, and the fact I have heard of them has probably because they have been mentioned on this board and that is why the names ring a bell, not because I have ever read anything by them.
Castorboy

As to the quiz it's 60 years since I read parts of the Bible therefore I couldn't expect more than 5/10. One thing reading does well is to improve one's vocabulary, so the more varied genres of books read the more new words enter your mind imho. Idea
lunababymoonchild

It looks like the term 'being well read' is both relative and difficult to define accurately.

Luna
bookfreak

5/10 for me.  Pretty pathetic...
Gul Darr

I'm not sure if I'm what you'd call well-read, but my spine needs reinforcing and bits of me could do with some glue.
miranda

I'm a tad foxed myself, Gul......
lunababymoonchild

miranda wrote:
I'm a tad foxed myself, Gul......


Like an old book, I'm thinking.  Well read, spine needs reinforcing, some glue ..............

Luna  Wink
Green Jay

Caro wrote:

I sometimes wonder how people without this information DO pick up any, let alone, all references.  Many of them, I know, pass me by and my reading is diminished because of it.  



Absolutely agree, Caro. I have huge gaps in my own reading , largely due to laziness, lack of seriousness and so on. BUT  I do wonder what my own kids get, since what I think of as their general knowledge seems so much more restricted than mine. Cultural osmosis is a good phrase, but all they seem to have picked up is present-day information and cultural references, and lots of their teachers (younger than me) seem to live in a cultural desert, so couldn't throw in odd references and quirky bits of info. Educo = leading out - doesn't seemt to exist much any more in the UK. I don't think simply researching something you're going to have to teach actually fills this gap, just makes them sound like Whatsit's Notes that go with the set text (and how reductive they are!).  

My own knowledge of the Bible comes from attending non-conformist Sunday School plus C of E Brownie and Guide church parade, plus school assemblies ad infinitum and various services with the junior choir. Then we were regularly read to at school (which seems sadly absent these days, if Michael Rosen's recent TV programme is an indicator), and read alone and was read to at home, so that I got a whole mix of contemporary children's fiction and classic myths and fairytales, all mixed in without me necessarily differentiating. Then I read and saw on TV lots of classic literature and children's lit, like The Secret Garden, The Railway Children, which in their own way gave me an insight into other times. Lots of Shakespeare at school, even if I couldn't make head nor tail of it at the time, and Dickens on telly on a Sunday night, watched by the whole family.  I learnt Latin and French at grammar school and had to read French lit, and had a reasonable grounding in history. My kids have no overview of even British history, so can't place in context the bits they studied in depth, or see how one era would lead to another.

I still find myself groping for the stories and meanings when I go round any art gallery or church anywhere in Europe, and would like a quick crib book where I could turn in alphabetical order to find out the background to to, say, Judith & Holofernes or the story of St  Agatha (What the hell are those two blanc manges she's offering on a plate?? Actually I do now know. Poor lass!) But my children don't have even the sketchiest knowledge of all this. My fault, partly, but they are not avid readers as I was, and have many other distractions. Being bored was a great help in my youth. And I've been shocked to notice that many teachers are just not what I'd call very bright. Sorry, all teachers out there, but my partner and some of my friends are teachers and some of their colleagues (and some of my dear freinds) aren't the most enquiring of minds or the most in-depth of readers in their free time. Extraordinary, really, when you think they feel justified in following a career in teaching.
MikeAlx

Yes, but isn't part of the problem that teaching nowadays is about box-ticking and following orders from on high? This was something that Michael Rosen pointed out, and which teachers are forever complaining about in the Times Educational Supplement. There's no wriggle-room for individual innovation from teachers - they're working in a straightjacket.

I expect a lot of my general knowledge is stuff I got interested in because of teachers who were enthusiastic about a particular topic and didn't have to worry too much whether it was on the curriculum or not. I was also fortunate enough to be read to at least once a week in primary school - I gather that doesn't happen much nowadays either.
Caro

I don't know.  My own kids seem to know so much, and my daughter-in-law and my niece's young husband both can talk with intelligence and knowledge on virtually any subject that is brought up.  They have so much knowledge - and that includes popular modern culture too - that I am quite in awe of them.  (Irritatingly, too, it always seem to be accurate, if sometimes arguable.)

Sometimes when I ask my son how he knows a certain odd bit of history he will cite the game of Civilisation or Age of Empires.  But he has read Aristophanes and Darwin and Austen as well as his beloved JK Rowling and Terry Pratchett.  

I do at times thank very much LM Montgomery whose Anne books were scattered with Biblical/literary/grammatical references (Fox's Book of Martyrs specially comes to mind).  

In NZ (and other places too) we have the added problem that people are expected to know all English history and culture AND their own NZ stuff (which often tends to go by the wayside, so people have no real knowledge of their colonial past and certainly not of Maori history, beyond stereotyped things that make headlines and are often inaccurate).

But I have to admit that some of the older teachers at the local school have been a little surprised at the kids who are admitted to teachers' college.  They often make very good teachers though in the long run.  My own son, teaching English in Sheffield after doing no university English and asking me who wrote Jane Eyre, nevertheless has results in his school well above all the other departments with kids in a close-to-failing school doing very well indeed in his classes.  There is more to teaching than having the subject matter in your head.

Cheers, Caro.
Gul Darr

lunababymoonchild wrote:
miranda wrote:
I'm a tad foxed myself, Gul......


Like an old book, I'm thinking.  Well read, spine needs reinforcing, some glue ..............

Luna  Wink

Yes, Luna, you're quite right. It was a poor attempt at humour!
Evie

Miranda was being witty too - 'foxed' is a term used of books, meaning a bit worn around the edges, as in 'slightly foxed' - don't think she meant she didn't understand what Gul Darr had said.
Gul Darr

Evie wrote:
Miranda was being witty too - 'foxed' is a term used of books, meaning a bit worn around the edges, as in 'slightly foxed' - don't think she meant she didn't understand what Gul Darr had said.

Well, that was certainly over my head. My humour doesn't stretch to such sophistication!
lunababymoonchild

Gul Darr wrote:
Evie wrote:
Miranda was being witty too - 'foxed' is a term used of books, meaning a bit worn around the edges, as in 'slightly foxed' - don't think she meant she didn't understand what Gul Darr had said.

Well, that was certainly over my head. My humour doesn't stretch to such sophistication!


Mine either, but thanks for pointing it out Laughing

Luna
miranda

Sorry!   I just assumed that everyone would know what *foxed* meant in the context of books!  

Embarassed
Gul Darr

Hey, don't apologise Miranda. That was great and it's good to learn something new!
lunababymoonchild

Gul Darr wrote:
Hey, don't apologise Miranda. That was great and it's good to learn something new!


Absolutely, and I'm always up for learning something new.

Luna
verityktw

The English Faculty in Cambridge runs an introduction to the Bible course of Lectures and the Christian Union offer one-on-one Bible studies to students who are interested in an informative vein (the idea being that the very enthusiasm of the Christian explaining will communicate itself and have an evangelistic effect). In the Medieval paper there's a special option on the theme 'Christ's Body' and the lectures for that have been my favourite this term, as they scoped Medieval history and art as well as literature.

We're also bombarded with information generally. In the past week I've had to read Aristotle, Satre, Kant, Shakespeare, Pope, Johnson, Ovid, Plutarch... However, we still do a lot of work backwards. Milton was a steep education, but the knowledge accumulates.
mike js

The question of the virtue in being well-read is an interesting one. The stereotype of modern uncultured youth is that they are only 'well red' insomuch as they have spent too long under the sunbed.

I do value culture, perspective and some kind of collective wisdom more as I grow older. I don't actually seem to have much of any of that, though!

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