POETRY-NO ROOM FOR THE CONSTRUCTIVIST APPROACH
Howard Jacobsen in Friday’s Independent was on fine form, giving Simon Armitage and his constructivist mind -set a well deserved mauling.
Armitage believes it is OK for children to learn poetry off by heart providing “children are allowed to find the poems that fit their voices or appeal to their imaginations and their cultural inclinations”.Jacobsen is having none of it. He replies “No, no, no, and no again. In that weasel sentence is to be found all that’s gone wrong with education in our time, the very reason we have fathered a generation of the disinherited who can’t call on the language of “The Lady of Shalott” or much else in the way of poetry when they need it. They don’t, of course, know they need it. How could they? A good education creates the needs it satisfies, and so long as children are given only what they are “allowed to find” – which dodges the question of what happens if they find nothing – so long as they are taught only what “fits their voices” or appeals to their “cultural inclinations”, whatever the hell those are (a Jewish inclination to Sholem Aleichem, maybe), they remain in blank ignorance of, not to say in blank indifference to, languages of feeling, of inestimable value to us, but assumed to be of no use or relevance to them.” Ouch!
A blast against Armitage, for sure, but also against the constructivist approach to education which many, including Government ministers, believe has done so much damage in the past to our children’s education .It holds that learners must discover or find knowledge for themselves and the teacher is seen as a facilitator . This approach was championed by the late John Dewey, whose ideas ,its safe to say, are not informing this governments approach to curriculum reforms.