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To create a world with poetry

My friend Sara taught her second-graders to recite poetry. They all learned without difficulty, and with great delight, and returning from a field trips or heading in lines into school, would belt out great English and American poems.

They had acquired an inheritance which would last them a lifetime.

When she was dying of cancer, my aunt would recall to her comfort and high content the poems she had learned as a girl - Tennyson's Ulysses - "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield" and the Highwayman of Alfred Noyes - "The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees". Standing at the graveside of her eldest brother, she recalled John Donne's Song, and said to our sweet surprise, "my brother taught me 'to hear the mermaids singing'".

So it was good news to learn of Education Secretary Michael Gove's plans for poetry in the schools. Allison Pearson wrote -

"So the sun came out when I heard that Michael Gove has plans for primary school pupils to learn and recite poetry as part of broader changes to the curriculum, including knowing your times tables. It rapidly went in again when teachers immediately attacked the Education Secretary and the wicked tyranny of “rote learning”. Today’s kids, they claim, are too underprivileged, too illiterate, too cool or simply too embarrassed to do something as old-fashioned and difficult as memorise a poem. One head teacher said that it was important that children’s creativity was not damaged by rote learning. The fool.

. . .In a confused piece in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper, the poet Simon Armitage expressed doubts about Gove’s poetry “masterplan”, while admitting that his own grandfather – a sometime hospital porter and fireman – could recite huge chunks of Shakespeare, through which he seemed to be 'processing or validating his own life’s experiences'. Exactly."

It is not difficult for children to learn poetry, but it will be difficult for their teachers. There's the rub.


Comments (1)

I learned poems all through my school years and many of them still resonate with me.

The teachers are ignorant clods.

Poetry enriches your life.

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