Newbolt and the construction of subject English


The academic, curricular and pedagogic issues he and his fellow committee members encountered seem echoingly familiar to our own era. The committee observes, for instance, the inherent problems associated with a knowledge-based curriculum and those who, “urging that knowledge is power, load the youthful mind with more than it can properly assimilate” (Newbolt et al. 1921, 54)

Newbolt and his fellow committee members pointed to a threat – a threat we are still facing, or perhaps facing anew, in our contemporary education system: “there is a danger that a true instinct for humanism may be smothered by the demand for measurable results, especially the passing of examinations in a variety of subjects . . . ” (56).

In the light of Newbolt’s construction of the subject, how should today’s teachers of English consider: * the demands and role of high stakes assessment * a re-narrowing of the literary curriculum * a continuous sequence of education reform * targets related to social mobility, class and widening participation * contingent questions about the function of literature, creativity and the arts in education

What are the contemporary aims of education in English and of literary education? Where do Classics, the literary canon and works from other literatures around the world fit into current views of what constitutes the study of English? What role, if any, should literary education have in the moral formation of children and young people?