Newbolt and the construction of subject English
David Aldridge & Andrew Green (2019) ''Newbolt and the construction of subject English'', English in Education, 53:3, 195-198
Refers to: The Newbolt Report (1921)
This is the editorial to a special issue of English in Education (2019, vol.53, No.3) devoted to the Newbolt Report.
The authors comment on the relevancy of the Newbolt Report 100 years later. Picking out issues such as the problems associated with a knowledge-based curriculum, the particular issue of English being both medium and object of learning, the threat of high-stakes assessment on the "instinct for humanism" that embodies the subject, Newbolt's call for a re-conception of national education, of literacy education bridging social divisions and the subject being a liberal and democratising force.
The issue includes:
- The Newbolt Report, the problem of moral legitimacy and the turn to culture by Alka Sehgal-Cuthbert
- English - the torch of life: reflections on the Newbolt report from an ITE perspective by Rachel Roberts
- Resonant Continuities: The influence of the Newbolt Report on the formation of English Curriculum in New South Wales, Australia by Jackie Manuel
- The teaching of English in England through the ages: how have interpretations of the Newbolt Report changed over time by John Perry
- The role of English in the Conversation of Humankind: Humanism and creativity in Newbolt et al (1921) and the national curriculum (2014) by Lorna Smith
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?