chapter  20
12 Pages

The National Curriculum for English in England, examined through a Darwinian lens

WithAndrew Goodwyn

All around the world students in schools study literature, typically the literature of their nation state, plus some ‘other’ literature. In the countries where English is the dominant language, for example the countries in IFTE, that ‘other’ is heavily dominated by English Literature, especially of the canonical kind. For many students, literary study is prescribed and compulsory, and typically they are tested on that knowledge; this fact also deeply affects English teachers and how they teach literature. The rationale for the study of literature is very similar in ideology and rhetoric across the IFTE countries; there is not space in this chapter to include international comparisons but the nature of the changes to English in England have much resonance in other IFTE countries. In this chapter I will critique this rationale, focusing on England as a case study, providing a radical alternative that is, arguably, much better suited to the 21st century and to a globalised environment. Modern Darwinian theory [see below] is a rationale for human beings to read about human beings and how they behave, also it leads to a humanising mode of pedagogy, something English teachers already espouse (Goodwyn, 2012).