‘Adieu, adieu, remember me!’: whatever happened to poetry memorisation in schools?
English in Education
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Jaques, Z., & Whitley, D. (2019). ‘Adieu, adieu, remember me!’: whatever happened to poetry memorisation in schools?. English in Education https://doi.org/10.1080/04250494.2019.1646099
[First Paragraph]. If Philip Larkin (1967) is right, and “sexual intercourse began/ in 1963”, then, by some curious process of cosmic balancing, it would seem that memorising poems in our schools died away at about the same time. The practice of memorising poems had never been perceived as ‘sexy’, as the modern idiom puts it, but around this time it ceased to be seen generally even as beneficial. By the 1980s, indeed, learning poems by heart frequently headed up a list of outdated pedagogies deemed responsible for turning young people off poetry. Whilst acknowledging that there is no single cause for poetry’s unpopularity amongst secondary school pupils, for instance, Dias and Hayhoe (1988) cite “past practice such as forced memorisation and recitation” (p.5) as one of the prime culprits in the legacy from the past. So pervasive and unchallenged was this viewpoint that, in 2003, Fred Sedgwick could invoke “having to learn by rote some old-fashioned words that bore…no relevance to [a child’s] life” (p.5) as symptomatic of the failure of an entire ethos bound up in older styles of teaching. By now, this had become such a shared assumption within the teaching community that the view was almost axiomatic.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/04250494.2019.1646099
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/294172
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