Magazine article English Drama Media

Media Studies: English in the News

Magazine article English Drama Media

Media Studies: English in the News

Article excerpt

Don't be a hater, Emma. Chillax, blood.

The status of teachers must be rising in these straitened times, as we learn to appreciate what really matters in life isn't, after all, money. (We aren't after all going to have much of that anyway, unless we're bankers or millionaire Cabinet members.) A number of distinguished persons offered advice; Emma Thompson included. 'Thompson gives the girls at her old school an English lesson', the Independent reported on 29 September. 'I went to give a talk at my old school and the girls were all doing "likes" and "innits?" and "it aint's", which drives me insane,' she told the Radio Times (and the Indy copied). 'I told them, "Don't do it because it makes you sound stupid and you're not stupid." There is the necessity to have two languages--one you use with your mates and the other that you need in any official capacity. Or,' she added, rather undermining her argument with a descent into the vernacular, 'you're going to sound like a knob.' NATE's own Ian McNeilly was quoted, though it's a pity the journalist hadn't actually spoken to him: perhaps his comments on 'non-standard grammatical constructions' came from the Radio Times too? The Indy took Emma to task in an editorial, ungallantly referring to her age: 'Whoa there! .... Ms Thompson also seems to forget that street slang is often seen as cool by the young because it tends to frustrate older people like her who don't have a grasp of it.'

Why I took an A-level at 37

Viv Groskop adopted a more thoughtful--and much braver--approach in the Guardian in the same week, describing how she took a Level English Literature at the age of 37. She was no more a typical Sixth Former than Trevor Nunn, having secured A grades in four languages at 18 followed by a Cambridge degree, so it was reassuring that she was 'amazed' at the coursework and found the comparative task 'an impressive stretch'. (Where have you been, Viv? Some A Levels have had this for 20 years.) Although she quoted one teacher telling a thinktank: 'You could train a monkey to do the questions today,' faced with the real work of AS and A2, she found 'the language and the understanding demanded of students is reassuringly sophisticated'. She still didn't quite get how examining works: 'I got 120 out of 120 in the AS.... This is laughable. No one should be able to score that in English Literature.' Not even an experienced and successful journalist, Viv? Perhaps you could explain why we have the mark range? She did understand the anxiety, though: 'The exam dreams are the worst bit. In one... I have been awarded a grade so far down the alphabet I didn't even know it existed: M.'

Imogen Stubbs tries to teach Trevor Nunn 'How to Get An A-Star

Another actor, Imogen Stubbs, also struggled with what's going on in schools. The introduction of the new A* grade at A Level was the excuse for her Radio 4 programme aired just before results day. She enlisted actor Adam Long and her husband, who just happens to be the director Trevor Nunn, to sit a question on Hamlet to see 'how they get on when they have it graded by a genuine examiner who does not know who they are'. Are there bogus examiners out there? Actually, the exercise itself was pretty bogus--take it from another examiner. A genuine exam would have an alternative and neither candidate did any work (OK, that might be typical). Adam, founder of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, is an American who'd never even heard of A Levels, Trevor 'hopes he'll get an examiner who likes what he's written'. Of course the kindly (and very calm) examiner didn't give either of them an A --Bs for both. Yes, Trevor, it's 'much more satisfying to do a production of it', but this is A Level and it seems students nowadays have to prepare. Imogen Stubbs was mellifluous and articulate about the unfairness of the system and revealed how much more we know about the system now than 40 years ago, but didn't ask why A* grades, and others, have become so much more important. …

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