Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Mrs Ryan and Mr Corrin by Simon Mayo

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Mrs Ryan and Mr Corrin by Simon Mayo

Article excerpt

Two history teachers encouraged the young Simon to think for himself. What they taught him has proved useful in his broadcasting career - and helped him to trip up some famous historians

My father was a headteacher and when I was a child we moved a lot. I changed school at 11 and then at 14 and I've experienced both state and private education. I took the 11-plus twice because we moved from London to the West Midlands and my new school wouldn't accept the first result, even though it was a pass. The second time I took the test, I failed.

I was at Worthing High School in West Sussex between the ages of 14 and 18 and that's where I studied for my O- and A-levels. It was in the history department that I met two teachers who had a great impact on me and who continue to influence my professional life. Mrs Ryan and Mr Corrin taught me history and politics at a time when I first became fascinated by those subjects.

Mrs Ryan was exotic because her husband had been a Labour MP. She was a passionate socialist and a firebrand - and Worthing didn't have many of those in the mid 1970s.

She sparked a number of discussions. I remember she invited her husband to school for a debate about social democracy. He defined social democracy in a Lenin/Marxist way and I was thinking of it in a European social democratic way. So we had an argument. This was unusual as you weren't encouraged to discuss these things at O-level; O-level was about regurgitating facts in the right order.

Mrs Ryan was far more flamboyant than Mr Corrin, who went through his lessons in a methodical way. He was quite awkward socially and wasn't particularly garrulous or friendly. Yet he was a good teacher and he told stories that were interesting and engaging.

We studied a lot of modern European history, British political history, as well as the rise of Germany and Stalin's Russia. …

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