The papers (particularly those oft-rattled in disapproval) have had a nice time reporting that Ofqual have approved an exam syllabus that will study the works of rapper Dizzee Rascall and that rapscallion Russell Brand. Honestly, if you can bear the feeling of being sullied, it’s worth looking at the comments in the Mail* and the Torygraph – play a game with yourself and see if you can write the most popular comments yourself before reading them…
I’d love to hear someone from Ofqual simply offer a rebuttal with a good quote – maybe TS Eliot: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language / And next year’s words await another voice.” and leave it at that but I’m sure the debate will rage on.
Any of the objectors in the letters page of the Telegraph might, if they care to put down their copy of Thatcher’s autobiography long enough, find that Russell Brand’s use of language is being studied quite justifiably; he is as skilled, eloquent and creative a user of the language as anyone writing in the Daily Mail (have a quick look here, for example) certainly and he uses that skill to provoke reaction and thought – which is rather the point of education, isn’t it? You’re still perfectly entitled to disagree with his point of view, should you wish to.
Alert readers of my own output sometimes make comments such as: “For someone what writes so often about English, your hardly the best example, aren’t you?” (Mr P. Figpucker**, Dorset). This is true, I make frequent grammatical and stylistic errors, sometimes to deliberately wind up pedants but most often though simple ignorance. I tend to write in what is technically called “regular” or “normal” English, which can be understood by anyone with a basic level of education and, in my case, a high tolerance for crass jokes. The other types of English recognised by experts are “low” English, spoken by youths, celebrities, gang members, dusky-looking people working in takeaways and anyone else looked down on by readers of the Daily Mail; “proper” English, as used by Her Majesty the Queen, the BBC up until they started letting people with regional accents on and unrelentingly posh Tory MPs and “complicated” English used by James Joyce, Will Self and in any book that the experts couldn’t finish.
Of course, there is joy and beauty to be found in the language of all of these people – I won’t bore you with the case for the defence, rather, if you have half an hour spare, listen to Stephen Fry’s wonderful podcast on language. That means that all are worthy of study, surely? There’s as much to be learned from the study of the language of the street as there is from the language of princes (and ponces).
At least the chance to study the English of rappers and court jesters might provoke the students into thinking about the way that language can be shaped and manipulated to convince and cajole. The swivel eyed loons will undoubtedly claim that Brand is being allowed to sully the pristine minds of our nation’s youth with his poisonous ideology via their A-level studies but at least they might be encouraged to look at the language used in politics to describe the poor, foreign powers who don’t like us stealing their natural resources or opponents of wholesale privatisation and perhaps wonder whether their own government aren’t guilty of more than a little sullying themselves?
If there’s one thing that perhaps we could get even their detractors to admit, at least Brand, Rascal et al make an effort when they use the language. And here’s a good point – (he said, starting a sentence with ‘and’, just as his English teacher told him to never ever do…) – Ofqual are making an effort, letting the English curriculum imitate the language – protean, trend-driven and, crucially, belonging to the people. Long live the revolution and, choosing my words with great care, fuck the Daily Mail.
Happy reading, writing and speaking, people.
*I can’t bring myself to link to the Mail website. You’re welcome to explore hell, I’m not buying you the ticket.
**Having been made aware of the potential for embarrassment with his surname, you’ll be please to hear that Mr Figpucker has reverted to his ancient family name of Deauphyle. I’m sure this should prevent any sniggering .