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|‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. FML.’|
As of next year, students will no longer have to study Charles Dickens- or any other text over 140 characters, or that cannot be summarised easily in a triptych about cats dressed as policemen and Harry Potter characters.
‘We have to recognise that our children are cyber natives and 21st century learners, and we can’t oppress them with our prescriptive notions about reading, writing and communicating with other human beings,’ said the Children’s Poet Laureate yesterday. ‘A curriculum should truly enable our children to be life long learners in an uncertain, turbulent world where all knowledge is out of date before it’s even been discovered, and we need to address that reading a book just doesn’t facilitate their emotional discovery conversation in any way,’
When asked to give examples of how pre-21st century literature would be adapted for the curriculum review, she said, ‘Check this out: turn Great Expectations into a series of unimaginative insults on Facebook Chat, and the kids can vote on whether they want Ms Havisham or Joe Gargery to go through to the next rap-battle. The most popular one at the end will be deemed the winner, and everyone gets a can of Red Bull, a Mars Bar, a 500 credits for iTunes.’
‘Children can’t be fannying about learning about Thomas Hardy and George Orwell- they’ve got virtual learning platforms to explore where they can all design paper-clips made of foam rubber, a hundred feet high. Or something. I’m not sure, Ken Robinson thought it was jolly exciting anyway.’
Claire Tomalin, a biographer of Dickens, agrees. ‘They don’t have the attention span any more. It’s all that happy slapping and LOL cats, probably. They can’t stomach a good four hundred page marathon full of loose, baggy prose and sentimental characters.’ When asked if she was aware that many of Dickens’ stories were serialised in the first place, and therefore read in short bursts, she pointed to the badge on her lapel that read ‘Charles Dickens #1 Biographer.
‘See that?’ she said. ‘F*ck off.’
Charles Dickens is 200 years old, and is a dead white guy who wrote very long text messages and wasn’t on Twitter.
*with thanks to the masterful Peter Serafinowicz, showing how Dickens can still be integrated with a healthy, nutritious education.