Why teach English?
The reward is that it remains the one kind of time travel that works, where you make a wish and actually become a musketeer in Paris or a used-car salesman in Pennsylvania. That one knows, of course, that the actuality is “fictional” or artificial doesn’t change its reality. The vicarious pleasure of reading is, by the perverse principle of professions, one that is often banished from official discussion, but it remains the core activity.
So: Why should English majors exist? Well, there really are no whys to such things, anymore than there are to why we wear clothes or paint good pictures or live in more than hovels and huts or send flowers to our beloved on their birthday. No sane person proposes or has ever proposed an entirely utilitarian, production-oriented view of human purpose. We cannot merely produce goods and services as efficiently as we can, sell them to each other as cheaply as possible, and die. Some idea of symbolic purpose, of pleasure-seeking rather than rent seeking, of Doing Something Else, is essential to human existence. That’s why we pass out tax breaks to churches, zoning remissions to parks, subsidize new ballparks and point to the density of theatres and galleries as signs of urban life, to be encouraged if at all possible. When a man makes a few billion dollars, he still starts looking around for a museum to build a gallery for or a newspaper to buy. No civilization we think worth studying, or whose relics we think worth visiting, existed without what amounts to an English department—texts that mattered, people who argued about them as if they mattered, and a sense of shame among the wealthy if they couldn’t talk about them, at least a little, too. It’s what we call civilization.
Article Extract From The New Yorker
Pupils at Blackrock pupils will be exposed to challenging works of literature that will remain with them for a lifetime; this is a challenge that we are committed to undertaking with passion and love for our subject.
We are mindful that as English teachers we are especially privileged to be an important part of our pupils’ lives at such a crucial stage in their development. We are sensitive both to their fragility as young people and mindful of their potential. We express the hope that their time in our classes will be remembered fondly and the things they have learned will enable them to be better, wiser and more sensitive adults.
Our programme is an ever-developing one that seeks to take into account the changing nature of society while also inculcating timeless values.
There are a number of broadly based aims which teachers of English in Blackrock College would like to achieve. These aims can be best served by utilising the talents and skills of both teachers and pupils in a positive and encouraging learning environment.
We will be proud if the following aims can be achieved:
- To equip pupils with skills and attitudes that can be applied in later life
- To help our pupils to grow and mature into well-rounded adults
- To develop the necessary comprehension and composing skills needed to cope with the demands of the syllabus
- To develop critical and analytical skills
- To develop a sensitivity to language
- To promote reading as a worthwhile activity
- To prepare for the State Exams
- To respect the opinions of others
- To be open and confident in expression
- To foster a love of and respect for literature
- To discover aspects of themselves that might not otherwise be recognised
- To understand that effort is rewarded
- To help those students needing special assistance
- To realise that they are part of a world waiting for them
As teachers of English, we are passionate about our subject, and we hope this passion can be transmitted to our students. Our students are embarking on the voyage of their life, we will endeavour to push them as far as we can into the ocean that awaits them, and will be pleased when they reach pleasant and distant shores.
Our words to our students on leaving us are best put by the poet when he spoke of Ulysses’s journey from Troy to Ithaca:
Have Ithaca always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to give you wealth.
Ithaca gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.
(Constantine P. Cavafy)