Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Later, I went Gregorian

An unpleasant image pops up. Primary school during the war with one of our class being disciplined - a girl from the privileged back row gets something wrong, is hauled into the front and starts crying. The teacher, a shriek-voiced harridan called Cox, has wittily taken a bucket and is inviting the girl to fill it with tears. My reaction? There but for...

Zooming back I see more of the classroom. Hung on the wall are lengths of stiffish pink card carrying multiplication tables. I remember what preceded these aides memoires. Without telling us why the aforesaid Cox asked us orally to multiply pairs of numbers and then chalked up the answers. From the new cards we learned the sequences as if they were plainsong and I can hear those rhythmic treble voices even now. For some reason seven-times was the hardest.

Since my education was all downhill from then I'm ignorant of what schools get up to but I understand plainsong was junked. Dismissed as learning by rote, and the emphasis switched to an intellectual understanding of numerical relationships. If I'd been born thirty years later perhaps I'd have picked it up but I doubt it. Another burden to carry into adult life. Whereas chanting was an unequivocal success. Eleven-times? Ah, we didn't go that far.

Novel progress 13/12/09: Ch. 8: 1209 words. Chs. 1 - 7: 33,000 words. Comment: Visit by Zach no spur to literary creation; caught up a little afterwards

7 comments:

Plutarch said...

I can still hear the chanting. Not just the X tables but amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant...I have often thought how useful it turned out to be.

Avus said...

Well..we went to 12 x tables (useful in the days of 12d to the shilling). In infant school I can still see the sheet showing 2 bunny rabbits x two bunny rabbits make 4 bunny rabbits (they were yellow rabbits, I recall).

Later, at grammar school, there were the various ways of learning which German prepositions took which cases. I can still chant "aus, ausser, bei, mit, nach, zeit, von, zu" but haven't a clue whether that relates to nominative, accusative, genitive or dative! There are better ways of learning languages these days.

Eleanor said...

"has wittily taken a bucket and is inviting the girl to fill it with tears" - This perfectly sums up my own experience with my own "shriek-voiced harridan" of a teacher many years ago. Mine once went so far as to ask me to take said bucket, empty it in the bathroom, and then return to the classroom so as to refill it.

My children (now 14 & 18) were not taught the X tables at school. Master CB managed easily, but Miss CB was simply unable to cope until I helped her at home to memorise them.

By the way, I can still say my 8X table only in Hebrew, a remnant of my early education in Israel. Oh, and my husband, still can say them only in Russian. Quite funny.

Sir Hugh said...

My memories of chanting go back to grammar school and a French master called Mr Twelves who had earned the nickname of "Douzie". We had to chant French verb endings: e,es,e
ons,ez, ont
et al.
We were all given French christian names and I was given Vincent which I thought was horribly soppy at the time making me squirm with embarrassment.

Barrett Bonden said...

Plutarch: Chant-learning was OK for Latin but I agree with Avus (below) that it didn't always work with modern languages.

Avus: The best way to learn French was to acquire a French mistress but this led to problems if you were targeting your O-levels. To my knowledge nobody ever suggested there was an equivalent for German.

Eleanor: At your leisure trawl back through my posts and find how I was left scarred and inadequate by a geography master. And Lucy has confirmed I am not alone - geography masters are, it seems, more than a bit peculiar.

That's three different alphabets in your family. I like that.

Sir Hugh: I was called René which I too regarded as soppy. Long before I became familiar with Arnoux of that ilk.

Julia said...

The times tables are so useful! Now that I think about it, we didn't learn them in school, but our mother (a math teacher) taught us to say them while we jumped rope and they have stuck fast ever since.

Barrett Bonden said...

Julia: I didn't for a moment think you did learn them in school. I assumed such info, together with a further 150 terabytes of general knowledge, arrived osmotically. Putting aside the enchanting image of you jumping rope, let's all applaud the fact that your mother was a subversive and that no one shopped her to the educational police.