Browsing English language learning and assessment by Subjects
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The origins and adaptations of English as a school subjectThis chapter will consider the particular manifestation of English as a ‘school subject’, principally in the country called England and using some small space for significant international comparisons, and it will mainly focus on the secondary school version. We will call this phenomenon School Subject English (SSE). The chapter will argue that historically SSE has gone through phases of development and adaptation, some aspects of these changes inspired by new theories and concepts and by societal change, some others, especially more recently, entirely reactive to external impositions (for an analysis of the current position of SSE, see Roberts, this volume). This chapter considers SSE to have been ontologically ‘expanded’ between 1870 and (about) 1990, increasing the ambition and scope of the ‘subject’ and the emancipatory ideology of its teachers. This ontological expansion was principally a result of adding ‘models’ of SSE, models that each emphasise different epistemologies of what counts as significant knowledge, and can only exist in a dynamic tension. In relation to this volume, SSE has always incorporated close attention to language but only very briefly (1988–1992) has something akin to Applied Linguistics had any real influence in the secondary classroom. However, with varying emphasis historically, there has been attention (the Adult Needs/Skills model, see later) to the conventions of language, especially ‘secretarial’ issues of spelling and punctuation, some understanding of grammar, and a focus on notions of Standard English, in writing and in speech; but these have never been the driving ideology of SSE. Of the two conceptual giants ‘Language’ and ‘Literature’, it is the latter that has mattered most over those 120 years.