I simply had to talk about this. A friend of my daughter who has just finished his AS level in English Literature studied the Tom Stoppard play "Arcadia". He wants my daughter to go to London and see it with him next week. But get this, his parents are really irritated with him and say that he is wasting his time because he has already sat the examination on this play. What on Earth is the point in his going to see it now?
For me, nothing could encapsulate more neatly the difference between modern schooling and education. The only possible reason for studying literature has nothing whatever to do with culture or education. The sole, direct and immediate purpose of looking at a play or novel is so that you can spend an hour and a quarter writing about it in June. Of course there would be no point actually seeing the play in September. Why would you, you won't get any extra marks for it?
This is not an isolated example, but typical of what I hear from other teenagers who are at school and college. Suggest to a fifteen year old who is doing "Pride and Prejudice" for GCSE, that she might enjoy other books by the same author, say "Emma" and she will look at you as though you have taken leave of your senses. Often, the teachers tell them not to bother with anything outside the syllabus. For instance the English teacher at a local school whose pupils were "doing" Great Expectations, told them not to read the whole book. It would take too long and they only needed to be familiar with certain chapters. Children will say, "I don't need to know that". or "Miss said not to read that". The ultimate in utilitarian education; I don't "need" to know that.
For me, and I suspect many other home educators, this is the opposite of education. It is not just in English Literature that this appalling state of affairs is the norm. Every subject is studied, not because it might shed light on the human condition or help us to think like civilised beings, but because it is on the syllabus. As Mr. Gradgrind said in "Hard Times", "Teach these boys and girls nothing but facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else , and root out everything else."