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…the marriage of delight and responsibility

March 29, 2007

Philip Pullman was the subject of a BBC program today. He is talking with his old school teacher of English, in Ysgol Ardudwy Harlech. You can listen to it here, but be quick, you only have a week. The BBC’s use of podcasting is parsimonious at best, certainly compared with the generous ABC. Richard, if you are reading this and can do anything to liberate content please do!

Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy sent me back to Milton for the first time in thirty years, armed with new insight and understanding. He writes books that can be read by adults and children alike at different levels, and is a scholar in his own right, not to mention an excellent speaker. He has sent a copy of each of his many books to Miss Jones over the years, and does not consider publication complete until he has completed this task. The radio programme has some wonderful examples of memory, insight and moving poetical quotations. For example his conversation about the liminal character of the Morfa Harlech, a place of transition between sea and shore. The that caught my attention however was about the role of education and it forms the title of this blog.

At one point they have a conversation about the shift they both observed as teachers; from creating a love of exploration of literature, to teaching people to plan what they write with structure, a beginning, a middle and an end. Pullman calls it teaching dogma says that he could never write in that way, not does he think that he would have be inspired to be a writer if he had been taught in that way. In a wonderful phrase he says: I write into the darkness, not knowing what will happen next.

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