Simon Jenkins disagrees: Learning foreign languages at school

Simon Jenkins, journalist and author. He writes a column twice weekly for the Guardian and weekly for the Evening Standard.

Like the current zombie cult of maths, languages are beloved of reactionary educators for one reason: they are easy to test, quantify and regiment. They are the raw material for education’s new Holy Grail, the league table. Challenge the usefulness of such subjects, and teachers fall back on the medieval saw, that “they train the mind”. They used to say that of Latin – and corporal punishment. They then switch and claim maths and languages pupils “earn more”. It never occurs to them that, as with Latin, successful pupils are those who know how to please their teachers.


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