As Michael Rosen is currently pointing out, ten and eleven year olds in the UK are currently entering into SATs revision.  I say ‘entering into’… in fact, their whole educational life thus far has been in preparation for taking these tests.  ‘Literacy’ has become about the analysis of short exerpts of other people’s writing and the learning of rules and syntax.  And we wonder why people are scared of writing…

Here’s a poem I wrote almost exactly a year ago.

by Huckleberry Hax

He has homework about connectives.  *Connectives*.
He has to lay them out in a table.  Time connectives,
additional connectives. Causal connectives.  And I
have to bite my tongue so that I don’t say, “What
the FUCK do they think they’re doing?  Instead, I say to him,
“This is boring, right?” and he nods.  And shrugs, says,
“Still, it’s got to be done.”  I say, “When was the last time
you got to write a story?”  “Write a story?” he asks.
“A story,” I repeat.  Just to write one out.”  “Well,
we never get to do that,” he replies, “not ever.”  “Not
*ever*?”  “Not ever,” he replies.  “Sometimes we get to
write a plan for one.  Or to describe a story character.”

I despair.  I want to scream.  And he finishes his table
and starts work on the non-fiction paragraph they’ve
prepared with spaces for connectives to be inserted.
Literature will one day die because of the strangulation
of that which can be efficiently measured.  How’s that for
a connective, you bastards?

(c) Huckleberry Hax



  1. I've had the same experience with my 7 year old. Those of us who work closely with our children see the close detail of this crap. We sit at home with them, helping them with the homework, kidding ourselves that perhaps the child has 'got it wrong', perhaps when it really comes down to it, they're writing stories but can't quite remember. Then we go in for Parents' Evening and they show us pages of worksheets on….connectives. You're right.


  2. I write novels in one month, following the 'National Novel Writing Month' project every November. The key message of this organisation each year is that, in order to achieve this, we must turn off the 'Inner Editor' – that voice inside our heads that tells us what we've written is no good and MUST be good first time round. Nothing has liberated me more as a writer than that message; I now find out about my writing through its creation.

    And I'm saying this as someone who enjoyed a primary education in the 70s in the UK, when stories were still things you were encouraged to enjoy writing at school. What that Inner Editor must be like for today's children is frightening to think about.


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