Thursday, 29 August 2013

Joseph and Charles as Monsters in Sheridan's "The School for Scandal."

Strictures on The School for Scandal (1777) from The London Magazine (April 1783), pp. 169-172.

A Play composed by Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

Charles, to whom the affections of the audience are chiefly conciliated, is a young profligate spark of fashion, without Ĺ“conomy, temperance, or consideration; who having spent his all, minds nothing but how to get more, without the vulgar means of industry; who cares not how much he squanders of what is not his own, provided he can be a rogue in an honest way, or possess another's property without risquing his neck; in short, he is one of thole modern fine gentlemen, who devote their whole substance, time, and talents, alternately, to wine, gambling, and gallantry. Surely a character of this kind, endowed with so many agreeable qualities as meet in him, is the very worst spectacle our youth can behold. From such polluted and enchanting scenes the increasing profligacy of the nation mull originate. What can be a grosser prostitution of the stage, than to make the hero of a piece, that ought to breathe nothing but the purest morality, an avowed libertine? Is a motley picture of wantonness and wit proper to be exhibited as a public example? Are not the rising generation in danger enough already from the lives of their parents and the flagrant enormities they meet with every where, that the places of common diversion must be thus converted into vehicles of licentiousness? Such is the fascinating glare of luxury in this metropolis, that their hearts are inflamed almost as soon as their eyes are open. Every thing around them has the most immediate tendency to excite their desires of indulgence, and prompt prompt their passions for show. A young fellow, therefore, thus accomplished with every fashionable folly, starting so keenly in pursuit of extravagance, is a sight extremely flattering to the rising wishes of every tender heart. Generosity, gratitude, vivacity, and good-nature, are added to gild the poisonous pill; as if all the most (hiring virtues of humanity could ever be found in conjunction with indolence, injustice, and dissipation.


The character of Joseph, the other brother, strikes me at least as an heterogeneous compound of parsimony, gallantry, sentiment, and treachery: the elements that compose the universe are certainly not more dissimilar and jarring. A miserable, rakish, feeling, and perfidious villain, is a monster unknown to human nature; nor do I fee any reason at present, but one, for exposing this poor antiquated sort of hypocrisy, while it continues the taste of the times to suppress, if possible, every appearance of decency. The question with modish writers, will not be what is proper, but what will please? The ton of the public is to them precisely what the cobweb is to the spider. They literally hang on it for all they want, and instantly set about spinning another, whenever it loses the power of catching; and, trust: me, they are not such conjurors as to forego their interest for the poor, vulgar, and contemptible pleasure of one generous attempt to make the public better than they found it. The impression their productions make signify nothing to them, provided their fame circulates, and their fortune rises.

It is curious enough to observe, by what gradual progress universal depravity overwhelms society. The votaries of libertinism began first by extolling moral sentiment at the expense of religion: but now that the latter is wholly out of the question, they point all their batteries against the former. By some of this author's petites pieces, that appeared occasionally during the winter season, he certainly discovered himself to be a man of feeling. What then can have exasperated him now against qualities thus congenial to his own nature, that he exerts all his address to lay them under an universal proscription?


The London Magazine (April 1783), p. 169-172

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Use of Connectives and Transitions in Composition

Connected Brain Zones

§ 371. IV. The use of connectives. The words of connection and transition between clauses, members, and sentences, may be made, according to the skill or the awkwardness of the writer, sources of strength or of weakness.

It is always a source of weakness for two prepositions, having different antecedents, to be co-ordinated in connection with a common subsequent.

This mode of expression has been called "the splitting of particles;" a name not very applicable to it as it occurs in English construction. The proper name for it is the one implied in the italicized words above. The following is an example.

"Though personally unknown to, I have always been an admirer of, Mr. Calhoun."

The way to correct it is to complete the first clause, and let the last, if either, be elliptic; thus:

"Though personally unknown to Mr. Calhoun, I have always admired him," or "been an admirer of him."

It is proper to remark that the very construction here condemned, enjoys a kind of toleration in legal and formal documents. The object in such compositions is not strength but clearness. Perhaps a good deal may be conceded to the usages of a profession proverbial for its attachment to what is old and of long standing; but in all compositions that have any pretension to literary merit, this construction must be disallowed.

§ 372. The most enfeebling of all practices in writing is the constant repetition of the conjunction and, whether as a contextual or a member-joining particle. It is a fault into which young persons are peculiarly apt to fall. Sometimes in writing a narrative, when their minds are eagerly carrying on the thread of the story, they will indite a series of sentences, each commencing with the formula "and then," or "and so;" altogether unaware of the slovenly manner in which they are using language. To avoid this, let the pupil avail himself of all the expedients in his power for varying the expression, and avoid the necessity of using this one conjunction so often.

§ 373. With regard to the use of co-ordinating conjunctions in a series of terms or short clauses, there are two different figures of syntax, directly the opposite of each other, each of which may be so used as to contribute to Strength. They are called Asyndeton and Polysyndeton. In the one, the connecting conjunction is entirely omitted from a series of co-ordinates; in the other it is carefully repeated, either before every member of the series, or else between each pair. In the former, the object is to present a succession of spirited images; in the latter, the writer desires to make the mind of the reader dwell upon each successive thought, not passing from it until its full force is felt. But they both possess what is called tho cumulative power; heaping up before the mind a combination of thoughts that are intended powerfully to affect it. Witness the following examples, in which these figures are combined with the balanced construction, showing that St. Paul evidently delighted in such rhetorical devices.

"There is one body and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in you all." (Observe how the asyndeton and the polysyndeton are combined in the foregoing extract.)

"Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."

"It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body."

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”

"For all things are yours; whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas; or the world or life or death; or things present, or things to come;—all are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's."

§ 374. No single feature of style more plainly marks the mature mind, conversant with literature, than the judicious use of contextual connectives. These include Sot merely the conjunctions, but all those adverbs and adverbial phrases that indicate the relation of the sentences which they severally introduce, to the preceding context. All of them, including the conjunctions, have been subjected to a searching classification, which, however, is of no great practical value. To base upon such a classification a system of rules, would be to invest with difficulty a matter which would be more economically learned from extensive and varied reading.

SOURCE: John Mitchell Bonnell, A Manual of the Art of Prose Composition: For the Use of Colleges and Schools (1867).

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)

The arrangement of sentences in a paragraph

Order of Sentences in a Paragraph

Classic Advice on the construction of a paragraph ...

§ 365. III. The arrangement of sentences in a paragraph.* 

In every extended paragraph the bearing of every sentence upon what precedes should be explicit and unmistakable.

This is principally effected by the use of conjunctions and contextual phrases, the rules for which will be given in the next division of the chapter.

§ 366. When several consecutive sentences develop or illustrate the same idea, they should, as far as possible, be formed alike. This is called the rule of Parallel Construction.

§ 367. The opening sentence of a paragraph, unless obviously preparatory, should indicate with some prominence the topic of the paragraph.

§ 368. In the course of the paragraph there should occur no dislocations, that is, sudden turns of thought, such as would create confusion. But the entire paragraph should possess unity, having a definite purpose, and avoiding all digressions and irrelevant matter.

§ 369. Every paragraph should possess such a degree of unity as to be capable of being indicated by a caption or running title.

§ 370. Due proportion should obtain between principal and subordinate statements.

* The remarks under this head are condensed from Alexander Bain.

SOURCE: John Mitchell Bonnell, A Manual of the Art of Prose Composition: For the Use of Colleges and Schools (1867).

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)

Bonnell's list of topics for debate in class (1867)

In A Manual of the Art of Prose Composition: For the Use of Colleges and Schools (1867), John Mitchell Bonnell explained the value of Extemporaneous Composition;  Debating by the Class; and proposed a list of topics for debate. This is an extract from his book.

The following list presents a few of the questions that afford good fields for debate.

Does wealth exert more influence than intelligence?

Should a criminal be capitally condemned on circumstantial evidence?

Are banks more beneficial than injurious?

Ought military schools to be encouraged?

Should colleges be endowed?

Did the French revolution advance the cause of liberty in Europe?

Is there any real danger of the over-population of the globe?

Is country life more favourable to the cultivation of virtue than life in a city?

Is history a more useful study than biography?

Is ambition more destructive of personal happiness than avarice?

Is it the duty of good men to discountenance the theatre?

Is the Bible more essential to the spread of Christianity than the living ministry?

Does poetry demand a higher order of genius than oratory?

Does military life tend to qualify men to become good civil governors?

Has Mohammedanism produced more evil than good?

Is it ever right to deceive a rational man?

Should the chief end of civil punishment be the reformation of criminals, or the prevention of crime?

Ought the state to provide for the free education of all children within its borders?

Is it expedient to form colonies of convicts?

Would a congress of nations be practical or beneficial?

Was the field of eloquence in ancient Greece or Rome superior to that in our own country?

Are novels more injurious than beneficial?

Is it expedient to unite manual with mental labour in an educational establishment?

Which exerts the greater influence on society, the teacher or the preacher?

Which controls public opinion more extensively, the ministry or the newspaper press?

Does a natural proclivity to crime diminish the guilt of the act?

Should a member of the American House of Representatives be bound by the will of his constituents?

Do savage nations possess an exclusive right to the soil?

Should the right of suffrage be co-extensive with resident manhood?

Is a lawyer justifiable in defending a cause that he believes to be bad?

Ought the Protective Policy or the Free Trade principles to prevail?

Ought gambling to be suppressed by law?

Which is the better for the development of good character, poverty or riches?

Ought the liberty of the press to be restricted?

Ought imprisonment for debt to be abolished?

Should corporal punishment be allowed in schools?

Ought religious institutions to be supported by law?

Should infidel publications be suppressed by law?

Should atheists be eligible to office?

Has government a right to suppress Mormon or Mohammedan polygamy?

Are all mankind descended from one pair?

Is man responsible for his belief?

Can any of the moral attributes of God be proved from the light of nature?

Is a scholastic education preferable to a private one?

Are the principles of the Peace society practicable?

Should the course of study in college be the same for all pupils?

Are monastic orders favourable to the cultivation of true piety?

Are inequalities of rank in society favourable to social progress?

Was the influence of Jefferson upon his age and country beneficial?

Was Bonaparte greater in the field than in the cabinet?

Have the United States the right to forbid European interference with other American governments?

Does morality keep pace with civilization?

Which has done the greater service to the cause of truth, philosophy or poetry?

Is the cultivation of the Fine Arts conducive to virtue?

Has sectarianism done more to advance or retard the interests of Christianity?

Is a "little learning" more dangerous than ignorance?

Further Reading

On Extemporaneous Composition and Debating by the Class... here.

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)


On Extemporaneous Composition and Debating by the Class

In A Manual of the Art of Prose Composition: For the Use of Colleges and Schools (1867), John Mitchell Bonnell explained the value of Extemporaneous Composition;  Debating by the Class; and proposed a list of topics for debate.

This is an an extract from his book.


§ 489. No course of instruction and discipline in the Art of Prose Composition would be complete without a portion devoted to extemporaneous composition. By this is meant the framing of thoughts on any given subject, and the proper expression of them, either without any preparation, or with the mere pre-arrangement of the plan, leaving the language to be suggested at the time of the delivery. It was a recommendation made by no less an orator than Henry Clay to young men seeking to qualify themselves as public speakers, to spend at least fifteen minutes each day in uttering, in solitude, without any premeditation, their thoughts upon a subject selected at random. This recommendation he enforced by the assertion that to such a custom, maintained for years, he himself owed, in no small degree, whatever of success he had attained as a speaker. The student who is earnestly striving to gain excellence in the use of his own languago will need no further urging to adopt such a practice. The fruits of this secret culture will not be long in making their appearance.

§ 490. As an additional method of securing the cultivation of the art of ready and correct expression, it is recommended that a pair of earnest students unite to afford mutual assistance in this exercise. Let them retire from observation, and speak by turns, in speeches of five minutes each, their thoughts on any assigned subject. It would be well for them to take some question susceptible of debate, and choosing opposite sides, discuss its merits. While one is speaking, let the other note, not merely his arguments, but his language, his method, his gestures. The arguments he will reply to in his own rejoinder; but let him reserve his criticisms on his comrade's performance for kindly mention after the exercise is over. Such private drill will admirably prepare the young performers for the more difficult arena of


§ 491. If a class of youths pursuing the course prescribed by this Manual have caught the spirit appropriate to the study, they will, long before progressing thus far in the book, have perceived the propriety of turning the class into a lyceum for the discussion of questions and other literary performances. Such an expedient can not be too highly recommended. It has received the indorsement of many eminent men. Lord Mansfield, Edmund Burke, Charles James Fox, and John P. Curran, as well as the illustrious American mentioned above, all have confessed themselves greatly indebted to such associations for the skill they acquired in oratory and debate.

If, as is desirable for young men attending ordinary schools or academies, the class debate is conducted by the teacher as the presiding officer, he will of course establish such rules and arrangements as he deems best. If the debating class is a number of students in the same high-school or college, they may organize themselves into a lyceum, and adopt their own constitution and by-laws. Admirable suggestions for such an association are to be found in McElligott's American Debater, to which parties interested are referred.

§ 492. It must be borne in mind that, although in extemporaneous speaking considerable freedom is allowed, and, of beginners especially, no high degree of accuracy or elegance of style should be exacted, yet it is certainly one of the aims of extemporaneous debate to cultivate the art of speaking, not only forcibly as to logical power, but with as strict attention to all the rules of Style as the most fastidious ear would demand. Let every young speaker lay down the rule—Never to allow himself in any known violation of propriety in any respect. Let him never excuse himself for any fault pointed out to him. Let him never defend his own utterances, when usage or authority is clearly against him. Let him never cling to an embellishment that others do not relish, although they can give no reasons for it. He must aim to do in regard to style what can be done only in very few things,—offend nobody. Withal, he must never become discouraged with the inveteracy of habit, by the multiplicity of rules, by the infinity of chances for error, or by the mortification of failure.

Bonnell's list of topics for debate in class (1867) here

Monday, 19 August 2013

What's wrong with using "said" in composition and creative writing?

Let's be clear: it is not incorrect to write 'he said' or 'she said.'

In fact, it may be advantageous to let the dialogue do the work and to leave the specific manner or tone of speech to the reader's imagination. The reader often has an intuitive grasp of the flow of emotions.

Close examination shows that there are many options if you want to replace the word 'said', but sometimes you don't need to use it at all.

The word 'said' also preserves a potential ambiguity. Again this can be helpful in creative writing if you do not want to direct the reader to a specific interpretation. Why not trust the reader to unmask irony and double-meanings in the speech? Often, the writer who lacks confidence wants to fill in all the gaps. Sometimes it is better to be less busy, and to leave some space for the reader to work on the prose. Writing presupposes a partnership; it is not a dictatorship.

The word 'said' can also be complemented by an action, or by a descriptive phrase:

He said, slipping the gold coin into his greasy pocket

Returning the frightened mouse to its cage, she said

This technique helps to develop character or to reveal a new aspect of a situation that contributes to plot development. Remember that readers enjoy hints; they enjoy being taken into confidence and they enjoy moments of revelation. What readers dislike is a unwieldy smack in the face.

Another advantage of the word 'said' is that it is unobtrusive. It does not draw attention to itself. Words such as beseeched or chortled tend to stand out, and they may also sound rather stilted and old-fashioned unless you're writing sensational fiction or romance.

In many cases it is possible to present dialogue without pointing to who the speaker and signifying how they spoke. By repeatedly inserting 'he said' or 'she said'  the flow of speech is interrupted, and the effect may become mechanical and monotonous. Effective dialogue requires pace: too much commentary from the writer is intrusive and tiresome. An irritated reader stops reading.

Excessive use of words other than said also runs the risk of starting to sound ridiculous. Writing should not sound like a regurgitated thesaurus! Sometimes writers try too hard to improve their writing and fall into a new category of error.

Try reading your work aloud if you are unsure about appropriate usage. By listening to your work you will move slowly from the craft of composition to the art of writing.

But if you do want to gain a sense of the rich opportunities for variation afforded by the English language there are more than 107 Ways to Avoid the word "said"

  1. Acknowledged 
  2. Added
  3. Admitted
  4. Affirmed
  5. Agreed
  6. Alleged
  7. Announced
  8. Answered
  9. Appealed
  10. Asked
  11. Asserted
  12. Barked
  13. Bawled
  14. Beckoned
  15. Begged
  16. Bellowed
  17. Beseeched
  18. Blubbered
  19. Blurted out
  20. Carped
  21. Cautioned
  22. Chortled
  23. Chuckled
  24. Claim
  25. Conceded
  26. Concurred
  27. Confessed
  28. Confided
  29. Confirmed
  30. Contended
  31. Continued
  32. Cried
  33. Croaked
  34. Declared
  35. Entreated
  36. Exclaimed
  37. Explained
  38. Fumed
  39. Giggled
  40. Grinned
  41. Groaned
  42. Growled
  43. Grumbled
  44. Hesitated
  45. Hinted
  46. Hissed
  47. Howled
  48. Implied
  49. Implored
  50. Indicated
  51. Informed
  52. Inquired
  53. Insisted
  54. Jabbered
  55. Joked
  56. Lamented
  57. Laughed
  58. Lilted
  59. Maintained
  60. Moaned
  61. Mocked
  62. Murmured
  63. Mused
  64. Noted
  65. Observed
  66. Offered
  67. Ordered
  68. Pleaded
  69. Preached
  70. Proclaimed
  71. Promised
  72. Proposed
  73. Protested
  74. Queried
  75. Quipped
  76. Ranted
  77. Remarked
  78. Remonstrated
  79. Repeated
  80. Replied
  81. Requested
  82. Retorted
  83. Roared
  84. Scoffed
  85. Scolded
  86. Shouted
  87. Shrieked
  88. Snarled
  89. Sobbed
  90. Specified
  91. Spluttered
  92. Stammered
  93. Stated
  94. Stuttered
  95. Stressed
  96. Suggested
  97. Swore
  98. Taunted
  99. Teased
  100. Testified
  101. Thundered
  102. Wailed
  103. Warned
  104. Whimpered
  105. Whined
  106. Whispered
  107. Yelled
Dr Ian McCormick is the author of

The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences (Quibble Academic 2013) 

Also available on Kindle, or to download.

Dr Ian McCormick served
until recently as Professor in the Arts at the University of Northampton. He works as a teaching adviser in educational creativity and participatory methodology. He has recently written a book on Shakespearean Tragedy.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Listening to Leeds and the Poetry of the North

What a delight to be seeing and hearing more from Leeds, UK, where I was fortunate to be born, and to which I returned in 1990-3 to study for my doctorate in English Literature with Prof. David Fairer at the University of Leeds.

The most recent discovery was the John Betjeman film which was never broadcast. I suspect that the BBC did not consider that it could risk a strong regional angle at this time?

It's delightful to hear the Poet Laureate John Betjeman praising 'Nonconformist Leeds, sturdy and prickly'; delighting in the Victorian wonders of the city and bemoaning the monstrosities of modernity, most of which have now been wisely demolished. He appreciation of the city comes across and warm and sincere. He delights in the poverty and community of the back-to-back houses in Armley, and deplores the municipal planning that produced Seacroft town centre.

Whitelocks Bar, Leeds

The BBC has also recently broadcast a radio documentary celebrating Whitelock's Bar and the poetic life of the city and the University. They key role of the arts and music, based around the Leeds Polytechnic, is another topic worthy of further study and research. I guess one day the full story will be told, and Leeds will reclaim its cultural heritage and international presence.

The Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds

The University of Leeds

(c) Dr Ian McCormick

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)

Finding your authentic academic voice

Are you still sharpening your use of academic language, or are you loosening the reins?

The title of this blog points to the tensions involved in professional educational writing. In one sense the purely personal, original, pre-academic voice is a fiction. By joining the ranks of academe your voice has already begun to switch from a personal to a public voice. Taking the micky becomes parody or satire, for instance. Academic writing loses colloquial speech-like qualities and takes on the jargon of professional authenticity. And speech also tends to lose the accent and dialect of your class roots. Sadly, standard academic English is a rather middle-class business proposition. There is a gain but there is also a loss.

But academic voice in the arts and the social sciences need not be the bleak accent of dry neutrality and emotionless abstraction. Surely there's an error in losing the individual idiosyncrasy of the human pulse in this domain of work?

While it is true that the lexis of academic disputation is often overused it is clearly helpful if you want to signal degrees or shades of difference in your interpretation. In that regard arts and social sciences judgements are not derived from logical positivism, and evidence and interpretation have shades of gray. All writers also deploy a variety and range of connectives to link ideas and signpost the flow of thoughts. The trick is not to use them too much, or too little, because you will end up sounding like a robot, rather than a sentient and sensitive human creature! In summary ...

Language is your tool, not your master.

Is it worth pointing our that grammarians are divided between those who describe actual living usage, and those who try to enforce, regulate and prescribe based on tradtion? Our greatest writers, such as Shakespeare, were often ungrammatical by modern standards.

Have we become too prescriptive and normative in our deployment of academic writing skills? Academic composition has certainly spawned an academic sub-industry of poorly and well-paid tutors who will offer you the keys to success. They will help you to pay lip-service to the discourse of acdemia.

Academic discourse is a specialist use of English which is still evolving. I suspect that it’s becoming less stiff and stylised nowadays. An example of the current informaility is the tendency to use the first person pronoun “I” instead of the neutral objectivity of the third person. Even abbreviations and speech like contractions are now common, as I’VE noticed in recently published academic books. By claiming to be a common language of transparency academic discourse pretends to show us the ideas, rather than the person speaking them. Eventually by playing them game you lose your consciousness of the rules by which it operates.

At its worst academic discourse serves as a defensive armour or shield; at its best it supports the elegant deployment of necessary subtleties.

Any thoughts? Have you been sharpening or loosening your academic style?

Useful Sites

Academic Phrasebank. Created by the University of Manchester.

Using English for Academic Purposes. A Guide for Students in Higher Education

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)

The Rise of the Super Tutor League

Media hype:

(1) Recent media reports have mentioned that some "supertutors" earn as much as £300 per hour. Yes! that's per HOUR!

Reality check:

But private tutoring with an agency is not as lucrative as it might appear:

(2) "A competitive salary - £21,000per annum (£22,000pa within the M25) plus £2880pa bonus potential based on your centre's performance." [Explore Learning Job Advert]

The reality in most cases is that many tutors are undergraduates or recent postgraduates seeking to earn extra cash. Typically, they will be enthusiastic, well-informed and unqualified as teaching professionals. Rates of pay often range from £18 to £35 per hour, and that may include travel time and costs. In contrast to employing a trades person such as an electrician or a plumber on a standard £50 call out fee, it's quite poorly paid.

Alternatively, some poorly-paid early career teachers supplement their earnings by offering private teaching. In some cases highly experienced teachers also offer lessons because they find it 'rewarding'.

Is private tutoring really necessary and does it make a difference?

In the first instance I recommend seeking support and guidance from your school or college. Failing that it seems reasonable to seek support elsewhere. In some cases, a private tutor will spend time working with the parents who want to have a more participatory role, or want a clearer understanding of the learning process.

Teachers under pressure

Generally, you will find that most state teachers are well-trained and qualified, well-paid, and very experienced. Sadly, some teaching seemed to have a focus on the average/middle-range, while other teachers only work with the top/bottom students.

So there are sometimes disparities and inequalities in classes which are too big or too diverse for some teachers to cope with. In these cases the teacher may struggle to offer enough 1:1 tutoring.

The ideals of differentiated learning designed to fit each student's personal profile sometimes fails to materialise.

Bigger Picture

But it is also worth noting that there is far more to education than the teacher/student relationship in school. One should not underestimate

(1) the key roles of supportive parents / home environment;

(2) the creativity, aptitude and motivation of the child;

(3) the significance of informal learning and play outside school.

In other words, it's not all about academic exam success.

Personal Experience

In my experience the private tutor will help to develop skills and relationships across a wide learning domain. By visiting someone's home the tutor also has the opportunity to learn so much more about the broader context and issues that need to be addressed. Sometimes that means managing parental expectations as much as student performance goals.

Having worked recently as a private tutor I have found that it was a stimulating and enjoyable experience. Most of my students experienced a boost to their confidence, higher motivation and successful performance in exams.

But remember that results are not always short term or immediate and quite a lot of the success depends on the sustained effort of the student over a period of time.

Sometimes the tutor's intervention is based on a quick-fix of exam or writing skills; at other times, the focus will be broader, deeper, and more creative in approach.

While we may lament the rise of a private tutor 'super league' it does suggest that there are plenty of wealthy people who still place a high value on educational achievement rather than the conspicuous consumption of material possessions and ephemeral fashion items.

Media Resources

  1. Private tutors can earn thousands - Telegraph › Education
    20 Jan 2012 - He's one of the most in-demand of the new breed of 'super tutors', ... I don't particularly like the term “super tutor”, which I hear used more and ...

  2. The rise of the super tutor - Education - News - The Independent › NewsEducation
    8 Nov 2011 - What do you do when you have a first from Oxbridge, a thirst for travel, can speak 12 languages or solve complex algebraic sums in your sleep, ...

  3. Meet the super tutors: hired to teach five-year-olds Ancient Greek ...
    10 Jun 2011 - Personal trainers, motivational coaches, housekeepers, hairdressers, stylists and butlers used to be the fashion-conscious celebrity's status ...

  4. Why I can no longer face tutoring the progeny of the rich and ...
    3 May 2013 - Amid terror tales of two-year-olds receiving elocution tutorials, and salacious reports of super tutors creaming £1,000 per hour, the method for ...

  5. The $1000-an-hour Super Tutor - Life & Style - London Evening ...
    5 Jan 2012 - London tutor Will Orr-Ewing meets his American counterparts who charge as much as lawyers and finds out how they are revolutionising the ...
  6. [PDF]

    SUPER-TUTOR TO THE RESCUE! 3 ' - British Tutors
    TATLER ABOUT TOWN. SUPER-TUTOR TO THE RESCUE! 3 '. Ever wondered why the rich seem cleverer than the rest of us? Maybe it's because they can ...