EDITOR’S PERSPECTIVE: A little bit of Carry On in the Classroom

“LOOK, he’s got an erection.” The cry rang out loudly across the classroom. I have no idea whether or not Michael sported such a thing but the exact wording of his shout of denial suggested he either a) did not or b) protesteth too much.

The source of his possible circumstance was a film we were watching in an English ‘O’ level class. Obviously not something officially dodgy, but very possibly an adaptation of EM Forster’s amusingly and, it seemed, appropriately  titled — well, I thought so at the time, but obviously I’ve grown up since then — Howard’s End.

Away from being used as a mechanism to victimise Michael (and I apologise for partially naming him here but I have searched social media, can’t find him and am pretty much sure he won’t read this), such screenings were to become familiar in our world of English study. I suppose it was easier than the teacher having to read the book.

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Having scraped through my exams — despite seemingly spending the majority of the course watching sex scenes — I joined the Literature ‘A’ level group a year behind having only previously bothered with English Language to save face with “classmates” who thought there was something strange about a lad reading books. They would have been okay with those films though.

It was a nice group and I still occasionally keep in touch with a couple of them on social media.

However, before the course started we were going to watch film adaptations of some of the teacher’s favourites as an introduction to the world of the so-called classics and, what’s more, we would start with DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers.

“Fair enough,” I thought, having no clue what it was about.

I soon did. Well, some of it, as each week he insisted on starting the viewing from the same point, so we saw the extremely raunchy bit about 12 times in that first term, on each occasion accompanied  by a cacophony of giggling as he, er, fiddled with the knob on the Betamax video player to make sure we weren’t about to miss a bit.

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To this day, despite having since read the book, it’s the only part of the story I can recall in any detail.

In another lesson, we were reading King Lear and each time —  every week — it got to the speech which contains the words “Why brand they us with base? With baseness? Bastardy? Base, base?... Now, gods, stand up for bastards!” he took over, delivering the passage with increasing intensity.

“Now then Mosley, why do you think Lear named his daughter Goneril? Do you think it was after the sexually transmitted disease?”

Well, I doubt it, parents wouldn’t even do that nowadays and we’re nowhere near 2022 yet, sir? Those were the words I may have thought, while responding: “I don’t know sir, I suppose it’s possible.”

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Times have changed and embarrassment may not come as easily to youngsters now, with access to all sorts of subject matter freely available from a website near you.

Today’s students certainly won’t be as red-faced as I was on the above occasions and won’t laugh as we all did when we were forced to watch a sex education video in a darkened room and the American narrator used the word “spermatozoa” seconds after one more grown-up kid said: “If anyone laughs at this they’re pathetic”. He was right but it’s still a funny word.

Michael didn’t think so. He was hiding at the back.