[xmca] Harold Rosen

From: <s.franklin who-is-at dsl.pipex.com>
Date: Mon Aug 04 2008 - 06:25:12 PDT

Harold Rosen, revolutionary, teacher, educationalist and co-founder of a Vygotskian approach to learning though and
with English, died last week.
Here is a great obituary of a great man in today's Guardian:

Harold Rosen Leading educationist and lifelong socialist who revolutionised the teaching of English
John Richmond The Guardian, Monday August 4 2008

The educationist Harold Rosen, who has died aged 89, was a leader of thought in the world of English teaching in
the second half of the 20th century. He and his colleagues forged and sustained a new understanding of the subject
within the school curriculum. Beyond the constituency of English teachers in secondary schools, Harold's own
teachings, writings and activities illuminated many more people's understanding of the relationship between
language and learning, whatever the age of the learner and the content of the learning.

In the 1950s, he was head of the English department at the pilot comprehensive Walworth school, south London, whose
work has filtered into the theory and practice of progressive English teaching in the UK and the English-speaking
world. Later, he was head of English at the London Institute of Education. In 1947 he was a founder member of the
London Association for the Teaching of English (Late), the first local organisation dedicated to the improvement of
English teaching by practitioners and the spur for the establishment of the National Association for the Teaching
of English.

In the politics of education, Harold fiercely resented - and, when he was still working, fought - the attacks on
progressivism from within the Thatcher, Major and Blair governments. However, he lived long enough to see, very
recently, the irony that some of the principles and practices that he had helped to develop being re-adopted as
official government policy in England - without, of course, any sense on the part of the policymakers of the
origins and history of those ideas.

Harold was born in Brockton, Massachusetts to Jewish parents. At the age of two, he came to the East End of London
with his mother, an active communist and inspirational woman. He attended local elementary and grammar schools. In
1935, he joined the Young Communist League, where he met Connie Isakofsky; their emotional partnership, marriage
and intellectual collaboration lasted 41 years, until her death from cancer in 1976. In 1936, they took part in the
battle of Cable Street. It was the urgent clarity of the needs of those years - to defeat fascism and to liberate
working-class people from every sort of poverty - that formed Harold politically.

In 1937, he went to study English at University College London, where he was a rugby player, middle-distance runner
and political activist. After graduating in 1940, he took short-term teaching jobs in England during the rest of
the war. Having been born in the US, he was officially an American citizen (and remained so throughout his life),
so it was the US army that he joined when called up in 1945. He served in the Education Corps for two years, with
the rank of captain, working in Frankfurt and Berlin. Returning to civilian life in 1947, it was clear to him, that
the defeat of fascism must be only the necessary beginning of a shift towards more open and egalitarian societies
in the victorious as well as the defeated nations.

Harold took a teaching qualification at the University of London Institute of Education, and began his teaching
career proper in schools in Leicestershire and Middlesex. The first of the Middlesex schools was Harrow Weald
grammar, where he met James Britton and Nancy Martin, who became his great teachers. Elsewhere in the county,
however, his career was impeded by the blacklisting of communists then practised in some circles of that local
authority. But when the London County Council made its pioneering move towards comprehensive education, he went to
Walworth, as head of English.

Briefly put, the theory and practice that emerged at Walworth insists that the content of the curriculum that the
teacher brings to the class must respect the culture and experience that the learner brings there. It sees the
making of meaning in and through language as the essential act in which learners engage and which teachers help to
bring about. It says that the best learning is a collaboration between teacher and learner, and between learner and

When he left Walworth, Harold began his long career in teacher education, first at Borough Road Teacher Training
College in Isleworth, Middlesex, and then in the English department of the London Institute of Education, where
Britton and Martin were, by then, the senior figures. Beginning under their leadership, and later as head of the
department and a professor of the university, Harold and his colleagues made the department a place of national and
international fame in the professional education of English teachers.

Harold had the intellectual apparatus necessary for a conventional academic career of great distinction. But this
was not the choice he made. His list of educational publications is long, but those for which he is best known are
all collaborative efforts addressing the needs and concerns of practitioners: for example, The Development of
Writing Abilities 11-18, with Britton and others (1975); Language, the Learner and the School, with Britton and
Douglas Barnes (first published 1969), and The Language of Primary-School Children (1973), written with Connie,
herself an inspiring figure in progressive primary education.

Harold left the British Communist party in 1957, having decided it was no longer likely to help bring about the
social change he desired. But he remained all his life a socialist, as fiercely critical of the evils which America
has brought upon the world, sometimes with British assistance, as he was sorrowful at the dashing of the hopes of
his youth with regard to the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc.

Harold loved to watch England play rugby on television, especially when I was in the armchair next to him. He was
an ardent Arsenal fan. His second wife, Betty, whom he married in 1978, cared for him with deep devotion in his
last years. Also an English teacher, she is the author of books on narrative and storytelling, and it was partly
under her influence that Harold's later educational writing focused on the nature and role of narrative in our
ability to conceptualise and communicate. Mentally, he remained trenchant and analytical until the end, and joyful
at news of gains in the long educational revolution in which he had played so prominent a part.

Betty survives him, as do the sons of his first marriage, Brian and the children's writer and poet Michael, his
stepchildren Ian, Joanna and Rosalind, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Harold Rosen, educationist, born June 25 1919; died July 31 2008

Visit Pipex Business: The homepage for UK Small Businesses

Go to http://www.pipex.co.uk/business-services

xmca mailing list
Received on Mon Aug 4 06:28 PDT 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Mon Sep 01 2008 - 00:30:02 PDT