I've just had one of my pupils in, anxious about how to write a critical essay on a piece of journalism the class had studied. She'd missed the lesson and was floundering. We spent an hour of hard analysis; it was quite a humorous piece with some good tricks of the trade to talk about. But I felt myself increasingly puzzled by the content. It felt .... dated.
Answer: it was dated. Dated 1991, in fact. It was photocopied from a book - presumably a collection of writing from the period when the book was first compiled. It would be out of date before publication. What is the point of this? Journalism is surely, by definition, fresh - we can admire the style of a master like, say, Clive James, but he was even funnier first time around.
For most of my teaching career it was really difficult to supply good up-to-the-minute factual prose in quantities suitable for class use. But now that there is widespread online access to global journalism, should we not be encouraging our students to explore, to find what is worth reading - and to justify their choices? And if they're going to write about it in the SQA exams, what chance is there that the examiner will have read the same piece? It's not Wuthering Heights, for heaven's sake.
I dunno. It made me feel sad, this sunny holiday afternoon, to see that 16-year-old piece, photocopied and annotated. And I'm afraid it showed. We have a long way to go.