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Letters: Nicholas Serota answers Toby Young on arts teaching

Plus: saving the elephant; what to do about Corbyn; 40 is an issue for everyone; Ingrams on Frost

7 November 2015

9:00 AM

7 November 2015

9:00 AM

The power of creativity

Sir: A rounded education should encourage creativity as well as maths, English, science and history if Britain is to compete in the modern world. Toby Young’s claim that the arts world is exaggerating the decline of arts in secondary schools therefore deserves to be challenged (Status anxiety, 24 October).

In spite of his confidence, teachers do think that there is a problem. They fear that the focus on ‘core’ subjects means they shouldn’t offer arts subjects. Students worry that studying the arts will damage an academic profile. But encouraging creativity makes people more adaptable, and helps prepare them for the uncertainties of life. The new head of Eton has argued that the arts are important in his vision for education, and he wants his pupils to develop emotional as well as academic intelligence. Do we want to deny state-school pupils similar opportunities?

George Osborne has championed the UK’s achievement in arts on a global stage. Educational policy should support his belief in the power of creativity, and reflect the wishes of young people who want to achieve excellence across a full range of subjects.
Nicholas Serota
Director, Tate galleries

Wrong end of the elephant

Sir: Writing in his Notes (24 October) that ‘If we want to save the elephant, we must legalise the ivory trade’, Charles Moore has bumped into one small part of a complex beast and guessed the wrong conclusion.

The truth is that the global trade in ivory is finished. In February last year, five African leaders launched the Elephant Protection Initiative, which calls for domestic ivory markets to be closed in line with the 1989 ban on international trade (which marked the collapse of western markets). Among them are Botswana and Gabon, which have the world’s largest remaining savannah and forest elephant populations. Five more countries have now joined, including Kenya. And the world’s two largest ivory markets, China and the US, agree. On 25 September, Presidents Obama and Xi announced that they will close their ivory markets, and the US has already stopped all import and export.


That is not to say that the poaching crisis is not acute. It is. My inbox is constantly bombarded with the fallout from the illegal trade: dead elephants, dead people, corruption and serious organised crime. Now is not the time for muddled thinking.

The future of both elephants and rural communities across Africa depends on peace, security and tourism dollars. That future depends on us acting now to protect living elephants, not dead ivory.
Alexander Rhodes
CEO, Stop Ivory, London SW7

Deradicalise Corbyn

Sir: Nick Cohen calls for the conversion from far-leftists into social democrats of 250,000 Corbyn supporters (‘Converting the Corbyn cult’, 31 October). Surely it would be simpler to convert Mr Corbyn himself? The Home Office has had considerable success in deradicalising jihadists through their ‘Channel’ programme; could not their proven technique be applied to Mr Corbyn?
Mike Gross
Braunton, Devon

Forty is a male problem, too

Sir: I was amused to read Melissa Kite’s protests about the sexism that women over 40 suffer in the workplace (‘Forty is a feminist issue’, 31 October). I was forced out of the teaching profession by left-wing management, and can assure her that changing careers as a man is no picnic either. I have been unable to find employment for two years because I am ‘too old’ — at 46. I have, in searching for jobs, encountered a considerable number of positions advertised as ‘female candidates only need apply’, a stricture I have never seen applied to men. It is also worth noting that until recently women were allowed to retire five years earlier than men, despite the fact that they live longer. Where were the feminists’ cries about ‘sexism’ then?
Finbarr O’Keeffe
Reading, Berkshire

Bile and Frost

Sir: Richard Ingrams’s review of Sir David Frost’s biography (Books, 31 October) dripped with bile. Yet he makes some very sound points about the beatification of Frostie, a figure whose reputation is most unlikely to survive his memorial in Westminster Abbey.

It is good to know that Ingrams retains his fierce passion and indignation. But his subject would, I am sure, have been amused — and unperturbed — by his adversary’s vituperation.
Tom Blackett
West Byfleet, Surrey

Gwynne’s grammar test

Sir: Because of the demanding nature of my grammar test (Diary, 17 October), the answers really need to be accompanied by supporting explanations — what follows is only the bare-bones version.

The test: give the parts of speech, including the grammatical part of any verbs, of ‘boiling’ and every instance of ‘washing’ in the sentence, ‘She is washing in boiling water yesterday’s washing in the washing machine that she uses for washing clothes.’

The answers. ‘Boiling’: present participle (verb-adjective). First ‘washing’: taken with ‘is’, continuous present tense, active voice and indicative mood. By itself, present participle. Second ‘washing’: either gerund (verbal noun) or gerundive. Third ‘washing’: noun acting as an adjective (‘noun-adjective’). Fourth ‘washing’: gerund, acting both as a noun and as a transitive verb.

A fuller discussion of the answers will be on my website, gwynneteaching.com. I have provisionally chosen the winner, but, because I do not claim infallibility, the announcement will be made next week, just in case anyone should wish to dispute any of the above answers in the meantime.
N.M. Gwynne
Co. Wexford, Ireland


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