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How does Bennett present different teaching styles in 'The History Boys'?

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Introduction

How does Bennett present different teaching styles in The History Boys? Bennett presents three contrasting teaching styles in the History Boys through the characters of Hector, Mrs Lintott, and Irwin. All three of the characters have their own unique attitude towards the boys' impending Oxbridge examinations, putting the boys in the difficult position of having to keep a reasonable balance between teaching and learning styles whilst making every effort to maintain the good-humoured relationships they have with each of their teachers, as well as striving to achieve well in their examinations. Whilst Hector brands the boys' Oxbridge aspirations as 'silliness', he has a dedication and love for knowledge which he imparts during his lessons, and generally, to his students. While on the subject of General Studies, he quotes 'All knowledge is precious whether or not it serves the slightest human use', which encapsulates, in one phrase, how highly he values any kind of knowledge as well as how he tries to teach the boys. ...read more.

Middle

Rome and Venice, Florence and Perugia' will 'know when they come to do an essay like this on the Church on the eve of the Reformation that some silly nonsense on the foreskins of Christ will come in handy.' And doing so he advises the boys to make their essays controversial so they stand out, regardless of what is true or what is considered correct or disciplined- in fact, Irwin approaches History in a rebellious and oppositional way to spark questioning. Iriwn's bold stance on education is summed up when he says that 'truth is no more at issue in an examination that thirst at a wine-tasting or fashion at a strip tease'- yet again reinforcing the idea that if the boys want to get in to Oxford and Cambridge, they need to make their essays contentious and different rather than 'Dull. Dull. Abysmally Dull.' ...read more.

Conclusion

She is more concerned with facts than anything else, and her belief is that 'Plainly stated and properly organised facts need no presentation, surely.' But the headmaster of the school is looking for something different, rather like Irwin- 'Think charm. Think polish. Think Renaissance Man.' Mrs Lintott is frustrated by the need for 'presentation' and the fact that the dons fall for the tactics employed by people like Irwin, however, and compares it to 'A sprig of parsley, you mean? Or an umbrella in the cocktail?' outlining her dry, sarcastic, cynical humour, and showing her disrespect for jazzing up facts to be acknowledged and noticed, as Irwin does. As Rudge puts it, when speaking to Mrs Lintott about Irwin, 'You've force-fed us the facts; now we're in the process of running around acquiring flavour.' In conclusion, Bennett presents three different teaching styles in the play by showing the audience not just the teachers' lessons but by giving the audience an idea of what the teachers' personalities and outlooks on life are, showing that teaching and learning involve so much more than exam results. ...read more.

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