expected to know about prostitution in a GCSE exam?

(238 Posts)
allinahuddle Tue 19-May-15 18:21:35

Just wondered if I am a prude or if this is inappropriate? Dd2 sat her English literature exam yesterday and the poetry section as expected had two poems to compare and contrast. The introduction to them said they were both about nature and how it affects the man made world. One poem was about prostitution and the other about mining. She said she found it confusing as the introduction made her think her instincts were wrong. She thought it was about drugs and maybe sex but didn't dare write it as she felt sure it wouldn't be that on an exam paper. I can see how perhaps prostitution could be studied as part of a social question in another subject I suppose but to include it as an unseen poetry question for 15 and 16 year olds seems inappropriate to me. To assume that this age group would feel confident to talk about this in an exam situation seems mad. It aldo seems to put the more anxious and less confident or less streetwise kids at a disadvantage as they felt embarrassed writing about it, especially after being told both poems were about nature. Only a couple of kids in the whole school actually wrote about prostitution or drugs even those on target for an A or an A*. AIBU?

Heels99 Tue 19-May-15 18:24:45

I am not sure that how streetwise a child is would be a factor.
Certainly Chaucer, Shakespeare, victor Hugo all include prostitution. 'Tis pity she's a whore" etc
Agree is a strange theme though but imagine that children with more literary exposure may be at an advantage?

maddy68 Tue 19-May-15 18:24:58

Blakes songs of innocence and experience was taught at o level when I was a lass a long time ago

Sexuality and exploitation have always been topics In classical literature

yes you're being a prude

Icimoi Tue 19-May-15 18:25:08

What was the poem? In principle it seems to me that it's entirely reasonable to expect a 16 year old to know about prostitution, but I agree that if the poem was ambiguous then that put candidates in an awkward position.

Heels99 Tue 19-May-15 18:26:15

If they were told the poems wee about nature perhaps they in fact we're nothing to do with drugs and prostitution, do you know what poems they were?

Weathergames Tue 19-May-15 18:27:14

There is prostitution in the bible - they are 16 not 6?


ThroughThickAndThin01 Tue 19-May-15 18:27:34

I am amazed that they were expected to sit an exam without being taught about the topic, whatever that topic might be.

madreloco Tue 19-May-15 18:28:05

It's English lit, you're supposed to talk about the poetry and symbolism. It has nothing to do with being "streetwise" or any of that. They can't know much about english literature if the historical concept of prostitution is unknown to them.

I think you're making excuses.

HagOtheNorth Tue 19-May-15 18:31:23

DD thought `Shakespeare was boring until I explained all the jokes and innuendos in 'Much Ado' I did Chaucer and Blake at O level and it was likewise stuffed with earthy references of a natural sort.
It's not inappropriate to expect a 16 year old to have a theoretical understanding of sex, death or exploitation.
If all the group have received the same teaching, there's no reason why one group would be disadvantaged

Shakirasma Tue 19-May-15 18:31:24

I've got no problem with prostitution being the subject of a gcse exam poem, teenagers worldwide are sadly working in the sex industry and discussing that should not be taboo.

I'm more concerned that the poem in an exam was ambiguous as to its theme, something clearer should have been used. I also think that the pupils should have been made aware at some point in their course that no subject was off limits. They shouldn't have been shocked or embarrassed, it was unfair to put them in that position unprepared.

HagOtheNorth Tue 19-May-15 18:32:29

I want to know what the poems were too.

bopoityboo3 Tue 19-May-15 18:35:10

It's English lit. if she couldn't talk about the themes, meaning etc. then it sounds like she didn't fully understand the task. Which exam board is she with? What was the poem? Was she sitting higher or foundation paper?

Haffdonga Tue 19-May-15 18:36:17

I have just spent the last month revising Of Mice and Men and Inspector Calls for ds's English lit GCSE. (Yes, I revised it and could have done the bloody exam on ds's behalf).

Of Mice and Men - the men visit the local whorehouse no doubt at all about what that's all about

Inspector Calls - male characters are tolerated sleeping around with prostitutes. Character is made pregnant by rape/ forced sex. Again no doubt about very clear messages. We're talking about sex/ rape/ prostitution here.

I'd say your dd was being unnecessarily coy being worried about mentioning prostitution and she'll find a lot more literature involves it too.

Good luck for her exams. thanks

JasperDamerel Tue 19-May-15 18:37:49

I googled. It seems to have been City Lilacs by Helen Dunmore.


castlesintheair Tue 19-May-15 18:40:56

It sounds like it's the preparation (teaching?) that is the problem here and not the subject. Most literature has different "readings". The introduction doesn't sound very clear to an unprepared student. Also interested to know what the poems are.

pieceofpurplesky Tue 19-May-15 18:43:14

Castle it's an unseen poem

LeBearPolar Tue 19-May-15 18:43:14

Certainly Chaucer, Shakespeare, victor Hugo all include prostitution. 'Tis pity she's a whore" etc

'Tis Pity She's a Whore is not about prostitution hmm

It would be interesting to know what the poems are.

Procrastinatingpeacock Tue 19-May-15 18:44:05

Hmmm OP you have said that there shouldn't be ambiguity about the theme of the poem but why not? I would have expected that to be something to analyse and explore in the answer. Ambiguity is a pretty common element of a lot of poetry and broader literature.

LeBearPolar Tue 19-May-15 18:45:48

X-posted with JasperDamerel. That poem makes perfect sense in relation to the introduction - I would have expected students to make the connection between the depiction of the lilacs which are naturally beautiful but out of place in the city with the act of prostitution which mimics love but has nothing to do with it. Beauty and ugliness.

LeBearPolar Tue 19-May-15 18:46:22

<bookmarks poem to use with own students>

Roseformeplease Tue 19-May-15 18:46:26

But, if that is the poem, it's central concern is that nature triumphs, even in the darkest corners of a city. The hint of prostitution and urban decay is the background against which the lilacs flourish.

Not sure it is "about" prostitution. The details at the top are correct. It is about nature.

What was the other poem?

DoctorDonnaNoble Tue 19-May-15 18:46:32

There is usually alternative meanings in an unseen as in all literature. Sex isn't an uncommon theme in literature.
A couple of years ago there was a complaint about Ovid on the Latin A Levelshock

slicedfinger Tue 19-May-15 18:47:30

I like that poem jasper if that was it. I would have been mortified to discuss it at 16 though!

pieceofpurplesky Tue 19-May-15 18:47:45

Both poems were about the invasion of nature by mankind. Some if my pupils got the prostiution angle some saw it a drug dealing - poetry is about personal interpretation as long as the ops dd has been taught how to construct an essay she will be fine

slicedfinger Tue 19-May-15 18:48:02

Yes I really was that naive!

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