Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Britain is a country whose old men thank Ronald Ridout for their ability to speak 'good English'

Britain is a country where old men like me know the distiction between the use of the word 'shall' and 'will' and 'which' and 'that' and the difference between "speech" marks and 'quotation' marks. For our accuracy in 'English' we have to thank a socialist called Ronald Ridout, who died at the age of 78 in 1994 and whose books sold 91m copies world wide.

In the late 1950's and the early 1960's his textbooks were on my desk in my 'English' lessons in secondary school. I can still hear my teacher at the start of the lesson say :
"Take out your Ridouts."

Things most people people don't know about Ronald, that he :

* always considered himself a socialist and at the beginning of his teaching career, had to move from job to job as headteachers objected to him discussing Marxism in the classroom

* appears in the 'Guinness Book of Records' as the most prolific British textbook writer who wrote more than 500 books and sold 91 million copies

* was born in 1916 and died in South Africa in 1994

* was educated at a grammar school in Surrey, gained an Oxford degree, entered teaching and became 'Head of English' at a Portsmouth secondary school.

* produced his own worksheets, which he submitted to the publisher 'Ginn' and whose editor wrote back saying : 'Mr Ridout, we think that this is the book we have been waiting 25 years for.'
(shouldn't that have been : 'for what we have been waiting' and observing the rule : don't end a sentence with a preposition ?)

* had his books turned into the 5-part 'English Today' and the course which directed English teaching in secondary schools for 20 years

* when his books began to sell overseas, set off to learn about Africa and walked across Nigeria and Sierra Leone in baggy shorts and sandals, carrying a huge basket of his books

* in Africa, realised how inappropriate some parts of his books seemed and produced new ones without references to 'snowball fights' and 'skating'

* was, apparently a dapper, bronzed man who could be puritanical but, was neither proud, nor arrogant

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