Harold Rosen

The Jewish Chronicle - - Social -

BORN BROCK­TON, MAS­SACHUSETTS, JUNE 25, 1919. DIED LON­DON, JULY 31, 2008, AGED 89.

API­ONEER IN teach­ing English lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture, Pro­fes­sor Harold Rosen wel­comed the con­tri­bu­tions brought by pupils of dif­fer­ent back­grounds and cul­tures.

Al­though he ap­peared the quin­tes­sen­tial so­cial­ist in­tel­lec­tual East End Jew, he was in fact born in the USA and came toEng­lan­dattwowhen­his­par­entssep­a­ratedand­hisEnglish-born­mother,Rose, re­turned to her fam­ily home.

Rose’s fa­ther was a Yid­dish-speak­ing im­mi­grant from Tsarist Rus­sia. Harold grew up in their house­hold, im­bib­ing their rad­i­cal views on pol­i­tics — left­wing — and re­li­gion — sec­u­lar — in a to­tally Jewish and largely Or­tho­dox en­vi­ron­ment.

At 15 he em­u­lated his mother’s Com­mu­nist ac­tivism by join­ing the Young Com­mu­nist League. But his faith in its ideals, ide­ol­ogy and method­ol­ogy was un­der­mined by the 1956 Hun­gar­ian up­ris­ing and he left the party in 1957.

At 17 he was among the crowd who stopped Mosley’s fas­cist march through the East End in the “bat­tle of Ca­ble Street”. He left gram­mar school to study English at Uni­ver­sity Col­lege Lon­don, gain­ing his de­gree in 1940.

Soon af­ter­wards he mar­ried Con­nie Isakof­sky, who shared his views and as­pi­ra­tions un­til her death from can­cer in 1976.

As an Amer­i­can ci­ti­zen, Harold did not fight in the Sec­ond World War un­til called up by the Amer­i­can army in 1945. He then served as a cap­tain in the ed­u­ca­tion corps in post-war Ger­many.

Be­fore that he spent the war years as a teacher in var­i­ous schools. Af­ter his army ser­vice he took his post-grad­u­ate cer­tifi­cate of ed­u­ca­tion and taught in Har­row and Leicestershire schools un­til com­ing to Wal­worth, South Lon­don, where he was head of English from 1956-58.

It was his ex­pe­ri­ence at Wal­worth, with its dock­ers’ com­mu­nity, that led him to en­cour­age pupils to use their own ex­pe­ri­ence to ex­press them­selves, as a ba­sis for broad­en­ing their knowl­edge and out­look.

He in­tro­duced them to mod­ern clas­sics rel­e­vant to their ex­pe­ri­ence, such as JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and William Gold­ing’s Lord of the Flies.

He then re­turned to the Uni­ver­sity of Lon­don Teach­ing In­sti­tute, where he had gained his qual­i­fi­ca­tion, and worked on ways to im­prove English teach­ing for chil­dren from cul­tur­ally poor back­grounds.

He co-wrote sev­eral in­flu­en­tial books for teach­ers, in­clud­ing one with his wife, The Lan­guage of Pri­mary School Chil­dren (1973).

He had a pos­i­tive ap­proach to lan­guage. When schools be­came mul­ti­lin­gual, with an in­flux of im­mi­grants, he saw the ba­bel of tongues as an op­por­tu­nity for en­rich­ment. But it was no ex­cuse for sloppy gram­mar or punc­tu­a­tion. The aim was clar­ity and flu­ency.

Re­tir­ing as emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor of English and me­dia stud­ies, he con­tin­ued his in­ter­est, pub­lish­ing Speak­ing from Mem­ory: The Study of Au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal Dis­course in 1998. He also kept up his youth­ful in­ter­est in sport, hav­ing been a stu­dent rugby player and track run­ner.

He is sur­vived by two sons, Brian and Michael, a poet; and his sec­ond wife, Betty, also an English teacher, and her fam­ily.

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