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.