Tom Stoppard fears for the 'loss' of the printed page

Image caption, Sir Tom said good knowledge of English and the humanities was vital

Playwright Sir Tom Stoppard has spoken of his fear that the "printed page" is being lost in a "world of technology".

Sir Tom said reading and literature must not be "swept away" by new technologies that are commanding more of children's time.

He also expressed concern that English and the humanities were being sidelined in children's education.

He said: "I am aware, as everybody has to be, that there's more competition for one's attention nowadays.

"The printed word is no longer as in demand as when I was of the age of pupils or even at the age of the teachers teaching them.

"We live in a world of technology," he said, with "the moving image" taking precedence in many children's lives over "the printed page".

Speaking as he prepares to address the Prince's Teaching Institute summer school next week, Sir Tom said his sons and grandchildren all knew new things he was unaware of due to technology, and he was not making a case for "good and bad".

"I just don't want the printed page to get swept away by that."


Sir Tom suggested that English and the humanities had been affected by a drive to put science-based subjects first.

"There was a period, when I was 30 or 40, when science teaching was felt to have lagged and felt to be the area which would improve everybody's life, and I'm sure that that was the case and that was the right moment for that."

But he added: "Since then we have been more and more worried about the humanities being neglected and at the level of higher education that is a cause of enormous concern."

Sir Tom said today's children had access to a better curriculum than ever before, covering young authors and playwrights.

He said he wanted to support teachers, and for them to know that there were many people who felt they were doing "something absolutely vital".

"I want to support the whole idea of the humanities and teaching the humanities as being something that even if it can't be quantitatively measured as other subjects it's as fundamental to all education," he said.

A good knowledge of English and the humanities was vital to living a fulfilled life, he added.

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