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Harold and Connie Rosen

Born in Brockton, Massachusetts to Jewish parents on June 25 1919. At the age of two, he came to the East End of London with his mother and siblings. His mother returned to her parents’ house just behind the Royal London Hospital. She was an active Communist, joining the  British Party as soon as she arrived back, having left the US after her marriage failed. Harold’s father was a union organiser in America for the boot and shoe workers.

Both Harold and Connie were brought up in the East End of London. Connie’s family originated in Poland and Romania (her mother’s side, possibly intermarrying with Gypsies). Her father worked as a factory worker in a schoolboys’ cap-making factory. Her mother tried to run a hat shop in Globe Road, off the Roman Road, but it failed. Harold’s grandfather’s family had emigrated from Bialystock to London where his parents met, before moving to America.

In 1935, Harold joined the Young Communist League, where he met Connie Isakofsky; their marriage lasting until her death in 1976; he remarried two years later. In 1936, they took part in the battle of Cable Street. In 1937, he went to study English at University College London. After graduating in 1940, he took short-term teaching jobs in England. Officially an American citizen, he was called up into the US army in 1945. He served in the Education Corps for two years, with the rank of captain, working in Frankfurt and Berlin. Connie Rosen was a secretary at the ‘Daily Worker’ and then worked at the Kodak factory. Their son, Michael Rosen, the children’s novelist and poet, was born in 1946.

The Rosen had three sons, the oldest, Brian Roy, was born in 1942 and became a research scientist in geology and biology at the Natural History Museum in London.  Another son, Alan, sadly died as a baby, whilst the third, Michael, appeared in 1946 and would later become a children’s novelist and poet. 

Returning to civilian life in 1947, Harold Rosen took a teaching qualification at the University of London Institute of Education, and began his teaching career proper in schools in Leicestershire and Middlesex, where he worked at Harrow Weald grammar. However, his career was impeded by the blacklisting of Communists practised by his local authority. When the London County Council made a move towards comprehensive education, he went to Walworth, as head of English. He was a founder member in 1947 of the London Association for the Teaching of English (Late), the first local organisation dedicated to the improvement of English teaching by practitioners and the spur for the establishment of the National Association for the Teaching of English.

When he left Walworth, Rosen began a long career in teacher education, first at Borough Road Teacher Training College in Isleworth, Middlesex, and then in the English department of the London Institute of Education. There he developed a formidable reputation as a collaboratist education theorist.

Harold Rosen left the Communist Party in 1957, but he remained a strong socialist until his death on July 31 2008.

Sources: Guardian 4 August 2008; http://www.rimbaud.org.uk/q-rosen.htm