In which The Author reads a worrying
report in a newspaper
Under-fives struggle with writing – report
One in seven children are unable to write their own name or recite the letters of the alphabet by the age of five, according to government figures. The results, based on teachers’ observations of more than 500,000 children throughout England as they start their formal schooling, also concluded that a third failed to recognise simple words such as ‘dog’ or ‘pen’, while 15% could not write ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ or their own name from memory.
Lee Glendinning, The Guardian, 12 October 2007
That’s scary enough, isn’t it?
It’s worse when you consider that a large proportion of those children will never grasp the basics of written English – not even after they’ve left school with 11 A* GCSEs and five A levels at Grade A.
A substantial number of them will end up at university. A percentage of those will end up imparting their half-learned ‘knowledge’ to future generations, after finding their way to a PGCE course and ending up in front of a classroom full of kids.
At present in work we’re dealing with the new intake of students to what is laughingly described as ‘Higher Education’ or ‘Further Education.’ A substantial number who come to us every year with mis-spelt reading lists, or who can’t even grasp the concept of a bibliography.
‘The author is Evans, John,’ they quote slavishly from their precious pieces of paper. They don’t even possess the imagination or initiative to turn it around and say ‘John Evans’. (Or even this: ‘I need The Mayor of Casterbridge by Hardy, T.’ – presumably the same Hardy, T. who’s listed in the phone book, living in Bridgend!)
Grasping the concept that books may actually be shelved in alphabetical order poses much the same intellectual challenge for these students as understanding that the Earth orbits the Sun did for Renaissance Europeans.
‘Where’s your ‘Quantitative Methods’ section?’ one student asked me yesterday. I think she was stunned to learn that it doesn’t exist. There were one or two books on the subject, among all the other Business Studies shit. What was she expecting: a whole bay labelled Quantitative Methods?
And explaining that a recommended textbook might not actually be available is equivalent to explaining Quantum Mechanics to a six-year-old child. It simply doesn’t register in their tiny minds. It’s beyond them.
Read Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut Jr – his first novel – for a frightening look at what our future will be like, now that our education system has been totally dumbed-down.
(Of course it’s back in print. I wouldn’t tell you to buy an out of print book, would I? What do you think I am – a fucking lecturer?)