Wednesday 19 October 2011

Winning Words

There are times when only a well-vented rant will do and other times when you want the pen-and-paper equivalent of a big, comfort-blanket hug. The penis mightier than the sword and all that (see what I did there?). A few clever words can win that argument, with no opportunity for a snappy verbal rejoinder to interrupt the flow of invective; the last word and all that. And there are occasions when you need to express deep joy or sorrow or loss or even hatred.

Language lets us do all that. A world of illiterates would be a depressing place to reside.

So why do I do a job where illiteracy is very much the order of the day? Sometimes that's just how the currency crumbles, I suppose.  But it does give me an unusually wide fish-eye perspective on the efficacy of education over the ages. My piscine view? It's rubbish. Rubbish because probably eighty percent of the people I train are semi-literate at best. Their reading muscles withered away to pale, flabby strips of vile tissue, flailing away ineffectually at any words of more than two syllables - and some with only one.

But it's not just the young 'uns, the ones raised on a diet of thumb-mangled txtspk and video-game-parenting, it's across the board. From twenty to sixty, blokes can't [don't] read, so I can't just blame trendy, lentil-sandalled, new-age teaching although, obviously, I do.

But I also blame the parents, which is why, in the United Dingdom, parenting will be largely reduced to drooling over your brood and making up fantasies to tell each other about three-year-old Jocasta's marvellous world view and five-year-old Thor's outstanding Bottom (Shakespearean reference, before I get complaints!). Meanwhile, whatever your circumstances, whoever you are, your kids will be taught to read. Properly. Sitting quietly in rows, facing forward, as nature intended.

If you can read, you can learn. If you can learn, you might just have a chance out there.

No need to thank me.

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