Monday 16 June 2014

Textually Explicit

On Radio 4’s Today programme the other day was a textbook example of the sort of misleading claptrap promulgated by that eccentric breed of outsiders, The Expert. On a depressingly regular basis, experts tell us that what we have known for years is wrong. Gravity is a push, not a pull, the sun rises at night and sets in the morning and drinking thirty cups of strong sugary coffee every day before breakfast will vastly reduce the incidence of dementia… mostly because it will likely kill you before senility has a chance.

It has become fashionable to produce expensively funded ‘studies’ and ‘research’ which reveal that the counter-intuitive conclusion is now always the correct one. Thus enforced multiculturalism, far from being a recipe for strife, can only ever be a force for good and if it isn’t working in your part of the country that is only because you haven’t yet had enough multiculturalism. And dear old Tony Blair, as we are discovering, is rapidly demonstrating his true expertise as he seeks to put his theories about harmony in the Middle East into practice by assisting in the genocide peace process.

But sod the warring factions of a sunni disposition, we have a far graver ‘expert’ crisis on our own doorstep, nay inside our very homes, for ‘research has shown’ that texting may actually improve children’s spelling and grammar. Yes, you read that crekly: Txtspk, fr frm being a modern scRg is 2 B encRged… also leaving out punctuation and capitals can be shown to contribute to the positive development of childrens spelling and grammar skills according to the study by coventry university and the university of tasmania of course not everybody will be happy with the findings because of how very annoying it is especially when you have to wade through whole swathes of dense unpunctuated type several times like this here in order to discern the meaning i find it exhausting even typing without using punctuation and if i had to read everything in text speak i think I would have to resort to a killing spree…

What utter, unadulterated claptrap. This displays not only a total ignorance of cognitive and linguistic development and the difference between cause and correlation, it also show the naïveté of asking children – or psychologists as they like to call themselves - to comment on childhood phenomena. There may be a dozen things going on here, but proof that lazy spelling and no-existent grammar engenders better performance later in life is simply not one of them.

This is simply self-justifying tosh; the same sort of enquiry into developmental psychology that brought about the disastrous and destructive decades of child-centred learning and the notion that the kiddie-winks would become Nobel Prize winning physicists if only the teachers would become mere facilitators and leave them to get on with it. The kind of thinking that led to the ‘all must have prizes’ school of non-competition that causes many British kids to become unemployable after thirteen years of full-time education.

The Intertext - Answers on a postcard...

But hey, maybe I’m being too judgemental and reactionary here. Maybe I should lighten up, take a progressive view and get with the programme. After all, there may be funding available. Coming up: my research into how sitting on your big fat arse every day will help you live longer more fulfilling lives and how you are statistically more likely to win the lottery if you never buy a ticket. Ground-breaking research? Bollocks, more like.

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