Friday 22 August 2014

Fitter for Purpose?

Language is so important, don’t you think? And in so many ways. So, with the GCSE results announced yesterday there has been some full and forceful language directed toward the powers that be regarding, appropriately enough, the English results. It seems that some sniffy headmistresses are a tad vexed at slipping a couple of percentage points backwards in their pass rates… thus proving that numeracy is just as big a problem as ever. But that doesn’t count…

Anyway, given that human evolution doesn’t measurably occur over successive academic years, it is all, um… academic. One thing is for sure though, while grades have been getting generally higher, the ability to use the language effectively has been inexorably slipping towards slack-jawed, cud-chewing ineptitude. If one more acne-poxed, under-achiever calls me ‘mate’ he’d better stand by for a string of invective so long and polysyllabic he could spend the rest of his days with a thesaurus and still never get close to understanding just how pissed off that makes me.

Still it’s wrong, as they say, to mock the afflicted, which brings me to today’s subject. Dyslexia. Never imagined in my youth yet now afflicting – if you believe the scramble to appoint classroom assistants as lackeys for lazy little bastards – close to 100% of all school pupils. Something smells fishy… and that reminds me of a recent incident at work.

As some of you will know, I teach electricians to do the clever stuff you’d expect electricians to be capable of doing. Next week, for instance it’s fault finding and reporting, for which it is understandable that a reasonable grasp of the English language and its deployment in writing is a prerequisite. Not so, it transpires in the plumbing trade; it is a widely held belief in the electrical game that ‘if you can piss, you can plumb’, a harsh but often demonstrably fair assessment if the general standard of British household plumbing is take into consideration.

But surely the gas fitter – a plumber with a licence not to kill – should be a different breed; You’d hope so, wouldn’t you? In an act of public-spirited investigative enquiry I decided to see for myself, so I approached Gerry, the gas trainer and put to him the question of whether or not the average fitter needed a clear and unambiguous command of the Queen’s English and whether dyslexia would be a definite bar to enrolment. He laughed out loud and bade me follow him towards a fitting bay where we eavesdropped on the conversation between two perplexed would-be 'gasseurs'.

It's a gas!

Gerry put a finger up to his pursed lips and indicated that we should listen from outside the booth. In the background a faint hiss could be heard as the two trainees began their appraisal of the situation. “Can you smell gas?” asked the first to his colleague. The other looked at him a moment, screwed up his countenance and replied, “Are you taking the piss? Mate, I can’t even smell me own name!” 

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