Sunday, 3 November 2019
I have been struck over the last week with how an inability to express oneself can hamper you, not only in the pursuit of higher ambition, but in ordinary, everyday life. Some - many, perhaps - are content to exist in a state of ignorant bliss, but plenty are frustrated when they know what they want to say but are not equipped with a suitable armoury of literary sidearms with which to engage the enemy. Literacy is truly the cornerstone of personal development.
My trainee electrician candidates have just taken a relatively simple examination. Some questions are numbers related, which is disadvantageous enough for anybody blighted by a standard British state education, but the majority require candidates to explain principles which, for some, presents a near-insurmountable obstacle. I find that students for whom English is a second language manage where the British born struggle. How did we get to such a parlous, precarious state?
The where-we’re-were and their-there-they’re conundrum is just the tip of an iceberg of incompetence where[were?] the correct form is the exception rather than the rule. Punctuation is either non-existent or entirely random, following generations of teaching that spelling, punctuation and grammar can be brushed aside because the context will yield comprehension. But what can you make of the following, where the question asks “Explain how the split-phase effect is achieved in an induction start single-phase motor”?
“The induction start single phase motor uses an induction affect[sic] to course[sic] a split phase effect when starting in a single phase motor starting to make the make[sic] the split phase motor run as an induction motor when it starts in star but uses the split to make induction turn the motor when it starts”
It goes on, but at no point does it begin to answer the question and it is not entirely clear that the writer realises this. Maybe it’s a bluff in the hope that a marker will see some key words and award some credit, but it is sadly not atypical. But why is it happening at all? It cannot be that, as a former leading world nation, we are unable to educate our young sufficiently to be capable of understanding the issues and making valuable contributions to our society beyond being grunt economic units.
It give credence to theories that it is deliberate – keep them dumb, stunt their ability to question and reason so they accept whatever bullshit they are fed. And if they ever try to be heard, render their arguments unintelligible. Then flood the country with under-paid foreign labour and call the locals racist if they object. Hammer home the message that it is we, the inbred itinerants who are the problem, even when it is clear we are not. When some try to rebel, say that ‘populism’ (democracy) is the same as Nazism, that the UK looks like 1930s Germany, that we are fomenting civil war…
But what of those who are educated and who have made successful careers for themselves; those who are beyond the influence of shameful labels? How do you render their voices impotent? Easy; frame success as unfairness. Label as millionaires those who have worked all their lives and spent their money wisely. Claim they conspire to back the forces of capitalism, which seeks to grind the poor into ever finer dust. Did anybody mention Corbyn?
In the war of words, you first have to disarm your enemy. Hell, it’s even more effective if you also disarm your own side. Then you can mobilise mobs of chanting goons who will endlessly repeat meaningless slogans, no matter how ridiculous they sound. And those who oppose you will be reduced to slinging back equally ill-founded arguments whose barbs will not stick to the tough hides of your illiterate army. And this is what passes for political debate these days? There are no words.