Thursday, August 07, 2008

Crap education

And here's yet more evidence of the efficacy of our glorious education system.
Many undergraduates misspell basic words such as "their", "speech" or even "Wednesday" in essays, it is claimed.

First year students are the worst offenders, despite already spending at least 13 years in the education system.

Dr Ken Smith, a senior lecturer in criminology at Bucks New University, said "atrocious" spelling was rife among new undergraduates, with many failing to apply basic rules, such as "i before e, except after c". The words "weird", "seize", "leisure" and "neighbour" are regularly misspelt by students, he said.

The comments come amid growing fears that many sixth-formers are leaving school lacking basic skills.

This is pretty fucking shoddy, right? Still, no doubt Dr Ken Smith will be attacked by John Bangs of the NUT who, if you remember, said...
Michael Gove really has to be careful not to denigrate the high quality of education in England's schools...

Yup, gotta love that high quality of education, eh? As Timmy says...
Pretty good result for that £90 grand odd spent on the little darlings over the years, innit?

My, the intense joys of the government provision of services.

Indeed. But then Dr Ken Smith irritates the crap out of me by proposing a silly solution.
Writing in Times Higher Education magazine, Dr Smith said mistakes were now so common that academics should simply accept them as "variants".

"Teaching a large first-year course at a British university, I am fed up with correcting my students' atrocious spelling," he said. "But why must we suffer? Instead of complaining about the state of the education system as we correct the same mistakes year after year, I've got a better idea. University teachers should simply accept as variant spelling those words our students most commonly misspell."

No. That is not the point of education, you nitwit. Look, the English language has evolved as it is in order to wring every nuance of meaning from the words that we have, even from the flexibility of grammatical and syntactical construction. If I may quote Timmy again (criticising the Spelling Society, which we have met before)...
Yes, Inglish Spolling is difficult, weird even, but it does allow us to be precise in our meanings.

Quite. I regard the English language as the finest on the planet because of its flexibility and subtlety, and English people should be able to write and speak their own language. And whilst university professors may regard "variants" as acceptable, many employers will not. And nor will I.

Our company is looking to recruit another designer, and I am in charge of that recruitment process: if I see "variants" on a curriculum vitae, that CV will go straight into the round file. The design market is pretty saturated with candidates: we don't need to hire people who cannot write their own language, no matter what their portfolio is like.

May I suggest an alternative approach for Dr Smith and his friends? That they remove a mark every time a word is misspelled and that they continue to remove marks, possibly on an escalating scale, until the student learns how to fucking spell?

Because, as we all know, incentives matter.

UPDATE: when criticising the Spelling Society, I pointed out that a Classical Education was A Good Thing.
Thus, the SS argue for a simplification of the language. But, on the flipside, I have not needed to spend my precious time expanding my vocabulary by rote, for my knowledge of Latin and Greek allow me to ascertain the likely meaning of complicated words without actually having to sit down and learn them. Hence, our spelling system has saved me time.

Thus, I believe that the fulfillment of the Spelling Society's aims would, in fact, directly lead to a debasement and contraction of the English language and thus conjure a far duller world described with a paucity of linguistic allure.

As such, I would like to thank the email correspondent who sent me a link to this entirely worthy Early Day Motion.
EDM 2016



Brake, Tom

That this House welcomes the initiative of the Iris Project, Latin in the Park, as an excellent opportunity for people from all backgrounds to learn Latin and about ancient culture free of charge in a friendly and relaxed setting; recognises that the project enables adults and families to explore various aspects of ancient culture, such as women in the ancient world, religion, the history of the Roman Republic and other subjects; further recognises that Latin may be viewed as an elite area of study discouraging wider participation; and draws attention to the fact that this initiative promotes access to the classics amongst all and any local communities.

It is indicative of the piss-poor educational attainment and Luddite qualities of our representatives that only 32 of the 646 have bothered to sign this EDM. To put this in perspective, 87 of these rancid, Philistine fuckwits signed the EDM praising Cuba and its evil, Communist rulers.


Letters From A Tory said...

I have a simple solution - why not penalise those who can't spell, use punctuation properly or construct a sentence by taking marks off?

Devil's Kitchen said...

I love it when people leave a comment showing that they haven't bothered to read to the end of the post.


Braeg Heneffe said...

What does everyone expect, we are becoming the United States of America, slowly but surely following suit...

Anonymous said...

Excellent post DK.

I won't pretend to be classically educated myself - god knows I must have thrown a plethora of spelling mistakes and dull grammar into my own blog (which I *will* get back to some day) - but I agree that spelling is important.

Your proposed solution is pretty much how my exams were marked at school. Dr. Ken Smith shouldn't be throwing in the towel. Nor should he be correcting simple spelling mistakes. He should simply mark down their papers accordingly.

My experience with my own kids is even more depressing

I'm told that in high school you can make up to 15 spelling and/or punctuation errors before losing a single mark in an exam. All in the name of grade inflation. This is political spin of the most reprehensible type. Screwing with the education of kids to score cheap political points.

Ultimately, everyone loses.


John B said...

"with many failing to apply basic rules, such as "i before e, except after c". The words "weird", "seize", "leisure" and "neighbour" are regularly misspelt by students, he said."

Sounds more like they're applying basic rules all too effectively...

Obnoxio The Clown said...

Writing in Times Higher Education magazine, Dr Smith said mistakes were now so common that academics should simply accept them as "variants".

What a cunt.

(@john b: LOL!)

Anonymous said...

Bad spelling really really gets my gander up, particularly when it completely alters the meaning of the sentence. The worst case is the interchanging of "loose" and "lose"; and the age old chestnut of "there", "their" and "they're".

It's just laziness on the part of teachers to regularly test spelling and make sure children spell correctly. My son had his first spelling test since leaving primary school recently and got 26 out of 80 wrong. Ms Bannister didn't half go mad at him.

FlipC said...

Ah John B you beat me to to it, the copy editors at the Telegraph doing their usual sterling work.

English spelling can be difficult, gauge and committee can still throw me for a loop; as can lose and loose and its and it's if I'm not paying attention. This is why we spend at least eleven years being educated.

Any essay I wrote with incorrect spelling would be marked in red with the correction and would form part of my vocab' homework. If such had been treated as "variants" and suffered no consequences how would anyone learn?

We would revert to the pre-17th Century where everyone wrote with their own preferred twist and it was the job of the reader to puzzle out what was meant.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that the spelling mistakes made by many of these students proves on ineluctable thing: they are not reading enough!

I went to a piss-poor state school where learning was actively discouraged in favour of regurgitating sociological theory. Who could forget the day we studied the history of the NHS only to be made to memorise a list of ethnic minority groups, their life expectancies and the illnesses most prevalent amongst them? This was in the name of understanding "health inequality".

I taught myself to write and to communicate effectively through reading books, first at school and later at university. If you have trouble spelling, read The Lord of the Rings a couple of times; read the Harry Potter books; reading fucking Kurt fucking Vonnegut. Problem solved.

If motherfuckers read enough well-written and competently-spelled literature, they will internalise the lessons therein and will become habituated to spelling correctly. This will make them some literate-ass motherfuckers, yo.

Patrick said...

What I cannot understand mind... Is what student at University these days is handwriting their essays.....

Don’t any of them use Microsoft word or the mac equivalent??...

How hard is it for them to correct those words underlined in RED??!!

Roger Thornhill said...

Self-loathing surrender monkey behaviour by an academic.

Hooda thunkened it?

Ben Holden said...

You're idea's on spelling are repugnant and ill thought out. Shakespeare among others will happily show you that heterogeneous spelling has no effect on the ability of a language to express itself. Quite the reverse in fact. This post is a simple case of your 'us and them mentality'. Which can be summed up thusly:

Every idea DK's ever had is the most logical, sensible one you could possibly have for these spurios reasons (insert confirmation bias here). Therefore, if you have not had, you are repugnant, beyond the pail, etc. etc.

Must try harder.

Anonymous said...

Maybe no one bothers with spelling at Uni because the end result of all this effort is pretty much worthless. Getting good marks for an essay or assignment would be fine if the degree offered a chance of a decent job.

But thanks to our masters of the socialist utopia, effort isn't rewarded. So why bovver?

Anonymous said...

Ben Holden demonstrates DK's point with his "spurios" "idea's".

Well done, Ben. Well done. You stupid lazy sub-literate cunt.

If you're a sloppy speller, you're likely to be a sloppy thinker. If you won't put the time into making your writing comprehensible and precise, I won't waste my time reading it.

Anonymous said...

"Therefore, if you have not had, you are repugnant, beyond the pail, etc. etc."

Pale, it's beyond the pale. Jesus!

Lost in Devon said...

Ben Holden:

Your spelling, grammar and punctuation are repugnant and ill-thought out.

Or was it subtle irony? It's so hard to tell these days if someone is being deliberately obtuse or just a fucking idiot.

Patrick said...

It's nice to see everyone spelling well on this post... :-)

Anonymous said...


julymorning said...

May I suggest an alternative approach for Dr Smith and his friends? That they remove a mark every time a word is mispelled and that they continue to remove marks, possibly on an escalating scale, until the student learns how to fucking spell?

-1, DK.

Or was that an ironic misspelling?

Or is it just me, and the words mispell and misspell are becoming equally bizarre the longer I look at them?

LemmingsRUs said...

Good post DK.
I thought the clue lay in the word NEW, however, the Strategic Aims of BNU include:To maintain high academic standards and to enhance students’ achievement.
Perhaps time for the vice-chancellor to have a word with Dr Smith?

Anonymous said...

Surely it's not so much spelling but the RANGE of vocabulary that gives such immense scope to the English language ?

Look at "Train Spotting" - only 80% of the text conforms to any semblence of formal English but this must rank as one of the most enthralling novels written in the last 25 years.......ken ?

John A said...

Drat, John B spotted that all the words used to show bad spelling in the same para as the "i before e except[ing] after c" rule violate said rule.

But I suppose it could be said that today's students are reviving the spelling habits of their pre-dictionary forebears: did not Shakespeare sign his own name at least three different ways?

FlipC said...

@Patrick - Te difficult of tipping ever ting wit Word in turns of spilling is hat tit don’t under stand what you is trying to see.

@Anonymous - I think there were studies done that showed a link between English skills and the number of books available in the home. I have to agree reading is key to both correct spelling and vocabulary building.

@John A - "did not Shakespeare sign his own name at least three different ways?"

Indeed though he was very, very drunk at the time ;-)

Anonymous said...

Yabbut, yabbut, DK. It's so easy for you to piss down from a great height on the illiterate. You are, after all, the only British blogger I've found who can be relied on to wield a semi-colon correctly. :-)

Anonymous said...

Childish but amusing. Not Spam DK.

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

Anonymous said...

It's time for an English spelling reform!

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