Dumbing Down, pt 1: “English Too Hard for Children”

I had to double check both date (not 1 April) and website (the Observer, lord help us, not The Onion) before suspending my incredulity at the headline: “English is too hard to read for children.”

This is according to former teacher and would-be-linguistic-avenger Masha Bell who contends an “absolutely, unspeakably awful spelling system” is the reason British schoolchildren underachieve at reading.

But of course… it’s the spelling. Not the fact the average British child watches TV for more than five hours per day. Or that kids are bombarded with digital entertainment in the form of PlayStations, X-Boxes, iPods, mobile phones, PCs and personal TVs (four in five kids have one in their bedroom, apparently) almost as soon as they can walk. Or that reading outside of school is a rarity.

Would it be curmudgeonly of me to suggest the solution is to make kids work harder, not to make English “easier”? Should we seriously consider massacring the language of Shakespeare, Blake, Yeats, Whitman, Wilde, et al so Britain’s spoiled brats can watch C4 in peace? God forbid little Johnny or Sally be asked to put down the Wii for an hour or two and read a book.

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4 thoughts on “Dumbing Down, pt 1: “English Too Hard for Children”

  1. Yes, let’s just put everythg in txt spk so we cn mk it esr for kids to ndrstand. Wldnt wont them to hav any real wk to do innit.

  2. Pingback: Dumbing Down, pt 2: Love Letters « irresponsibility

  3. In order to protect the pinnacles our civilization against the rising tide of the thick, the lazy, the ignorant and the dyslexic we need to make spellings harder & more arbitrary. The superior person knows well enough that a difficult spelling system is the best way to keep oiks out. We had this problem in the 18th century with the rise of those dreadful, superficial and inferior novels. Now, like our forebears, we have to return to the barricades.

    So can we please agree to introduce more arbitrary silent letters into common words like “bed” and “breakfast”? Or, and this is perhaps more realistic, we could just learn to spell like Shakespeare [or was that Shakspear?] and have that as our standard. Let’s bring back “thee”, “thou” and “hath” in the written form. We bang on about the language of the Bard but how often do we actually use it?

    While we are about it we could usefully return to Roman numerals and teach our kids to do long division in that. And then we can reintroduce LSD [pounds, shillings and pence]. This will separate the sheep from the goats but we will have to introduce a law, and have a militia to enforce it: kids caught watching TV or writing texts or blogs on the Net will have to be sent to book-camp where real values can be hammered into them.

    Only by us shaming children and the State’s use of force on them to get compliance will we be able to stem this surge of effluent.

  4. Pingback: Dumbing Down pt 3: Why Language Matters « Irresponsibility

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