Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sentimental Ostriches

There is a pernicious body of opinion gaining ground among those that care that the solution to our supposed demise in teenage civility, in the form of yobs, chavs, and ASBO-culture, would be a return to the Good Old Days of the fifties, before wishy-washy lefty liberals were allowes to crawl all over our education system

A recent report from the Institute for Public Policy Research suggests that a return to the "house system" in state schools would help combat alienation of youth. The IPPR also suggests that paramilitary organisations like the scouts should be encouraged.

There's a head teacher campaigning for the re-introduction of the fountain pen as the usual means of writing in schools as a means of improving literacy.

Naturally I disagree with this sort of sentimentalism. As to the fountain pen initiative, I'm sure the head in question had the best of motives, but are we really so ridiculously up ourselves that we can't realise that literacy has a lot more to do with how students are taught, rather than what they are taught to write with?

As to the IPPR report - I find it depressing that researchers can so readily accept that A: education was better in the 1950s and B: encouraging vague sentimentalism will not lead to confusion over the key issue of education.

A cursory glance of this weblog will show you that my standards of literacy are not top-notch, but I doubt that being able to write pretty, copperplate, longhand will improve my typing skillz. One of the major means of mass-communication that students will have to deal with as adults will be that of email and - as anyone who uses both keyboards and pens - I can tell you that the two are so different that it makes little difference what you learn to write in longhand script, you will still cut corners and use txt and other wonderful embellishments to the written language.

Besides, one of the funniest books I've ever read was Molesworth by Geoffrey Williams. It satirises the prose of a fifties schoolboy, complete with divine illustrations by the great Ronald Searle. Anyway, it just goes to show that every generation decries the state of the preceding generation.

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