Saturday, 14 August 2010


Firefox Tip

Don’t get bogged down worrying about your spelling— Firefox’s built-in spellchecker will do it for you.

 The above is from a Googlecreep in my e-mail.  Yeah, fuck that learning to spell shit; next thing, you'll all be wanting to think for yourselves, unGoogle thoughts. Fucking bastards, worse than fucking lawyers, this gang. Not sure what "do it for you" means, getting bogged down or worrying about your spelling, maybe it means that Google will do your spelling for you, although  that isn't what it says. Whatever.

It's a good job that Dennis the Cruel Pedant fell the fuck out of his Belltower and didn't live to see this ruinous impertinence.

Where's that worthless, gobby prick, Spit-Gove, when you need someone to defend standards? He'll be off fellating Money, somewhere, on some country estate, like a good cabinet minister does at week-ends.


PT Barnum said...

Such an unpleasantly elitist obsession, spelling, innit? Long az u cn mak urself unnerstood wots it matta? Agh! The language of the King James Bible, Shakespeare, Marvell, Pope and Swift, ritually disemboweled by those who do not comprehend its history, nuance and subtle evocations... Tis no accident that Microsoft Word offers to correct your grammar for you, declaring that the passive voice is baaaaaaaaad (but not in the sense of good) and screeching like a Victorian lady at the sight of the subjunctive. If you can only say things in the present tense and in words of childish simplicity, that is all the depth of meaning you will ever be able to convey. Thoughtcrime will be stopped because there will be no thought.

call me ishmael said...

How does it work in education, mr ptb? Surely those who rely on spell-checking for course work must fail when they sit invigilated excams, or am I being impossibly hopeful? All shall have prizes?

PT Barnum said...

In the UK universities, a protracted wrangle occurred over the last decade or so between those who wished to 'maintain standards' and those who wished to 'move with the times' and side with ill-equipped students. A broad brush summary of the position now would go thus.

Spell checkers are recommended (since word processed written work is preferred as it can be automatically run through plagiarism software). Poor or no use of the spell checker may be penalised if it is declared in the written assessment criteria.

Exams, which are making a slow return to stem the tide of plagiarism, are subject to the same explicit assessment criteria. If it does not say the work will be marked down for poor spelling, one may not mark down the work for abysmal spelling. The student must be fully informed or is in a position to sue.

The escape hatch that is supplied with astonishing frequency is a diagnosis of a reading disability (dyslexia or its kin) in which case no penalties may be applied for poor spelling. I could spot a genuine dyslexic on the basis of one page of written work - the thinking would be outstanding and quirky, the writing would be that of a vodka-dazed 6 year old. But once the label had been applied, one's hands were tied as regards correcting or penalising poor spelling and grammar.

The confluence of substandard schools and a litigious zeitgeist have created a pretty toxic soup for HE. Students openly resent being corrected and being required to be accurate. Thankfully, the gloves come off at postgrad level and competence and accuracy are the minimum requirements.

I still read a lot of undergrad work since these days I am a hired assassin to deal with plagiarists by providing proof of their malfeasance. Grocers' apostrophes and such felicities as 'he should of' are to be found even in the work of final year students. Three years in HE seems inadequate to undo the damage done between 5 and 18 by schoolteachers, not to their intelligence or abilities, but to their mindset.

Anonymous said...

Wot's rong wiv American English?

call me ishmael said...

Thanks, mr ptb, although I lampoon it endlessly, I hadn't quite realised the extent of the national ignorance or that it was reinforced so strenuously by the very institutions set to its remedy; there is no way back from here, is there, from the universities colluding in stupidity?

mongoose said...

It is all sadly so true. My lot are bright kids and will, I am sure, be fine but the standards required of them are horribly low. Their teachers think that I am some dinosaur wittering on about handwriting, spelling and presentation.

My lad is thirteen and his history homework once last term was to draw a shield and stick some heraldic bits and bobs on it. He scrawled a rough shield shape, a diagonal band, a diamond and some sort of griffin/dragon and that was that. Two minutes, zero interest or learning. End. Thirteen? That was homework for a six-year-old wasn't it? How am I supposed to get the lad engaged in that drivel?

This is why, Mr Ishmael, they have to be escorted around the various castles and cathedrals of the land. Somebody has to educate them. Somebody has to provoke inquiry. God help us all if the universities have let go of the rope too.

call me ishmael said...

I wasn't, previously, rebuking you, mr m, for the excursions, merely remarking on, I suppose, that so many would prefer the thrills and spills and wacky rides of Alton Towers to the potentially as exciting story of Murder In The Cathedral. Ms agatha's New Model Middle Class is tough to pin-down on culture and history, bless, even though, down the PizzaHut, they are busy, beside themselves, lovintheirkidstobits.

PT Barnum said...

Mr mongoose is making a sound point - the students are not more stupid, or even less interested, but they are made so by the compulsory 'education' they receive which reduces so many of them to asking 'Do I need to know this for the exam?'If the answer is No, but it's interesting stuff anyway, they shrug and turn their brains off. Education to this group means 'what is necessary to pass the assessment'. Universities have been reduced by the previous governing parties to regarding students as 'customers', a concept which sits badly with challenging them and requiring them to try harder. Academic staff are constantly fighting the strictures handed down by Management whose greatest fear is a failing student (bad for recruitment and PR).

The quality of those who become teachers is the source of much of the shoddy learning handed out to 13 year olds. They may have scaled the dizzy heights of a 2:1, but more likely a 2:2, but they are adequate, no more than that. And the university sector reaps what the schools sow, with assistance from Management School graduates and their buzz words.

mongoose said...

I took no offence, Mr Ishmael, and indeed we do the thrills and spills of Legoland and its like too. There are however no thrills and spills more engaging than "Three Queens of England have lost their heads and all of them did it right there at that spot at your feet this very minute, Urchins." All three of them looked open mouthed at the ground. There's living history for you. Well, dying history, I guess.

I am not sure about the teachers, Mr PTB, although I bow to your superior expertise. I am not sure whether it is about their actual level of brightness or attainment. I think that the whole system of mediocrity - prizes for all, as Mr I says - is what is to blame. Nobody is trying to nurture them to get the best out of them - all of them, not just the bright ones, all of them. I thought that that was what teaching was all about. Instead, the bright ones surf through it all effortlessly but bored. The slow ones are excused even the most meagre targets of attainment and given disability badges in preparation for later life and the morass in the middle does as best it can. It is quite shameful, a ruinous waste of our kids' potential. We should hang our heads that we have let the fuckers get away with it.

call me ishmael said...

Mrs Dame Shirley WIlliams, proud midwife to Thatcherism - how she must be wetting herself in delight at the so-called Coalition - was on the parliament channel, yesterday, a lecture, it was called, memorialising the late LibDemmy bathtub admiral or armchair general and a friend of Shirl's, Tim Garden, she couldn't frame a sentence, either.

Difficult not to appear snobbish about this, especially as a beneficiary of gifted and committed primary school teachers and a (less than happy) grammar school education but every day one can read editorials in the so-called quality newspapers and any number of official and government documents which actually don't make any sense - it is only by a kind of collective KnowWhatYouMean (or maybe an IDon'tCareWhatYouMean) that one can divine any meaning at all, a process of sub-editing the sub-editors and as for the BBC, don't start me talking.

I am with Mr ptb, part of the way, on the abilities of teachers and I blame, in part, the development of the Teacher Training Colleges but it's more than that. Since the early seventies, I guess, young, inexperienced teachers have been expected to confront and control and social-work seriously disturbed children without having been trained for that role, without resources and often at the cost of physical or mental injury to themselves.

The governing caste, their spawn at Eton or some such, have consistently failed to recognise the result of their actions - be it the planning failures of the sixties and seventies and the relocation of communities to open prisons in the skies; be it the half-baked economies of scale nonsense of Comprehensive education; be it Jack Torture's proud boast that he led the erosion of deference - good manners, and the consequent violent tumult; be it the fatuous, soon-to-be-resurrected wickedness of Unemployment being a price worth paying or be it just the blithe, cheery, utter amorality of prime ministers, pop stars, sportsmen, the heir to the throne and the transparent rottenness of clergy, cops and cabinet ministers alike, the shithole that these fuckers have made of our country has turned the schools, often, into killing fields. Go into teaching? You must be fucking joking.

mongoose said...

And that, incidentally, is what is wrong with the fucking stupid idea of a graduate tax. A graduate works as a school teacher and pays higher tax? What sort of arsehole thinks these things up? A graduate working as a schoolteacher should pay a lower tax if anything. Socially-valuable - I'll let you define it, Mr I - careers should be taxed at a lower level the better to encourage the best to take the work. Better still leave taxation alone and save a few billion by not slaughtering the citizens of the Third World.

call me ishmael said...

We could, also, to offset the stress and strain of being harangued and abused by horrid little psychobastards and their psychobastard parents, give them the same sort of holidays as MPs enjoy, and a good, safe pension scheme, except that that would enrage the ex-patriot community at the Filth-O-Graph, which believes that public service is another word/s for totalitarianism and have been forced to go and live in Benidorm, with the bank robbers. Salt of the Earth.

PT Barnum said...

Reading back what I wrote earlier, on the calibre of teachers, I was both too harsh and too incoherent (blame the background howl of family living) in my apportioning of blame. It has become a vicious circle, where ill-educated teachers teach the next generation of ill-educated teachers in a system which prefers conformity of thought and pedagogy over genuine education, measurable results to producing thinking, analytical, questioning minds.

I remember, when confronted by those wretched module outline documents which were designed to describe everything that would happen in a classroom before anything had happened, I wrote in the box for 'Learning Objectives': 'To teach students to think for themselves' and in the box for 'Learning Outcomes': 'Students will learn to think for themselves'. My forms were returned to me as being 'inconsistent with the institution's mission statement' and for failing to have at least four outcomes and four objectives. So I sent them back with the same sentences typed four times. (Can you tell my days in HE were numbered?) There ensued a to-ing and fro-ing of these forms for three months, until such time as they had to be approved by the external examiner. My Head of Department wrote 'appropriate' things in the boxes on my behalf (without consultation) and I taught the modules wholly disregarding the outcomes and objectives. Some students complained. They didn't know what they were supposed to learn because the module document said things I didn't. My teaching was peer-reviewed and my colleagues sat open-mouthed in the midst of debate, banter, laughter and ideas being developed which was normal business in my classroom. A hollow victory, it felt at the time, since I was marked forever as a trouble-maker by Management.

Sorry to go on at such length, but all this was the reality I lived for 20 years, watching true education being devoured by targets and outcomes and form-filling.

mongoose said...

Fuck 'em, Mr PTB.

There is a teacher at my kids' primary school. She takes no notice of all the forms and targets and little enough of the stuff she is supposed to teach. She just fastens on to each kid and engages them in the best ways she can. The Head Teacher understands all this and just accepts it because "X may not get the numbers but she instills a love of learning." Now there is something for the lady's headstone.

call me ishmael said...

It is a nice story, mr ptb, debate, banter, laughter and ideas,

The tension between manager and practitioner is probably inevitable, given the careerism of the one and the real expertise of the other; it takes a rare manager to get it right, make it productive for all concerned, needs a Zen Master, really, or a teacher-warrior. And which of them could stand against the omnipresent, smiling whisper of Google, making things easy?