What hope is there for the coming generation when the
teachers of the present one are losing their marbles?
A Member of Parliament is calling for a debate about
school policies regarding – of all things – spelling. His concern follows a complaint from a
constituent that spelling corrections to her children’s essays are restricted by
edict to three per piece, any more than that number being regarded by the
school faculty as potentially de-motivating.
We know that the world beyond school is mad – and
possibly getting worse – but places of learning are supposed to offer hope for
a better future through knowledge. But
that’s a wider topic.
The foregoing story reminds me of an experience I had
years ago when seeking a school place for my daughter – in the United States,
as it happens. The school that we were
considering invited my wife and me to tour the facilities, accompanied by the
English teacher. At one point I stopped
to read some essays that had been posted on the wall of a seventh grade classroom.
“Fine work, don’t you think?” said the teacher,
beaming proudly as I read them.
“Very interesting,” I responded, adding – fatally, as
it turned out – “The spelling needs a little work.”
The afterthought was an understatement. The spelling was atrocious, infantile. The response was unexpected.
“At Greenwich Country Day (the school in question,
George Bush Sr.’s alma mater, incidentally) we like to emphasize the expression
of ideas. That’s what’s important. The spelling we consider secondary.”
“But surely,” I countered, “bad spelling distracts
from the idea.”
“I don’t agree,” she said huffily, to which, in the
interests of harmony, I did not respond.
And that, as far as our classroom tour went, was
that. That was also that as far as our
daughter attending GCD went. A few days
later I received a rather haughty letter from the principal informing me that,
while my daughter was an eminently suitable candidate for a school place, her
father was “unlikely to be supportive of the curriculum”. Application rejected.
The conclusion of this piece is that fuzzy thinking in
the teaching profession is neither new, nor unique to Britain.
The message we should send is clear: “We mussed stik up for ower kidds at skool
befour thinks gets enny werse.”