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Saturday, 17 November 2012

Falling stanards

This is recycled from another blog that is about to be withdrawn.  I thought I had already saved it to here, but apparently not.  I'm rather busy still, so here's some brain food.


Yes, I know, that's annoying when you see a typo like "stanards", but as we get older, we tend to fuss more about such things.  Rest assured: it was deliberate, a bit like running one's finger-nails down the blackboard (yes, I'm an old teacher, and I used to do that on hot Friday afternoons to get them (and me) awake).

I want to offer a set of newspaper clippings that I assembled, some little time ago.  I used to draft rude letters for an exalted personage, and we were always getting whinges about falling standards.

It occurred to me that I should employ a well-known quote, variously attributed to Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Cicero and others (if I had to choose one, my money would be on Cicero, but that's another story).  It goes like this, and the idea was to show that this particular line is ancient:

"The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect to their elders.... They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and are tyrants over their teachers."

"The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they alone knew everything and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for girls, they are forward, immodest and unwomanly in speech, behaviour and dress."

If you are ever tempted to quote the stuff above, please be aware that it is almost certainly bogus. What follows, though is the Real McCoy.
1.  At a recent examination . . . only 40 per cent of those who presented themselves secured a pass.  This is a truly deplorable reflection of the examination system, which after all these years, and at the expenditure of an enormous amount of public money, has thus shown itself totally incapable of teaching the simple requirements of reading, writing and arithmetic . . . If the instruction imparted at our schools is so lamentably defective that it merely turns out pupils so shamefully inefficient that they are unable to undertake even humble clerical duties, what in the name of goodness is it that the scholars do to learn to equip them for anything better? 
2.  Inspectors complain of the English which they do or do not find in the primary schools. Reading lacks fluency and expression; articulation is defective . . . Spelling has not reached a high standard . . . Grammar is the bugbear of most teachers and children . . . Even writing has not reached the satisfactory stage. "Back to the 3Rs" will be the necessary slogan if improvement does not soon show up. 
3.  Half the girls leaving school nowadays can't wash up the breakfast dishes, cook an egg, fry a chop, or wash their own stockings. But they can turn out coloured drawings that would make a cow bilious, and can do eurhythmic stunts like a professional dancer. But they can't do three messages without making a mistake in the change, while an attempt to peel a potato drives their parents to tears.
And the boys - they can't break up a fruit case for the copper fire, knock in a nail to hang up a cheap calendar, or be entrusted with two orders for the butcher. But they can talk wireless like a scientist, discuss psycho-analysis, and play handball 14 hours a day.
A lot of expensive faddism has crept into our education system, and the things that they will be called upon to do every day of their lives, they cannot do. 
4.  Can pupils who attend the primary and secondary schools of the State spell properly? Is sufficient time devoted to the subject, and are the methods employed effective?
Many people interested in the intellectual development of the rising generation maintain that, judging by the examples of spelling which come under their notice, the answers must be given in the negative. 
5.  After the introduction of a spelling list into primary schools, there was considerable informal discussion of the effect on the standards of spelling. As objective evidence of any change would be of value to the Curriculum Committee, the Director-General (on May 1 1951) approved an investigation to compare spelling standards with those of five and sixteen years earlier. To summarise the views expressed there was a general, but not a unanimous, feeling that a drop in standards had occurred which was especially evident as mis-spellings in written expression. 
Now here are the sources:

1:         Truth, 9 September 1915.
2:         Brisbane Daily Standard, 4 October 1917
3:         Truth, 24 December, 1924
4:         Telegraph, 27 August 1930
5:         Research and Curriculum Branch, Bulletin No. 6, 1952

But wait, there's more!

Here are some more comments on how society is going to bits, items that I dug out more recently. This time, the sources are supplied, with hot links to the originals.

This school makes steady and satisfactory progress. More attention - has been paid, during the last year to the lower standards. The arithmetic of the second and third standards is still deficient. Very few scholars provide their own books, using instead the free stock originally intended only for children receiving gratuitous instruction. 
The Western Australian Times Tuesday 27 August 1878 

The value placed on chastity has undergone a bewildering change in our time; and promiscuity and pre-marital experiences were regarded "tolerantly by an increasing number of young people," said Dr. Irene Sebire, Child Guidance Clinic director, at Blackfriars, Sydney, speaking at the summer school of the, Australian Institute of Political Science.
"The family to-day is passing through a crisis-which many feared it might not manage to survive," she said. 
The Canberra Times Tuesday 30 January 1951 

"I do not know whether something is wrong with our social standards, or whether it is because of defective education, but we cannot close our eyes to the fact that drink is, consumed in enormous quantities in excess of that required for refreshment." 
The Canberra Times Thursday 17 February 1927 

So next time a mate starts rabbiting on about the awful younger people, just remember that people once said the same about us!

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