Johnny can’t read – or think

Picture: Bill Leak.

When I studied journalism, I was often shocked by the other students’ spelling and grammar. After all, not only were these mostly people who had just completed 12 years of schooling, but they self-evidently aspired to a career as writers. To be sure, no one would expect them, as first-year students, to be accomplished wordsmiths, just as no one would expect an apprentice builder to knock up a house frame on their first day. But you’d at least hope that the apprentice knew a hammer from a saw. Quote:

I am a law professor at the University of Queensland, a G8 university and one of Australia’s elite handful of universities. My law school takes under 300 students a year and it’s uncontroversial to say that these would-be uni attenders comprise amongst the very best and highest achieving high school students in the entire state of Queensland…student for student we are as elite as you get.

So why is it that my students, to a person extremely bright, have almost zero grammar skills? And don’t think that’s some sort of rhetorical question. I mean it literally. If Queensland is anything to go by, the English writing skills and grammar knowledge of Australia’s high school students are woeful. End of quote.

A writer who often judged amateur writing competitions once remarked that he was tempted to simply award the prize to any entry which correctly used the possessive of “it”. Quote:

Take something basic like the possessive. Very few of the students I teach have any solid understanding of this. Most just omit the possessive apostrophe always and everywhere. Some use it, true, but wrongly. The plural possessive is understood little better than Latin. And a few make you laugh out loud by doing such things as putting the apostrophe after ‘its’ – a sign that they have some vague idea of the occasional need for a possessive apostrophe but no clue when and where that might be. End of quote.

The problem is not that these kids are stupid, but that they just haven’t been taught the basics. Quote:

None of this is difficult of course. But you need to be taught it. You can’t pick it up by osmosis. Four plus decades ago in my little Toronto state primary school (which was nothing special) we knew all of this by about grade 5 or 6. Everyone in the class knew it. Yep, it was boring as all get out to learn, but boy was it a wonderful life skill.

Alas, the vast preponderance of the elite students I see have clearly never been taught any of this. Their knowledge of pronouns doesn’t appear to extend beyond the vague idea that they can pick the one with which they wish to identify. But as for what a pronoun is in any grammatical sense, well, forget about it. End of quote.

An old friend of mine was an Indian immigrant. Back home, he had been an English teacher. To qualify, he had to intimately know at least three Shakespeare plays and one of them word-for-word. Alas, such expertise and love of literature is not required in Australian schools, so he was working as a storeman. Quote:

A couple of months ago, in class, I asked my final year law students – those very elite ones I told you about above – who had read a Dickens’ novel, any one of them? I wanted to make a reference to Bleak House. Of more than 200 students only 15 or so put up a hand to indicate they’d read any Dickens’ novel at all. Jane Austen fared little better.

In high school here most students barely read two or three Shakespeare plays throughout the entirety of their pre-university education. That is simply pathetic…our politicians are hopeless, mired in arguments about who can virtue-signal his or her or (fill in the pronoun of choice) politically correct credentials when it comes to Safe Schools rather than trying maybe to lift standards to the point we can overtake Kazakhstan and other fourth tier nations. End of quote.

The leftist elites who run our education system are wracked with hatred for Western culture and are less interested in actual education than they are in re-education: indoctrination in rote-learned Marxism. Quote:

To sum up, I don’t think this country does much of a job educating young people on the basics of writing, grammar and even rudimentary maths skills. We also don’t expose them to the best of Western culture, the great books of the past. Of course it’s obvious with the way the proposed Ramsay Centre has been treated that one reason for that is that so many of Australia’s elites have a deep-seated dislike (verging on hatred) of their own Western culture. This is the culture that was the first in the world to end slavery; the one that gave the world jet airplanes, antibiotics and the most freedom and autonomy for women in human history; the one that gave us the wonders of Shakespeare, Dante, Dickens, Austen, Hume, Smith and the list goes on.

But hey, for all of that time we’ve imposed a binary pronoun system on people. The horror! End of quote.


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