What needs fixing in UK education, in one tweet


I hate the trend towards "creativity" in schools. It seemed to start with the introduction of the National Curriculum, which presaged a greater influence by the Department of Education and its favoured academics on what was taught in schools and exactly how it was taught. I'm all for children embracing their creativity, but it should be made very plain to them that there is a standard for grammar and spelling in written communication which they are expected to exceed before they can expect their creativity to be respected by readers.

I can do no better than quote Emily Postnews on the subject:

Q: I cant spell worth a dam. I hope your going too tell me what to do?
A: Don't worry about how your articles look. Remember it's the message that counts, not the way it's presented. Ignore the fact that sloppy spelling in a purely written forum sends out the same silent messages that soiled clothing would when addressing an audience.

1 comment:

  1. Funny, I thought you were going to take him to task for thinking that creativity had anything at all to do with elementary linguistics. Don't get me wrong, being an amateur linguist myself, I think the subject is fascinating, and lots of people would benefit from studying it, but it's certainly not necessary.

    You make a seemingly separate point: that if students want *respect* for their creative work, then they must learn to conform in many ways, in part to the linguistic expectations of the most powerful segments of society. Indeed, it's as if you silently added "by people like me" to the end of the quote. I guess much of school is about learning such conformity.

    But I'll argue that the underlying creativity is more important than the conformity that leads to respect. Math, science, philosophy, history, are deeply more important than spelling, marketing, rhetoric. Let them follow Feynman's advice and not give a damn what other people think.

    There is an aspect of conformist spelling and grammar that fits into the first camp: attention to detail. That can be a choice though, and not paying attention to the particular complex quirks of English is deeply cultural and barely indicative of the value of the writer's ideas.

    We have truly overdone the emphasis on conformity in schools. Any step away from "don't ask why, just follow the process", "do what I tell you", and "here's how you score well on the test" is something I welcome.


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