Bored to blazes by ed-UK-shun

PUBLISHED: 10:35 15 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:01 22 October 2010


My godson is now sitting GCSEs, poor lad. He is being overwhelmed not by traditional exam nerves but by a wholly modern sense of boredom. Whatever the theoretical subject, in practice he is being tested in the art of ticking boxes.

My godson is now sitting GCSEs, poor lad. He is being overwhelmed not by traditional exam nerves but by a wholly modern sense of boredom. Whatever the theoretical subject, in practice he is being tested in the art of ticking boxes.

Multiple choice questions, designed to make courses more "accessible", are failing to engage, enthuse or challenge him. He risks low grades through the tedium of it all.

For me the travails of one terrific teenager cast in a new light the scandal of truancy in schools (not to mention the 40pc of street robberies which are committed by children between the ages of 10 and 16 in school time).

On quitting ed-UK-shun he should be well qualified to work as a Box Ticker - though in what field of human endeavour this childish skill has value, save for stock-checking in Tesco, is unclear.

As recast by New Labour, the school syllabus is now an exercise in teaching children to remember the bullet points on a very narrow curriculum.

It is possible to get top marks in any subject by writing very little and understanding nothing at all. And an inquiring mind can be a real hindrance. One teacher recently told astonished parents their son risked poor marks by reading too widely. (She was right: he got a B in a subject in which he was way ahead of anyone else in his class, and maybe the tutor too.)

Most children now read little or nothing. The daughter of friends won an interview after applying to an Oxford college to read English. With guileless honesty she asked her mum: "Should I tell them I don't read books?"

More than one child, when faced with the huge obstacle of an actual essay, has reproduced a swathe of gobbledegook - as mangled by the language of texting.

Information, when not swallowed wholesale from teachers' notes, is downloaded from the internet, unedited and unquestioned.

An education based on accessing and processing a dizzying range of data at great speed - backed at home by computer games - wholly misses the key needs for information in depth and a striving towards objective and original thought.

However rosy the exam results - with a 110pc pass rate likely this year, to match the commitment of the English soccer squad - our schools are now failing to teach young people how to become capable, confident and responsible adults with healthily sceptical minds and active imaginations.

Child poverty has leapt under New Labour, and this trend has very little to do with finance. The deadliest, brain-addling, behaviour-warping junk diet is now reserved for the young.

An abdication of parenting, along with all forms of

adult responsibility, has gone hand in hand with tawdry teaching. Because, tragically, so many teachers aren't properly taught either.

The beauty and glory of the English language should be

our democratic, egalitarian, universal birthright, but it has been crushed over four decades - and especially in the last one.

The patronising, politically correct view that Third World immigrants can operate successfully in Britain in their

own languages is confining millions of people to inner-city ghettoes - where uneducated women in particular are now third-class citizens.

But millions of white British teenagers have a poorer grasp of English than their continental counterparts. Children of friends of mine in Berlin and Moscow attend secondary schools in which half the subjects are taught in English.

Basic rules of English grammar, by which we learn to organise our minds for clear thinking, have been discarded in schools in our nihilistic equivalent of the Maoist Cultural Revolution.

No wonder there is so much frustration, aggression and violence around. If you can't speak and write clearly, life is one big threat. Never mind that we are also shockingly innumerate. Labour is now set on the magic figure of 50pc of school leavers attending university.

But many young people lack the skills (as well as the cash) for higher education. Already there is a 14pc dropout rate each year. The Royal Literary Fund now has 60 writers in British universities trying to counter what one neatly calls "lexical nullity and syntactical bankruptcy".

Another says: "To put the problem simply, an inability to employ the resources of language means that a student cannot function properly."

Exactly. Back to school, Mr Blair.

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