Sunday, February 5, 2012

Things we Learn from the Guardian

An article I was struck by is this one, about how tourists are getting tribeswomen in the Andaman islands to dance for the cameras in exchange for food, in collusion with the local police/military. At first glance it appears to be a lot of fuss about nothing. A group of people have discovered that exhibition of their normal behaviour is worth something to others and so they sell it. There is a lot of nonsense about them being half-naked, which they are, but because that's how they dress- they haven't been forced to strip or anything like that. The dance is clearly a simplified version of some ceremonial moves, and nothing they wouldn't be doing anyway. On the other hand, the Indian press has made a lot of this too, as though the girls were being exploited. Presumably they have a better understanding of the cultural relations involved than the Guardian, or me.

This one is about a possible change in the marking of GCSE's to include an assessment of the candidate's spelling and 'grammar', which I hope means the ability to form in the mind of the reader the idea that they had formed in their own mind, to communicate successful through written language, though I suspect it will literally be a count of misspelt words and broken rules, because it's much easier to get a number that way. The headline suggests that marking on spelling and grammar will penalize those who don't know how to do it, which is not only obvious but is rather the point of the exercise. The rest of the article is a bit more intelligent, fortunately. The comments aren't, but I don't expect much from the Guardian commenters. The comments on the first article are also spectacularly crass and ignorant, in the main.

And one from the Independent (which I sometimes believe is the best paper in Britain, perhaps with the exception of the FT, not that there is much competition. I tend to get my news from agencies and specialized sources who actually know what they're talking about).
The writer of the article has been told to rehash something which is very old news and which he quite clearly has not understood. To hide his ignorance he tries to copy directly as much of the press release as he thinks can get away with, but he still makes a complete mess of it, producing a barely coherent and sometimes contradictory piece that tells the reader precisely nothing. It is 'not even wrong.' Fortunatelysome of the commenters are on the ball, and one provides a very useful link for those who want to understand more of the subject.


Vincent said...

I can't read the Guardian at all. It's an infuriating wind-up, the whole thing, and shows me that I am a reactionary old Tory who given half a chance would reach for a horsewhip to these demm'd lefties.

I suppose they want to ban talent contests too, for being unfair to those who, through no fault of their own, lack talent.

As long as some prejudice remains amongst voters against electing a future British Government led by someone "with learning difficulties", things won't be too bad. And, in unconnected news, there are many politicians on the right who give hearty support to DUEMA, the "Don't Unseat Ed Miliband Association". Ed makes their job that much easier.

Vincent said...

I was insensitive in my last and apologize. There is indeed a condition called dyslexia. It is distinct as I understand it from ignorance of grammar & spelling; and an examiner could learn how to make the distinction.

But I think a greater risk to the language is teachers who themselves no longer have the eye for orthography and therefore cannot teach it.

CIngram said...

I don't read the Guardian in the expectation of learning something, and I don't believe anything I read there, but I like to know what the left is being told to think by its mouthpieces, and sometimes a reference can make you think.

It is as infantile and ill-informed as the rest of the British press, and consists almost entirely of opinion intended not to eludicate anything, but to pander to the prejudices of the readers. Which is, and always has been, the point of the press. The stuff about speaking truth to power and saving us all from tyranny is just an invention of pressmen who wanted to be taken seriously. A free press can, by chance, annoy our leaders and keep them under some control, but that isn't what the press is for.

You don't need people who can write, who can research, or who actually know anything, to do what journalists do. Newspapers, the media in general, are a mixture of pamphley and gossip sheet. They were born in the gutter, and they continue to lie there.

CIngram said...

I've only just seen your second comment. Dislexia is a 'specific learning difficulty', in that it affects the learning process but is not directly linked to lack of intelligence. 'Learning difficulties' on the other hand, has come to mean no more than 'intellectually well below par', as though giving lack of intelligence another name turns it into a condition that can be treated. It is one thing to find ways around the obstacle to learning that is dislexia, and another entirely to pretend that people of low intelligence are brighter than they are.

I should point out that, despite having taught for many years, I have almost no direct experience of dislexia. Stupidity, on the other hand...

CIngram said...

Err, in fact my experience of dyslexia is so limited I had forgotten how to spell it. Hmmm...

Vincent said...

Oddly enough, I do have experience teaching a child with dyslexia (though I never undertook any teacher training!)

At the end of 1963, having recently graduated with BA from Birmingham University, I took a job teaching at Winson Green Primary School. My entire training was to shadow the teacher of a remedial class of 12 pupils for a few weeks, Then I was on my own with them. All had been put in the class because they were disruptive to other classes, for a variety of reasons.

This girl was Indian. Her English was poor. She had difficulty writing. Her individual letters, and the letter order within words, were as likely to be backwards as forwards. I noticed also that sometimes she wrote with left hand, sometimes with right.

However when it came to mathematics (or should I say simple arithmetic, our classes were geared to the lowest common denominator, as it were) I saw that she was well above average. She had a kind of intuition with numbers - knew how to manipulate them without being taught method. Yet she still wrote them backwards and forwards in the same way she did with letters.

So she taught me what dyslexia was. I don't think I knew the word and in any case I wouldn't have known what to do with it, as I didn't have any supervisor or mentor. The other teachers from the head downwards were just glad those children were out of their classes.

I enjoyed working with them individually but as a group found them unruly. The previous teacher had in a very traditional way focused primarily on keeping order, in a way that seemed to me to waste the opportunity for continuous sympathetic attention which I felt they needed.

I couldn't cope and resigned after six months. Never went back to teaching.

James Higham said...

They might be topless but the issue, it seems to me, is whether, on aesthetic grounds, they should be.

CIngram said...


Interesting story. I'm not surprised you gave up teaching if you were thrown in at the deep end, or more likely told to keep the useless kids occupied and stop them bothering the main herd (even now no one, even the people supposedly trained for it, knows what educating people who will never achieve results that are worth anything in the world, is for. They come up with new methods, and new and more expensive rules, and hire new experts with even newer methodologies, and spend more money, but in the main it doesn't work.) It sounds as though your dyslexic girl could have made more of her studies if she'd concentrated on non-literary skills, but it sounds as though it didn't happen. The leftwing answer, too often, is not to distinguish those who can be helped from those who cannot, and find ways to help the former, but to claim that they are all the same and then pretend they have achieved it anyway.

As it understand it, you later found your professional niche.


True for the video, but if you Google Jarawa, you'll see that on the whole they aren't an unattractive people.