Read all about it – We’re actually getting thicker – If you can read?

English: Drawing of the human brain, from the ...

It’s hardly surprising that as many as “one in six adults struggles to read”. Despite all the government rhetoric about the improving standards of education, I and many others continually question that claim. In fact, some even think that we’re actually getting thicker (see below)…

Previous visitors to my blog will have noticed how often I’ve commented about the poor state of our education system. Any claims suggesting a ‘dumbing-down’ of that system are usually vehemently countered by our government.

GCSE and Equivalent Results in England, 2010/11 – 79.5 per cent achieved 5 or more GCSEs at grade A* to C or equivalent, an increase of 4.1 percentage points from 2009/10 (Department for Education)

Michael Gove MP may have argued recently that exam success makes children happy however; is all that ‘happiness’ based upon falacy? A false sense of achievement delivered without any real substance or foundation to back it up?  One “apolitical retired teacher of the old school” summed up the news well.

…what is really needed in this country is for education to be taken out of the political sphere completely…(see here)

Obviously education is an emotive subject to all those impacted by it; students, parents, employers and politicians alike continually toss the education hot potato about. Consequently, it also follows that the subject of education is usually the source of good copy for our media machinery. Another commentator to the news, this time from Sweden pointed out;

PISA, the international inspectorate showed UK’s poor standards were caused by excessive state intervention, obsession with targets, exams. In successful countries politicians accept they’re amateurs, and let professionals, not tabloids, run education…(see here)

Irrespective of all the political and media wranglings; when you consider that students are buying essays online, many teachers have admitted “fiddling” exam grades and the latest GCSE results are likely to spark a Judicial Review, surly you have to start wondering, what the hell do we do to resolve it all? It ain’t getting any better…

Thousands of UK teenagers cannot read well enough to understand their GCSE exam papers, a large-scale analysis of pupils’ reading ability suggests…(bbc.co.uk)

Something that kind of supports my arguments surrounding certification of academic ability, that and seemingly endless love affair with educating to the lowest level of ability. Simply ensuring that all are awarded for their efforts, irrespective of actual ability or considering realistic standards of quality (see here).

What are GCSE results supposed to say about a pupil? – We have to decide whether GCSE grades represent a concrete indication of knowledge, or where a student lies in that year’s league table..(guardian.co.uk)

All that said, and irrespective of (anticipated) improvements resulting from the proposed EBacc; it amazes me that in these days of so-called education for all, there are still so many people that simply can’t read or write by the time they leave school. The fact educationalists can’t agree on the best way to teach our children to read (see here) is probably a compounding issue however; as a society we should still hang our bloody heads in shame!

Recently The Reading Agency launched their Six Book Challenge in an attempt to help those who have been failed by our education system. It’s aim is to improve the life of people who find reading difficult, by building their reading confidence and motivation. Because, as they say and most would agree, “everything changes when we read.”

It’s right, reading can change your life; the award-winning author Andy McNab is happy to attest to that fact. Andy is also happy to admit that he could hardly read when he joined the infantry as a boy soldier in 1976.

I’m a perfect example of how reading became so important in my life and really changed my life because when I was 17 I’d never read a book…(Andy McNab)

McNab subsequently joined 22 SAS Regiment and after his highly decorated and exemplary military service, he left the army and began a very succesful writing career. He has now written several best-selling and award-winning books about his experiences.

Despite reading being of benefit educationally, the debacle surrounding the quality of our education system (or the lack of it) will continue to rumble on. Perhaps now there is actually a scientific argument to justify some (if not all) of that decline?

The controversial hypothesis of a leading geneticist suggests that, despite the immense capacity of the human brain to learn new tricks, it is under attack from an array of genetic mutations. Ones that have accumulated since people started living in cities a few thousand years ago…

Human intelligence peaked thousands of years ago: Is the human species doomed to intellectual decline? Will our intelligence ebb away in centuries to come leaving our descendants incapable of using the technology their ancestors invented? In short: will Homo be left without his sapiens? (independent.co.uk)

Gerald Crabtree, Professor of Developmental Biology at Stanford University‘s School of Medicne in California, has put forward the iconoclastic idea that rather than getting cleverer, human intelligence peaked several thousand years ago. Our levels of intelligence are actually in decline.

THE DESCENT OF MAN

  • Hunter-gatherer man: The human brain and its immense capacity for knowledge evolved during this long period of prehistory when we battled against the elements
  • Athenian man: The invention of agriculture less than 10,000 years ago and the subsequent rise of cities such as Athens relaxed the intensive natural selection of our “intelligence genes”.
  • Couch-potato man: As genetic mutations increase over future generations, are we doomed to watching  soap-opera repeats without knowing how to use the TV remote control?
  • iPad man: The fruits of science and technology enabled humans to rise above the constraints of nature and cushioned our fragile intellect from genetic mutations.

Whatever your personal views on education and intelligence, reading is always a very good starting point if you’re trying to improve your academic ability. It’s also enlightening and can often be fun too. If you’re thinking about improving your reading, would like to read more or even volunteer to help others with their reading, then perhaps the Six Book Challenge is a good option for you!

About Dave Hasney

National Coordinator for UK SMART Recovery - Previously a Recovery Worker and prior to that a Management Consultant and H&S Practitioner - Kept sane by Angling, Good Food, Real Ale & Wine - Cynical thoughts sometimes developed from others.

Posted on 15-11-2012, in Military, Society Babble and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Personally I find that my intelligence starts to drop at about 7 o’clock on a Sunday evening, wonder why that is? Slainte

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