Dumbed Down

I would not say I was an exceptionally well-educated person. I left school voluntarily at age fifteen. I wasn’t happy at school and I wanted to go to work and earn money so that I could save up to travel.

However, I did leave school being able to read well, write a letter or story with good spelling and reasonably correct grammar, do maths problems and with some understanding of historical events and current affairs.

I know that even in back in the sixties and seventies when I was going to school there were kids who struggled to achieve that. Classes were bigger and teachers didn’t have the time to spend with every kid so the very bright and very slow to learn sometimes missed out. However, when  I look around these days it seems to me that many young people are still struggling with basic literacy and maths and I wonder why.

I am not sure if things that we were expected to learn when I was at school are still taught.  When I was in Primary School we learned the basics. Every day we spent a couple of hours on spelling, dictation, and arithmetic, this was in the days before “New Maths”.  We spent a lot of time on English learning grammar, Reading Comprehension and writing compositions. We also had class novels which we read either out loud or to ourselves and were expected to answer questions about. There was “Reading Laboratory” which was a big box full of cards with a story to read and a set of questions to answer. They were colour coded for difficulty and I was proud to get right to the top colour every year that I did them.

An Australian children’s classic.

In maths or arithmetic, as we still called it, we learned addition and subtraction, multiplication and long division. We had to master fractions decimals and learn about angles in geometry. We were supposed to “show the working out” on our page and we were not allowed to use calculators in tests. Actually, when I was in primary school there were no calculators. We did those sums where you calculated the cost of several items and even worked out the percentage of the total to subtract as a discount.  In Mental Arithmetic the teacher asked you a question and you had to quickly write the answer while doing the working out in your head.

My old primary school in the early 1960s http://www.elizgrps.sa.edu.au/about/
My old primary school in the early 1960s
http://www.elizgrps.sa.edu.au/about/

We had Social Studies which for Primary School students seemed to be a mixture of history, geography and current affairs. We learned a lot about things like stump jump ploughs, irrigation, gold mining, explorers, sheep and which states produced what products. Of course, we also learned a bit about Kings and Queens of England and even the Romans invading Britain. I am sure they don’t teach that to nine-year-olds any more.

In High School, we learned History and Geography, Algebra and how to use a slide rule. Don’t ask me, I’ve forgotten. We read novels and plays and our teachers were dismayed if any student did not know enough grammar to write properly.

As I never had children or grandchildren I really don’t know what they teach them now but I’m disturbed that young people in stores can’t make change without consulting the electronic cash register. When I was studying at TAFE a decade ago the younger people in the class had great difficulty in spelling and even more in writing a business letter. They just didn’t seem to have the vocabulary for it or know how to construct a sentence, possibly because they don’t write full words or full sentences in text messages. As for history, I’m sure that it is not taught which is a shame because I think you can learn a lot about the present from what happened in the past.

Another planter in the Geeveston Primary School Garden.

I’ll admit that I think that some things are better now. Classes are smaller, most of my classes right through school were 35 to 40 kids, sometimes more. Schools have better facilities, air conditioning and heating for instance and better equipment. Corporal punishment is a thing of the past. Honestly, I don’t think that hitting a child with a ruler will make them learn their tables faster. There were some really mean, sadistic teachers around in the sixties, I think for some Teacher’s College was where you went if you didn’t get into University. Some I met certainly did not like kids. On the other hand, I don’t think teachers get the respect that they once did from children or parents.

If so many young adults today can’t read, write, spell or do basic arithmetic how will the next generation cope? Although we have lots of technology we should not rely on that completely. If it all breaks down we need to be able to manage without it. I especially feel concerned that some young people are so unaware of historical events.  There is so much fantasy on social media that without knowledge of the facts there will be no way for them to know what is real and what isn’t anymore.

 

 

 

Look At Me: When Selfie’s Kill

This evening I was watching the news, an unusual event for me, and there was a story about people who have been killed taking selfies at beauty spots. It seems to be becoming a serious problem as more and more travellers seek the perfect photo for their social media feed.

Taking photos at Gardens on the Bay.

I have written about this before. I have complained about the bad manners of these people who are so self-absorbed that they don’t care if they get in the way of other people and spoil their view. I understand people wanting to get a photo to share with family and friends but it has gone way past that. Now people want extreme photos and they are taking unacceptable risks to get them. There have been more than 200 deaths involving people taking selfies between 2014-2018. I don’t see that number going down.

They climb guard rails and teeter on the edge of cliffs just for the sake of a stupid photo which may end up being the last one ever taken of them. Don’t they understand that barriers are there for a reason?

It seems that these days the photo opportunity is more important than the actual experience of being in a special place. Do these people really appreciate what they are seeing? Do they even look?

Selfies on the sampan

I recall years ago visiting Uluru (Ayers Rock) in central Australia. At sunrise and sunset, the rock appears to change colour so people would all go to photograph it. Now I imagine that the line of photographers probably all stand with their backs to the beautiful sight so they can photograph themselves “watching” the event. Most of them probably miss it but at least they have a nice photo to Instagram.

Uluru taken on holiday around the early-mid 1980s. I have cleaned the picture up a bit as there were a few dust spots but the colours are what I saw.

Another disturbing trend involving social media is the increasing number of people performing stunts for social media channels who are killed or injured when they go wrong.

Does using a smartphone make people stupid?

 

Related Items:

https://www.timesnownews.com/international/article/indian-student-dies-falls-off-cliff-ireland-selfies-cliffs-of-moher-county-clare-doolin-ireland-selfie-death-news-cliffs-of-moher-deaths-images/342478

https://www.timesnownews.com/mirror-now/society/article/selfie-death-student-slips-into-waterfall-in-odisha/339626

https://www.fastcompany.com/90287323/people-are-falling-off-buildings-in-search-of-the-perfect-instagram-shot

https://www.afr.com/lifestyle/the-social-media-stunts-that-went-fatally-wrong-20181205-h18qy7

Reading and Listening

Up until this past year I’ve been an “old school” reader preferring books to electronic forms of reading. A lot of people I know have been switching to downloading their books or listening to audiobooks instead.

I have a lot of books and I don’t necessarily want to get rid of them but I decided that some type of device would be useful for travelling. When I regularly travelled to Hobart and to Oatlands I usually had a “bus book” with me. However, I didn’t want to carry a huge pile of books when we went cruising so I bought a Kindle. Initially, I’d tried reading on a tablet but the Kindle is better as the screen is easier to read even outdoors.

I discovered that a lot of books are very cheap, some even free. A lot of those are a bit lightweight but sometimes when I’m tired I just want to read something and I don’t need it to be too deep. However, sometimes I find one I really like for just a couple of dollars, a bit like finding a hidden gem in a secondhand bookshop. I do have a wish list of books I’d like to read and some of those cost more but over time I’ll get them unless I find them in the Op Shop first of course.

More recently I decided to give audio books a try. I started off with Paul Theroux’s “Deep South”. I had mixed feelings about that. I had wanted to read the book for a long time but I didn’t like the reader’s voice that much.  I will get the rest of his travel books either in Kindle or regular book form. Then I bought “Fahrenheit 451”. I read that book in high school so I thought I’d enjoy it but I didn’t like that reader’s voice either and kept falling asleep listening to it.

Once I realised that voices mattered I decided to be more careful about selecting books. My next choice was “A Christmas Carol” read by Patrick Stewart. A favourite story of mine read by someone who has a really great speaking voice.

I bought a dramatisation of “The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy” read by some of the actors from the original radio series. I watched the TV version of this some years ago so that sounded quite familiar.

H2G2 UK front cover.jpg
Fair use, Link

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Book Cover.jpg
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

 

 

 

I also like Stephen Fry’s speaking voice so I am currently listening to him reading the Harry Potter books. I always meant to read them and have never quite got around to it until now. Having just got to the end of the first one I can quite understand why children loved them so much. In contrast, my current Kindle book is “The Last Librarian” by Brandt Legg.

I won’t stop reading “real” books but trying something different has helped me to branch out and read more books more often than I have for some time.

Vegetable Vengeance

onion and garlic on white surface
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In my last food-related post I mentioned I wrote about how cabbage smells bad when boiled for too long. I was doing a bit of reading about it before writing that post and found an article that said that cabbage is one of a family of plants that defends itself. Cabbage contains sulfur compounds that are released in the cooking process. The longer you cook it the worse the smell. Another member of this family is the onion. Onions are mean, they make me cry.

This is a description of what happens when you peel onions.

Amino acid sulfoxides form sulfenic acids as you slice into an onion. These enzymes which were isolated are now free to mix with the sulfenic acids to produce ​propanethial S-oxide, a volatile sulfur compound gas which wafts upward and into your eyes. This gas reacts with the water in your tears to form sulfuric acid. The sulfuric acid burns, stimulating your eyes to release more tears to wash the irritant away.

https://www.thoughtco.com/why-do-onions-make-you-cry-604309

All I know is that I find it extremely difficult to peel onions as my eyes get sore and watery. It was a kitchen chore I would always pass off to David who didn’t seem to be affected by it.

There are supposedly a few cures for it. Someone told me that eating dry bread would help. Well, I enjoyed the bread but I still cried.

Wearing safety goggles over my glasses had not occurred to me. I am not sure I’d do that if I had them I’d probably just forget until it was too late. I’ve also read that rubbing your hands on a stainless steel odour absorber can help.

Somehow I feel passing the onion chopping job to someone else is still a better idea. Or possibly just buying frozen onions. As it is I keep a box of tissues handy when I have to do this job.

 

 

The Democratic Sausage

Update: Shortly after I wrote this piece I found this article online. Some commenters remarked that they had not heard the term Democracy Sausage before and I confess that I picked it up from the Facebook poster who inspired me to write this post. However, our love of sausage sizzles on election day cannot be questioned.

 

Here in Tasmania, we have local government elections this month. This is particularly interesting for us in the Huon Valley as for the past couple of years we’ve had no elected councilors and the area has been run by an Administrator. This was due to problems with the previous council that ended up in all the council members being dismissed by the state government. Naturally, there is a high level of interest in this election and although voting is not compulsory we’re expecting there will be a high percentage of votes returned.

This will be a postal vote so no need to physically go to the polls and on one of the many local social media forums I’ve been following someone remarked that he was disappointed that he would not get to enjoy his democratic sausage on election day.

So what is the Democratic Sausage? I have no idea what happens in other countries but here in Australia voting normally takes place at a local school, church, hall or other public building. Elections are held on a Saturday so it is a great opportunity for community fundraising.

Democracy Sausage
Barbecue
Where David and I used to live in Adelaide our nearest polling booth was at the local school. Whenever there was an election the school would hold a sausage sizzle and sometimes there would be cakes and handcrafts for sale as well. As voting is compulsory here in Australia, except for local government, everyone eligible has to turn up to vote at some point. Getting a sausage on a piece of bread with onion and tomato sauce somehow makes the experience less of a chore and more of a Saturday morning outing for the family. It’s also a nice little earner for the school, church, sporting club or charity so on election day the smell of barbecued sausages and onions wafts all over the country.

Our Op Shop in Geeveston is in the grounds of the local primary school and we always try to open the shop one Saturday a month for people who can’t make it on weekdays. Last time there was a state election and we found out that the school would be the polling booth we knew that was the day to open the shop.

Outside the Op Shop

So if your local community has a fundraiser at a polling booth I recommend that you go along. You can exercise your right to vote, catch up with friends and neighbours and enjoy the Democratic Sausage. What could be better?

(Sausage)Link:

https://www.electionsausagesizzle.com.au/

 

Cabbage

If you were to ask me what vegetable I like the least I think it would be a toss-up between spinach and cabbage.

I’ve got nothing against them as vegetables but I didn’t have a good introduction to either in my younger years.

basil leaves and avocado on sliced bread on white ceramic plate
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Spinach didn’t figure very largely during my childhood. I mostly knew it as something that Popeye ate out of a can. It didn’t look appetising. Later I was introduced to frozen spinach. David liked it so I’d buy it sometimes but to me, it was a green soggy mess.  I’ve cooked with fresh spinach and while I think it has a better texture than the mushy stuff I am still not enthusiastic about it.

So much for spinach.

Cabbage, as a child I really hated it. Mum used to boil it and it smelled terrible. I still remember an old ad for air freshener. Husband comes home and asks if his wife is cooking cabbage.

“How did you know?” she asks

“The whole street knows.” was the reply.

Boiled cabbage stinks. It also looked revolting, white and soggy, it looked as unappetising as it tasted. I didn’t often refuse food at mealtimes but mum had a hard time getting me to eat boiled cabbage.

It wasn’t until I was much older and discovered coleslaw that I could bear to eat cabbage at all. I also learned that there were other types of cabbage. Red cabbage and the curly leafed Savoy cabbage. They made salads more interesting but I still don’t really like cabbage cooked.

closeup photo of pink and white kaleidoscope artwork
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com
Cabbage
A Savoy cabbage with curly leaves.

In mum’s day there was no Google to ask for a better way to cook cabbage and even if there was I doubt that she would have done it. I did though and learned that cabbage contains sulfur compounds which are aggravated by long cooking. If you cook it quickly it doesn’t stink. How I wish I’d know that years ago. I might have cooked it myself sometimes. As it is I might make or buy a coleslaw in warm weather but apart from throwing it in the wok to stir fry it, I wouldn’t normally eat it in cooler weather. I prefer my food crunchy or chewy to mushy anyway.

Apparently, one way to make cabbage less soggy is to salt it prior to cooking. You shred the cabbage, toss it with the salt and leave it in a colander for an hour before squeezing it out. I would not have thought of this because I practically never add salt to food either before or after cooking. I may wave the salt cellar at the pot when cooking boiled eggs, pasta and potatoes but the idea of putting a whole tablespoon of salt into food would never have occurred to me.

I really wrote this post in order not to waste a nice photo of a Savoy cabbage that I took last week but it has got me thinking that I might try a few different cabbage recipes. Maybe after more than 50 years, I might start to like eating cooked cabbage.

 

Links:

https://oureverydaylife.com/cook-cabbage-smell-36005.html

https://www.thekitchn.com/3-mistakes-to-avoid-when-cooking-cabbage-228334

 

 

Daily Prompt: Retrospective

The End?

Just a couple of days ago I posted my fifth anniversary post. By that time I already knew that WordPress was getting rid of the Daily Prompt and Weekly Photo Challenges.

What was different from other times that  we’ve had changes here is that WordPress has not told us that it is an improvement or that some new and better thing will be coming along to replace it. The last topics have been very final.

I’ve read a lot of posts and comments and I know that people are very unhappy about all of this. It seems there will be nobody left at WordPress to listen or care or to reassure us that it will be alright. They already have our money.

The bloggers that I read are not businesses, they are people who like to share their thoughts and pictures like I do. It’s fun to blog but if you are not being read it is a bit like shouting in an empty room. I admit that I did not do the Daily Prompt every day but when I was starting out  I used it a lot for inspiration and most of the people who I follow now I found through their Daily Prompt posts. I’m not sure how somebody starting out now would find other like-minded bloggers. By luck I suppose.

I know all our collected posts on this subject will not matter a jot. The WordPress Team are now packing their cardboard boxes and heading out the door leaving us wondering what’s coming next.