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.

 

 

 

The 3 am Rant: The Look At Me Generation

I’ve never been a big fan of having my photo taken, even on holidays it is rare for me to be photographed unless I am with friends who want a picture. I don’t feel that the world is missing out because there are few photos of me especially now that I’m way past my best. However, it seems that I’m in the minority as the whole world seems intent on immortalising themselves on social media.

Now it seems to me that many people have become so obsessed with selfies that they travel the world photographing themselves without actually noticing the scenery. In Singapore  we went for a ride on a sampan in the shopping centre at Marina Bay Sands. Two young girls with a small child sat in front of us and honestly I think they wasted their money on the ride as they spent the entire trip taking photos of each other and the child. Not once did they look at where they were going.

Selfies on the sampan

Everywhere we went we encountered tourists being photographed or taking selfies in front of tourist attractions. Well of course at a popular attraction whether it be Gardens on the Bay in Singapore or the Sydney Opera House you are going to have to deal with crowds and it’s almost impossible to get a photo without some people in it. Even forty years ago when I first visited Sydney there were tourists who would ask us if we’d take a photo of them with their cameras. I don’t really mind that so much.  It’s a nice  holiday memory. Now people don’t just do a quick pose in front of the attraction though. They have to strike a pose, jump in the air, wave their arms around or pose like they are in that famous scene from “Titanic”.  And it’s not just one photo, they have to have dozens. Then there are the ones with the selfie sticks who march around getting into everyone elses’ picture without so much as an “I beg your pardon.”

Taking photos at Garden’s on the Bay.

I”ve noticed that people who actually enjoy photography are a bit more polite, they take their pictures and then move on so someone else can have a go but the selfie brigade notice nothing but their own faces. It does  make me mad that so many of these people are bad mannered and inconsiderate of others but it also makes me think that so many of them are missing the point of travel by focussing so much on themselves and not what’s going on around them.

 

The Three A.M Rant: The Selfish Generation

via Daily Prompt: Age

Today I read an article saying that many older people were in danger of outliving their savings because they chose an extravagant lifestyle buying luxury cars or going on cruises.

Celebrity Solstice_1024x768
Waiting to cruise

Apparently seniors should be saving that money to take care of end of life health issues and of course there should be money left over to leave to their children.

“There’s an element of spending the inheritance — kids in their 40s often might be doing it pretty tough with mortgages and school fees, when parents are living it up,”

states the article.

http://www.themercury.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/wealth-risks-amid-the-rise-of-big-spenders-aged-in-their-70s/news-story/6ae59a64cc823eee166c5885ba183922

This annoyed me quite a lot. Well, it made me hopping mad actually. I don’t have children myself but if I did of course I’d want to leave them something for themselves as well as enough to take care of funeral expenses. However, I would very much resent the idea that I was selfishly spending their inheritance every time I wanted to do something fun.

Of course it is silly to live beyond your income no matter what your age is but if retirees have a bit of money put by why shouldn’t they enjoy it? They had mortgages and school fees to pay once and probably went without holidays and other things they wanted for the sake of their families. There might be just a few years before health issues mean that they can no longer travel so whiny adult children complaining about mum and dad wasting their money on frivolities don’t sit well with me I’m afraid.

I think this annoyed me all the more because some time ago I read another piece about how older people in Australian cities should move out of their houses into smaller accomodation so that they could be demolished to make room for more townhouses and apartments. Apparently wanting to stay in the family home is also selfish. So called experts tell us we should “de clutter” our lives which really means “Get rid of all your old stuff because it’s a waste of space.” It doesn’t matter whether it means anything to you or not. “You can take a picture of it.”

Gray Tce., Rosewater.jpg

The elderly seem can’t take a trick these days. We are expected to work longer but jobs are harder to get. Pensions are barely enough and now even those who have managed to save enough for a comfortable retirement are being accused of selfishness. The only ones who don’t have to worry are elderly politicians. If they are voted out of office they will get some nice cushy job offered to them or they can retire with a nice big pension and lots of perks.

Do I sound like a grumpy old lady? Is it any wonder?

 

 

 

 

Daily Prompt: Lifestyle Choices

via Daily Prompt: Lifestyle

Lifestyle is a very modern day concept. We are all searching for the perfect way to live our lives. We envy the lifestyles of some and disapprove of others. Perhaps, after religion, lifestyle choices may be one of the most contentious issues on the planet.

The choices of whom to marry, whether to have children, where to live, what work you will do and what faith you choose to follow can all be lifestyle choices that may upset others.

Even in the relatively wealthy western world we may not be allowed to make those choices ourselves.

Nobody would choose to live in poverty. Who chooses hunger and homelessness as a lifestyle?

Tributes left for Wayne “Mouse” Perry who was murdered near this spot earlier this year.

Unemployment is not a lifestyle that most people would choose. The world is changing, jobs that existed fifty, even twenty years ago are gone forever.  Research suggests that in the next fifty years even more jobs will be lost because of changes in industry. That is going to change the lifestyles of many and we need to start thinking about how it is to be managed.

War is not a lifestyle that anyone would choose either. One day you are going about your business with a home, a family and a job and the next it is all gone and you are fleeing for your life possibly to end up spending your days in a camp denied the chance to start again. How I would love the politicians responsible to experience that lifestyle and see how they like it.

Lifestyle choices; sounds a bit of a joke now doesn’t it?

 

 

Food for Thought

 

While I was surfing the net this afternoon I came across this piece by Andrew Postman which grabbed my attention.

 

“My dad predicted Trump in 1985 – it’s not Orwell, he warned, it’s Brave New World”

The ascent of Donald Trump has proved Neil Postman’s argument in “Amusing Ourselves to Death” was right. Here’s what we can do about it

By Andrew Postman

Andrew Postman, author of more than a dozen books, wrote the introduction to Amusing Ourselves to Death (2005 edition).

Over the last year, as the presidential campaign grew increasingly bizarre and Donald Trump took us places we had never been before, I saw a spike in media references to Amusing Ourselves to Death, a book written by my late father, Neil Postman, which anticipated back in 1985 so much about what has become of our current public discourse.

At Forbes, one contributor wrote that the book “may help explain the otherwise inexplicable”. CNN noted that Trump’s allegedly shocking “ascent would not have surprised Postman”. At ChristianPost.com, Richard D Land reflected on reading the book three decades ago and feeling “dumbfounded … by Postman’s prophetic insights into what was then America’s future and is now too often a painful description of America’s present”. Last month, a headline at Paste Magazine asked: “Did Neil Postman Predict the Rise of Trump and Fake News?”

Colleagues and former students of my father, who taught at New York University for more than 40 years and who died in 2003, would now and then email or Facebook message me, after the latest Trumpian theatrics, wondering, “What would Neil think?” or noting glumly, “Your dad nailed it.”

The central argument of Amusing Ourselves is simple: there were two landmark dystopian novels written by brilliant British cultural critics – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell – and we Americans had mistakenly feared and obsessed over the vision portrayed in the latter book (an information-censoring, movement-restricting, individuality-emaciating state) rather than the former (a technology-sedating, consumption-engorging, instant-gratifying bubble).

The misplaced focus on Orwell was understandable: after all, for decades the cold war had made communism – as embodied by Nineteen Eighty-Four’s Big Brother – the prime existential threat to America and to the greatest of American virtues, freedom. And, to put a bow on it, the actual year, 1984, was fast approaching when my father was writing his book, so we had Orwell’s powerful vision on the brain.

“Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd”.

Open Licence

 

BraveNewWorld FirstEdition.jpg
By Source, Fair use, Link
1984

I had not read Neil Postman’s book but I think that I will now if I can find it. I did read both “Brave New World” and “1984” for the first time as a teenager in the 1970s and later as an adult. I have to admit that the first time I read “1984” it was a Reader’s Digest edition and heavily edited. After I read the unabridged edition some years later parts of it upset me so much that I couldn’t touch it again for many years. I felt we had dodged a bullet with 1984 but thinking back to “Brave New World” our society does seem to have some parallels to that book. We do live in a society that seems to want instant gratification and we are obsessed with how things look. Certainly some politicians prefer to have the population happy and ignorant. They don’t have to justify their actions that way.

Anyway I have included a link to the full article and hope that some of you may find it interesting reading.

 

 

Read the full article

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/feb/02/amusing-ourselves-to-death-neil-postman-trump-orwell-huxley?CMP=share_btn_fb#

 

Protest Central – Hobart

The lawns in front of Parliament House in Hobart are Protest Central as they are a convenient place for people to gather to express their displeasure over anything from unfair taxes to destroying our environment. On a recent Saturday afternoon I wandered over there to get away from the crowds at Salamanca and my attention was grabbed by dolls and toys hanging from the trees and then by a sign that said “You are not welcome here.” I stopped to see what was going on and discovered that it was a protest about keeping asylum seekers in offshore detention centres. This is a very contentious subject here as there are children involved. Now I know that for developed countries this is perceived as a big problem whether it be Mexicans trying to enter the USA, middle eastern refugees in Europe or Iranians, Afghani’s or Sri Lankans trying to come to Australia . I’m not going to make a political post out of this but just say that if something terrible happened in Australia and we had to flee for our lives I hope that the countries that we arrived in would be kinder to us than we have been to these people on Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island.

The other protest was about clear felling at Lapoinya Forest in the northwest of Tasmania. A lot of the forestry issues here are about logging old growth forest. Lapoinya is regrowth but the issue is protecting wildlife in particular the freshwater crayfish,  endangered Tasmanian Devils and quolls. I am not opposed to all logging.  I don’t think that we should be cutting down old growth forests and I am concerned about the impact on wildlife. The Tasmanian Devils have had enough to contend with the past few years with the facial tumour disease that has killed so many of them. I do worry about logging because once the trees and animals are gone you can’t get them back and I would hate to think we were destroying the forests for the sake of woodchips, Furniture, building materials and even fuel but not woodchips. That’s just my opinion though and I am not pushing it onto anyone else.

Here is some film of a spotted quoll.

Points to Ponder

This week there has been a lot of bad news to ponder about.  The question of refugees and asylum seekers; the shootings both here in Australia and in the USA that make me wonder why people do such terrible, crazy things and if the USA will ever do something about gun control laws, environmental issues, climate change, fracking, emission controls. It’s all been a bit grim.

Today though I’d like to ponder some other questions that have been bugging me.

When did coffee cups get so big?

Earlier this year I decided that life was too short to keep coffee mugs I didn’t like so I ditched a couple that I thought were ugly and decided that I’d get a nice new matching set instead of the collection of odd ones we currently use. You would not think that was a big deal but at the same time I thought that I really ought to drink less coffee so rather than drinking fewer cups I thought I’d start by using a smaller mug. Well, do you think I could find one? Coffee cups now are ENORMOUS. I’ve looked at cheap ones from Target, Big W etc, matched sets in home stores and everywhere I go they are big, big, big. The smallest ones I’ve found are made of bone china, delicate and expensive, not really what I had in mind for every day use. What is going on?

When did coffee mugs get so big?
When did coffee mugs get so big?

What’s with this “pulled” meat craze?

I think that one of the fast food chains started it, advertising burgers with “pulled beef”. Now everyone seems to be doing it and not just beef, there is pulled pork too. What the heck is it and why do we want it?

Does everything have to be an experience?

Tourist attractions and tours have got so expensive now. Everything seems to be aimed at the high-end traveller. I love to take boat trips both at home on the Derwent and when I go to other places but where once you could do a short boat trip with maybe a complimentary afternoon tea for twenty or thirty dollars now it’s all tours  that cost fifty, a hundred or even more dollars that include gourmet snacks or meals at upmarket restaurants.  I would gladly forgo the gourmet goodies when  all I want is to enjoy some time on the water seeing the sights.

It’s not just on the water either. I recently looked up the Sydney Opera House Backstage tour. I did is many years ago and it was very interesting and not that expensive. Now it is an “experience” that includes a fancy breakfast. Very nice but out of my price range, good thing I did it in the nineteen eighties. Newsflash, people who are not rich also like to have fun.

The Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House

Since when was size 16 “extra large”?

I picked up a T-shirt the other day as it said XL and was horrified to discover the tag said it was a 16. When I was wearing a size 16, maybe fifteen or twenty years ago it was considered a medium size. What happened? I am talking about Australian sizes here. Let’s not even get started on how British, US and Australian sizes are different or how even different brands of clothing can be the same size but different measurements.

 

These and many other things are everyday things that I just don’t understand. If you can think of more please feel free to join in the rant.