Monday, November 22, 2010

Straightening Out Our Straitened Times

Thanks to all those who spotted Tyler's deliberate (ahem) spelling errors in yesterday's post on the Royal Wedding.

The truth is that Tyler has never been much cop at spelling. His A Level history master was once driven to warn that T's poor spelling "betrayed a lack of scholarship". Even worse, Tyler has latterly slipped into the slovenly and entirely unacceptable habit of checking such matters on the internet rather than the OED.

So yesterday, before publishing the post, he actually checked "straightened times" on Google. And he was delighted to find that Google had no problem with it whatsoever. There were plenty of suggested links on that spelling, including links to articles in the Telegraph and Times. Surely they couldn't have got the spelling wrong. Could they?

And what about jewelry? Mrs T may have put her red pen through it, but Google was relaxed. In fact, the very first suggested link on jewelry is to Tiffany's. That's Tiffany's as in the guys who know all about such matters:

What's that? Tiffany's are a bunch of Yanks, and they don't know nuffink about spelling? Well yes, fair comment.

Maybe you can't depend on the internet to give you definitive information on spelling and grammar.

Which brings us to Gove's planned crack-down on pore spellurs lik Tyler:
"A-levels and GCSEs are to be toughened up with fewer but harder exams and a crackdown on poor ­grammar and spelling under sweeping reforms being unveiled next week...Candidates for all written GCSEs will be marked down for poor ­grammar, spelling and punctuation."
Now of course, we all think our dumbed down exams need toughening up. And we all know that employers say they'd much prefer to have staff who have mastered the 3Rs rather than a sheaf of irrelevant GCSEs gained by cut and pasting the internet. We all know that. But should Gove be laying down the content of exams?

The thing we've always liked about Gove's schools policy is that he wants to take the politicos out of the schooling business altogether. All they are then responsible for is funding the education vouchers. Everything else is down to the schools themselves and the power of parental choice. Excellent stuff that would soon have our schools rocketing back up the international league tables.

So how come Gove is right back where so many failed Education Secretaries have caused so much damage in the past? Why does he think he knows how to structure exams, even down to their marking systems? Why can't he leave it to the professionals, guided by his new schools market?

He was asked that very question by A Marr yesterday, and he didn't really answer it.

Come on Mr G, we understand it's tough. And we understand you are taking on the entire education establishment and the BBC.

But we're depending on you. We need you to keep the faith. We need you to redraw the boundary between government and our schools.

PS At least Gove has abolished Labour's ringfenced school sports budget. This has cost us £2.4bn and was supposed to turn out a new generation of kids who preferred sport to junk food. Yeah right. Naturally the school sports outreach industry is aghast, as is the BBC (it's been on all day). But what the Major wants to know is why can't we just go back to having competitive sport in state schools? "Why is it," he rants, "that the only international sports where we have winners are the ones played by the public schools? It's no coincidence that both our rugger and cricket teams have captains and vice captains from public schools. It's because those schools have made quite sure competitive sports have been kept alive and well - none of this namby-pamby rubbish, there, there, winning doesn't matter. Of course it matters! Compare that to those overpaid nancy boy losers in our clod-hopping football team... they all come from the Harold Bloody Wilson Community College, you know! It's a national disgrace." Etc.

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