It's important that you know that I'm not proud of what I'm about to say.   I was watching the news the other day, and they had a story about a program that's being implemented at a high school where I live.   Apparently teens these days, on average, are not up to the previous literacy standards, so they're asking the worst of them to stay after school for an extra curricular literacy class of sorts.  By the look of some of the examples of these student's work, this program was a very good idea.   One student spelled "beautiful" - "buteaful" for a lack of a better attempt.  Other kids had penmanship resembling first graders who were just learning the basics.   Mind you, we're talking average, non-learning-disabled high school students.

It doesn't really surprise me.  I've seen worse while I was taking 2.5 English courses at the same time in grade 11.  I took grade 11 and 12, as well as tutor the grade 10 English class, all in the same day.  I saw how the school system failed many students.  I saw the laziness in the curriculum.   All three grades had many of the same assignments. Sometimes I would read ahead of my classes, because each class was reading the same book at the same time.  More than once, I found myself marking assignments for the grade 10's, that we were currently working on in the higher grades. It was also my job to help students with their work.  With a few exceptions, most kids didn't take any interest in any of it.  Most of them looked for the easy way out... they would ask me for answers to questions that require personal opinion, they would copy off each other whenever they could, or they would just give up and say "I don't get it" before reading the instructions, let alone the reading material.   It was sad.  None of them liked the course, most did the bare minimum required of them to pass.  It's no wonder some of this same stuff was taught in each Grade... nobody learned it!

My favourite literacy (or anti-literacy) memory is back in my co-op class.  This is a course where students get credits instead of a pay cheque, for going into the work force, and working a 3-6 hour day.  Since the students are expected to do most of the course in the workforce, they only enlisted in temporary teachers who were not teaching something else during those period slots.  We had the co-op teacher, a gym teacher, and the auto mechanics teacher.   At the beginning we all had to write resumes and cover letters to apply for co-op placements.  In my cover letter, I used the word "biased".   While the auto teacher was marking my work, he called me aside because he thought I was plagiarizing.  He asked "What does 'beeist' mean?". 
"Uh, I'm not sure what you mean..."
"Right there.  'Beeist' " 
"Oh... that's 'biased' "
"Yeah... what does that mean?"
I was shocked... not only could he not read it properly, he didn't know what it meant when I pronounced it properly for him!   The worst part is, he assumed that since he didn't know what it meant (even after I used it in a sentence for him), that meant that I couldn't possibly know what "biased" meant, and I was asked to use another word. 
Turns out, that teacher was the staff representative for the school's robotics club.  Hell... the guy's a fucking teacher!!!!

Adding to the problems is technology, and the dependency on it, especially by younger people.  We all live in the "Google It" age, where anything you can think about researching is accessible within seconds.  You would think that would make people smarter.  It's done the opposite in my, and many others opinion.   First of all, with spell check, you don't have to know how to spell in order to spell properly.  Even if you misspell a word in Google, they will ask you if you made a mistake, and correct it for you if you did.   Since computers are everywhere, and considered a skill everyone needs to learn, people do not have to physically write anymore.
  Besides signatures and grocery lists, there isn't much people are required to use a pen for.  There's no more "sounding it out" or "looking it up in a dictionary".   There's also the wide spread use of some poor excuses for abbreviations with texting.  My favourite is W8..... especially since I've seen it used by students for school assignments.   I've seen "lol",  "u" and "ur", and ridiculous ones that don't even save time or effort such as "lyke" or "teh".

I've heard about a study that actually confirms my hypothesis.  They had two subjects.  Both subjects were told that they had to read an article and that they were going to be asked questions about it's contents.  Subject A was told that after he read the article it would be deleted and he could not go back for reference.  Subject B was told that the article was saved on the computer, and that he could go back and read it again if he needed to.    Neither were actually allowed to see the article again.  Both were tested on what they remembered from it.  Of course, subject A did much better than subject B at remembering what the article was about, and other details that were in it.   We literally do rely on technology if we believe it will be there for us to use.  Just like we don't remember phone numbers if we know they're on our contacts list.

You know, I might write long blogs. But I'm proud of them. From what I've seen in my experiences with literacy in my peers, and even those responsible for the quality of my education, I feel fortunate to be able to write this much, this well (no matter how shitty you think it is).  And, if you read the whole thing, thanks.  You should be proud of yourself for getting this far too.  Thank you for being literate.

Thank you for allowing me to have some hope. 

Uploaded 10/06/2011
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