Useful And Fantastic: How Do We Produce A Clever Country?
Val Yule calls for a simplified spelling system.
The Gonski Report recommends changes to funding, and a new national curriculum is in place, but is this enough to put Australia at the top of the class?
Australia produces a small proportion of duxes (duces?) at the top and a large proportion of dunces at the bottom. We have been concentrating on improving the mass in the middle, but the cost and the number of the dunces is so great that more needs to be done in improving them.
Methods of improving the dunces have been tried for so long we should surely realise they are insufficient – such as remedial reading after they have failed, long hours of drill or repetition, and small classes.
We are now looking at the Finnish example of a literate society, with rewards of status and pay for well-trained teachers, and good well-furnished schools for all pupils. Finland also has no private schools to cater to parents who demand good schools. It has a more even distribution of wealth in society, with less difference between rich and poor.
Children can start school at seven, ensuring fewer start before they are developmentally ready, and because children can learn to read at home, the bright are not held back.
We however are tackling our tricky spellings by technical means, which help those with access to them – leaving the disadvantaged still at sea. We have spellcheckers so that we can write with few spelling errors, even when the spellings are undoubtedly tricky. As long as we can put our own misspellings through spellcheckers, our own writing will be relatively safe from errors. This is less useful for beginners learning to read and write and for the disadvantaged who have no computers out of school. We have computer apps that can read aloud whatever writing is fed into it – but the task is to get the writing into the computer.
Poor spelling is taken as a useful clue to lesser ability, when selecting employees. Everyone is thought not to need to read instructions or books. The lower classes are less likely to riot if they do not read of better lives than theirs – but television shows them this. ‘I doubt if we should be teaching these children to read – it only makes them harder to catch,’ said a priest to me at a disadvantaged school. That is true, but it also shows them better ways to live that are not criminal.
Universal literacy is becoming ever more important as jobs require more skills. The taxpayers’ bill is huge to pay for the underprivileged who are unemployable, and for all the other associated effects of poor literacy.
Therefore it is time that we did something about the ‘little things’ that are spelling traps – because they can make such a difference.
There should be Parallel Text experiments - reading books in which the text is repeated on the opposite page without the spelling traps. This will not only give the beginner and poor reader help to read the original text, but will also make us think that perhaps the spelling traps are not necessary – except to trap those not as skilled as we are.
Text without the spelling traps is easy for literate people to read too. It cuts out 6 per cent of letters and changes only 3 per cent of letters in words in everyday text, after allowing 35 common irregular words to stay as sight words, because they make up 12 per cent of everyday text. Keep them: all almost always among as come some could should would half know of off one only once other pull push put they their there two as was what want who why, and word-endings-ion/-tion/-sion.
Spelling rules will take only one page, as with most alphabetic languages. Most sound-symbol relationships are one-to-one. No more than two variant spellings for each sound except for up to four variant spellings for nine vowels and three consonants, plus the 35 very common irregular words kept as they are, learned by rote.
Here is a shortened version of the U.N. document of Human rights for easy reading:
1.All people are born free and eqal.
2.Everyone has the same rights.
3.Right to life, liberty and safety.
4.No slavery or servitude.
6.Recognized in law as a person
7.Protected by the law
8.Right to justice
9.No arbitrary arrest, detention or exile
10.Right to a fair trial
11.Innocent until pruven gilty
12.Right to privacy
13.Freedom to muve from place to place.
14.Right to asilum from being persecuted.
15.Right to a nationality
16.Right to marry and hav a family
17.Right to hav property
18.Freedom of thaut, conshence and wurship.
19.Freedom of opinion and expression
20.Freedom of peaceful assembly and association
21.Right to take part in government
22.Right to social security and the benefits of society's progress
23.Right to wurk, a fair wage, and to join a trade uenion
24.Right to rest and lezhur
25.Right to a decent standard of living
26.Right to education
27.Right to freely take part in the community
28.Right to an international order in which to realize these rights
29.Everyone has duties to their community
30.No one has the right to destroy eny of these rights or freedoms