The age of stupidity

2013-09-23 00:00

DO you ever have the treasonous thought that your child is less intelligent than you? I know you are not supposed to think these thoughts as a parent, but it is that teacher instinct that sometimes kicks in.

Why do I say this? Well, firstly, very few children can read time off a conventional clock nowadays. Secondly, children are rarely able to cross a road anymore. A dead child cannot be educated!

This begs the question: what do they teach children at school? Before my daughter went to school, I was under the impression that our children were really smart. After all, children nowadays get six As in matric with gay abandon. For years, I used to enter my university class with trepidation: imagine lecturing a class full of A students. But for some reason, that A in school never even materialised into a B at university.

And then, when my nephew entered matric and my sister sometimes asked me to help, my eyes opened. I can safely say I would have murdered that Afrikaans matric paper in Standard 7.

Now these are not the ravings of a man going through a midlife crisis, mourning the fact that he did not get a single A in matric. No, we are being misled into thinking our children are super smart. If your child got straight As, the hard pill to swallow is that those As are equivalent to six Cs a generation back. At very best.

This is borne out by what they call the university throughput rate: i.e. what percentage of students complete university. It is less than 20%.

There are also serious ethical issues to consider. What about all those people from my generation who were denied access to universities when the pass mark was 50%? Today the pass mark is 30%. That is just plain unfair.

But the people responsible for this dumbing down are of my generation. Yes, it is true that politicians drive the process, but my contemporaries are complicit in this sham. Common sense has become very uncommon at schools. We have lost sight of what is appropriate knowledge for children. Schools try to do too much too quickly. Do they not know the old adage: more haste, less speed? They should teach with their conscience as soon as they see that children are getting 20% in every external test administered at the school but get over 50% at year end. How did that miracle happen?

They must stop teaching children about semen in Grade 5. You have to be a daft fool to teach that at that age. You have to be even more daft to prescribe to teachers that you should teach children about semen in Grade 5.

You have got to be kidding when you ask a child to comment about genre in a Grade 6 book review. In Afrikaans as a second language, nogal. Who are we all kidding? You must be stupid to think that children are competent enough at this age to write a book review in a second language. The education system is run by idiots who are doing irreparable harm to our children.

The case of computers for schools should also not go unchallenged. Computers are essential in the modern world, but a good teacher at the chalkboard remains better than a thousand computers. Computers offer only window dressing so that your knowledge is neatly packaged. Knowledge from the Internet is only a starting point for research. Yet our children believe in the gospel according to Google.

In private schools, children can be seen with fingers like spiders on tablets, spinning webs of deceit around an unsuspecting public that does not realise that computers have spellcheck, which automatically corrects spelling mistakes. And when the president of your country goes on national television, exhorting children to study “it”, the rhetoric around computers rings hollow. It is I.T. Mr President.

Furthermore, parents should have the right to ask for teachers’ qualifications, listing their teaching majors. For what we have in schools are qualified teachers, yes. But teachers who are forced to teach subjects they were never trained to teach. Thus, I see my university students who only did Afrikaans for beginners now teaching Afrikaans in a school. This is a recipe for disaster.

But what went wrong? Why are qualified teachers incapable of teaching the basics? We were taught by a generation of teachers who sometimes only had a Standard 6. We were taught by men and women who had very little formal education, yet pulled themselves and their pupils up by their bootstraps.

And they produced a generation that built on their legacy.

Maybe the time has come to entertain another treasonous thought — that education under apartheid was better.

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