Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Grasp of English

Man in a Shed's chosen career has been in Chemical Engineering. This is down to an enthusiasm for science at school and then the realisation that applied science and engineering were a lot of fun. ( Burning motors at that back of the lab as you rewire them, re-routing oxygen to your bunsen burner to get better combustion, spending 2 days rewiring a combination switch - just to prove that an extra digit could be used and seeing just how many of the power cells you can wire up in series before the physics teacher catches you ).

However - the English language continues to be a bit of a mystery. A case in point here has been my use of the term ex-patriot rather than expatriate to describe PragueTory, IstanbulTory and The Last Ditch. Firstly my apologies to all three - their patriotism is not in question ! And I'd have to ask for previous offences to be taken into consideration, specifically when taking a school entrance exam at 11 when is mistook the words corporal and capital punishment and wrote an essay which had, in effect, executions being handed out for dropping litter. ( The exam did not go well - but if enacted it would have kept the pavements clear ! )

Man in a Shed takes the view that he must try harder - and is quite happy to be corrected. We all have weak points and I'd like to improve on mine. Though I do believe English is an evolving language - and I'm quite happy to contribute to that evolution ;-)

When at school I was diagnosed with dyslexia, and had a note to hand into the exam board (made no difference that I could tell - there were no concessions from the Oxford Delegation Board in those days ). At 'A'-levels I refused to hand it in ( much to my mothers disapproval ) - my reasoning was I had to compete in the outside world on the same basis as everyone else, and would just need to work harder at the language aspect.

Now if I can only get my daughters teacher to start correcting her spelling and mirror writing ....

PS There's a limit of course. Marks out of Ten, and notes to see me later" in comments will just get deleted ....


ContraTory said...

Confusing "corporal" with "capital" in relation to "punishment" raises an interesting issue. Right-of-centre Conservative bloggers would no doubt require the imposition of a stiff custodial sentence for mangling/misusing the English language, whereas those of a more centre/centre left persuasion such as myself would seek a community penalty - say, a severe telling-off with a condition that you submit to having a free haircut and your tattoos removed.

This all reminds me of a biology exam where one of the answers involved me using the word "organisms" frequently. I don't need to spell out the word I had actually used.

delroy said...

You must have had a seriously middle class upbringing if you could be dyslexic. Working class kids are just thick if they can't spell.

Your daughter's teacher is probably marking up to 35 pieces of work for each lesson and maybe doing six lessons a day. there really isn't time to mark each piece of work individually for spelling and grammar. If I mark a history lesson I'm interested in whether the history is understood. I don't have time to correct every mispelling of settler, and especially when a quarter of the class don't have English as their first language.

You know your daughter has a problem; just how bad is it? Upsets you, or is it serious? If the second then arrange extra teaching after school. If the first why worry. She won't fail in life for reversing b and d or p and q. My own daughter did an still got an MSc from Oxford.

Man in a shed said...


Oddly enough being middle class worked against me initially. Since in primary school I was coping just - that was fine for the state system. The comment of the head master at the time was that dyslexia was just a middle class excuse for laziness.

This lead to my departure from the state sector.

What made a real difference were about a years one hour a week sessions at St Barts hospital were the therapist I was talking to explained English from the ground up (Alpha to Omega was the text). I was just wondering why no one had bothered to do this before ? At the age of 12 it was humiliating to be made to sound out words etc - and I wasn't the happiest of campers with the whole idea, but it worked.

I failed to get into one of the few local grammer schools ( I was border line being 10 miles away - but they had some follow on questions on what I was reading at the time - famous five turned out to be the wrong answer - I'd only just started reading at all at home. ) I'd also taken the exam I mentioned in the post for Jack Straw's old school at 11 - as I said it didn't go well.

At 13 I'd become the first person in my school's history to be hopeless enough at Latin to be allowed to give up. (Yet I was in the top stream due to some good science results.)

When applying to Jack Straw's old school again at 13 - the headmaster there said they didn't take mentally disabled pupils - but I managed to pass the exam.

At the time mentioning dyslexia didn't get you sympathy - it got you labelled as an idiot.

Things are much better now - primary schools are better ( thanks to the last Conservative government getting the basics right and a lot of hard effort by teachers. I am genuinely impressed with what they do and the thinking behind much of it ).

However, it worries me that there is no one correcting my daughter in her current class. What life has taught me is that she doesn't need extra lessons - she needs the right lessons. I'm reminded of what was explained to me at the age of 11-12 and wish I'd heard it at 6-7.

I can see how difficult it must be with a class with significant group of non English speakers. At my daughter's (state) school we always have a number in each class - plus there are a lot of Polish children coming in these days.

I'm going to wait and see for a short while as a significant factor in all this is about to change. Her first year was great - I think you can guess what the underlying cause is. But I won't wait for too long - if that makes me a pushy middle class parent it also makes me a parent who loves their child and hates to see their potential wasted and understands just how that can come about.

Nothing makes me angrier than when I hear self serving Labour politicians with put on working class accents, but whom went to grammer or private schools, talking about pushy middle class parents and their sharp elbows. ( I'm not suggesting you were saying that - but I've got a head of steam up so may as well have a go at them also.) they always manage to find the right London Oratory School(Blair), Grammer school(Harman), or private school (Abbott) for their kids.

A basic education is vital for everyone. I'm tired of all this rubbish about keeping people in school till they are 18 then getting everyone to University.

What we need is everyone able to read, write and do basic arithmetic at 14 - and with their own choice of what to do next.

Back on subject - thanks for you advice and comment - I'll keep them in mind. Personally I can see why not everything can be marked, but underlying problems and issues should be picked up upon and acted on.

Man in a shed said...

ContraTory - welcome back !

Don't suppose you could use your legal mind to explain to the rest of us just why injunctions are flying back and forth right now on the No10 cash for peerages thing ?

I still can't quite figure it all out. ( Ok I'm tempting you back into firing up your blog again ..)

delroy said...

Your reply is very interesting and I understand the problem.

"What we need is everyone able to read, write and do basic arithmetic at 14 - and with their own choice of what to do next.

You will have to accept that there are people who will never have reading, writing and basic arithmetic at their command however much they are taught. Not everybody has the ability to lean and retain. My cousin was such but was able to spend most of his working life in a factory cleaning and packing. He had wages and self respect until industry disappeared in the Thatcher years. Don't think I am anti Tory. I was a Conservative party memeber from Ted Heath to John Major. Nowadays I float in despair.