Teacher’s pet words

teacherThe news that NAPLAN scores for writing have gone down will surprise few employers, who see the results of our education system in every fresh batch of job applications. Take this one-sentence example, lifted intact from a letter to Quadrant Online that accompanied the CV of a recent graduate, the proud owner of a newly minted degree in journalism:

“…its (sic) an ocupation (sic) that I have studied for hard and earnt (sic) the bear (sic) academic insights that a job will se (sic) blossom…”

As Quadrant is a small shop and we don’t need another office cleaner, the hopeful applicant was advised to profess a fierce faith in global warming, the wisdom of bureaucrats and the martyrdom of Julia Gillard and advised to seek employment with Fairfax, where semi-literate reporters can save the subs a lot of work in their ongoing efforts to make poor copy absolutely and irredeemably wretched.

So how does someone who has completed primary school, high school and university manage to put together such an inept sentence?

A hint might be found in the opinion column published today by the Sloppy Morning Herald. It appears beneath the name of Robyn Cox, president of the Primary English Teaching Association of Australia:

“… a teacher will have, at some stage in our early school life, taught us how to decode language into sound symbol relationship and fit that understanding into the world. That is called learning to read. That same teacher will likely have taught us how to build up from those very same sound symbol relationships through word level, clause level, sentence level to text level and compose a text we might be proud to publish or share. That is called learning to write …

The pedagogical and linguistic focus begins at the text level prior to moving through the layers of the linguistic system to word level. Young children are taught to consider the purpose for their writing and hence the “text type” before thinking carefully about the individual word or word group choices that they might use to produce a text which fulfils its purpose – which might be to report; entertain; instruct or even persuade.”

The column purports to be a response to that NAPLAN slippage. It might be better read as a “text level” argument for home schooling.

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