Monday, February 04, 2008

Brit teens can't tell fiction from fact.

Apparently state-education in the United Kingdom is as pathetic as it is in the United States. This doesn’t surprise me but apparently it does shock some people. Somehow they think that people who bring us such disasters as the post office, the war in Iraq and the Department of Motor Vehicles, will suddenly turn competent when they have massive amounts of funding and years to educate kids.

England’s state schools are very much like American state schools. And that means it’s not about the kids! The kids are secondary -- after-thoughts at best. The school system exists to benefit two groups. The primary beneficiares are the teacher’s unions who use stated education to transfer wealth and power to their own members. The second beneficiary would be the politicians who then get the support of the teacher’s unions in the elections. That works because the politicians give the teacher’s unions money and the union’s take money from the teachers in order to fund the politicians to give even more money to the members. And round and round we go.

Now the reason I say that the English system is also in dire straits is a recent survey of English teeenagers. Some 3,000 teens were asked question relating to their knowledge of history. To say the least these kids are learning more from television and film than they are learning from school. And this means they can’t tell the difference between reality and ficiton.

Almost half of them thought that the very real King Richard the Lionhearted was fictional. Meanwhile two-thirds of them believe that the fictional King Arthur was real. Just over a quarter of the kids think Florence Nightingale was fictional but the fictional Sherlock Holmes, is believed to be real by a whopping two thirds of them. In addition about half of them believe the fictional Robin Hood existed and a similar number think the “Eleanor Rigby” that the Beatles sang about was also real. On the other hand 20% of them think Winston Churchill is fictional -- well, in some ways, they aren’t that far off there.

It should be no surprise that almost four-fifths of them said they don’t read history and the majority say that if a historical program comes on television that they change channels. It is also a sad commentary that under the educational monopoly it is very difficult for students to change schools unless they are wealthy. State education traps the poor and middle classes by limiting their ability to walk out of bad schools. Meanwhile the kids of politicians can easily afford private educations.

Of course, a public unable to tell fiction from fact is useful to politicians.