Alexander McCall Smith on teachers and the taught

“Below are comments from the writer, Alexander McCall Smith, in his article in the June 2015 edition of “Prospect” magazine, the British magazine designed for those who think and who have a sense of humour, under the title “If I ruled the World”.

“Teachers too would have their authority returned to them. Children would be taught grammar, and in particular encouraged to use the accusative properly and to put verbs in their sentences, where possible. They would be told what a verb is. They would be taught not to use the word “like” every 10 seconds. They would be taught not to run alltheirwordstogether. This would mean that when they got jobs announcing flights at airports people would be able to understand what they were saying.

“Epicurus would probably agree that the “What the hell – let them speak the language any way they like” gang who have dominated education in the English-speaking world since baby-boomers were invented, should, like, be pensioned off and our language restored to what it used to be – the universally understood and agreed way of communicating and which created a vibrant community.”

The above post first appeared on the blog in 2015, and is the most visited posting in five years. It clearly resonated with the readership, who have difficulty, for instance, following actors who gabble, like, on the stage and TV and mangle English, and particularly Shakespeare – one of many modern challenges.  Mind you, the people who are really into philosophy are often no better.  Why is it that in trying to communicate philosophical ideas they have to use inaccessible language and come across so humourless?   I suppose they think it adds something, a je ne sais qua, to their reputation. Well, no, actually.  What is the point of philosophy if it is written in bad English and is not easily understood?  “Get thee gone, varmint!” (from somewhere in Shakespeare.  I’ve forgotten).

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