Wednesday, October 01, 2008

David Cameron blames spelling reform for social breakdown

In the context of talking about social breakdown, violence on our streets, and so on, Cameron offered three planks of policy to begin to tackle the problem: Families, Schools and Welfare.

Under schools there was the usual complaint about standards, and then this:
Listen to this. It's the President of the Spelling Society. He said, and I quote, "people should be able to use whichever spelling they prefer." 

Isn't that shocking, that the Spelling Society doesn't stand up for correct spelling? Well no. The Spelling Society is a campaign for the simplification of English Spelling. They have slogans like 

Why don't 



Why do



The point being that illogical spelling makes it harder for children to learn to read, leads to lower educational achievement, and contributes, presumably, in the long run, to, er, social breakdown.

This is not a campaign of trendy educationalists to take over our schools, but a campaign aimed at us, and in particular publishers, to spell words in a sensible way.

You might not agree of course, you might find the ossified spellings of a some particular previous century - I forget which - "quaint". Fine, but by putting that first you are the agent of social breakdown, not its opponent.

Cameron has taken the opposite view - saying that only by failing to reform English spelling are we going to staunch the tide of social breakdown. Or something like that. The full speech is parodied here, at Dave, nice but knave. (Which is me, really. Plug plug)

But perhaps I am reading too much into what Dave said. Perhaps it was just a pathetic retreat into a Tory comfort zone when faced with a difficult problem.


thomas said...

Joe, I've noticed your comments spreading out across the net and started reading you after followed the link to your blog.

I like what your doing and I think it's worth challenging you to improve.

I'd like to get into a bit more of a conversation and examine your ideas a little bit more - sometimes it can get tiring to have nothing original to say or add.

I get the feeling you're playing a bit safe and MOR with the things you're talking about which stops you from asking your own questions and building your own platform.

Anyway, I feel I've got to be a bit rude and forward because it's necessary to stir up a bit of controversy and get your competitive and creative juices flowing.

It's called 'leading, not following'.

So looking at this post, I'm sorry, yes, good points, but better made elsewhere.

What's your USP? Where are your quirks? What's your individual perspective? How does this relate to your personal experience/knowledge? Have you taken your audience on a journey? What preconceptions have you smashed? what have you learnt? How has your style enhanced your subject matter? Have you challenged your audience? How have you opened up the subject to an interactive response?

You won't please all of the people all of the time, but you'll please them more when you do.

Groovy, yeah?

Joe Otten said...

Well thankyou thomas, I consider myself challenged. Watch this space. Is there a topic you have in mind?

thomas said...

Actually there is something I'd like you to blog, but it's not so much any specific topic.

I'd like you to do a 'day in the life' (not necessarily a full day though) where you describe any particular encounters you have and how they relate to and build your views on politics.

Responding to what other people have said isn't quite as tangible or immediate as saying 'the dog-walkers are irresponsibly failing to clear up after their pets... it didn't bother me until I trod in a great steaming Alsatian turd in the dark on the way home from the pub... why has this fallen off the agenda of the local council?' etc.

That's not to say it isn't interesting, but it comprises only part of the picture on it's own and the regular reader likes to be able to connect the dots to understand how and why this and that join up.

Sometimes in striving to provide answers all of the time we neglect to ask the right questions...

Off on a tangent, your avatar photo looks like it was taken in Venice (which is where I get my Alsatian connection in... there aren't any parks, so after I took a wrong turning and got lost... you get the picture... cue disembodied embarassment on my part), I just wonder if there is any particular reason why this reflects the image you wish to project (cultured, continental etc?)...

Joe Otten said...

Hmph. A day in the life is one thing I resolved never to do in this blog. I see it as a platform, not a diary. Plus, working from home, I meet fewer people than I would like. Part of the appeal of politics is that it gets me out more.

However, I take your point about joining up the dots. There are a few things about my background to be said, which will probably shed some light.

As for Venice, there may be something in what you say, although photos I have of myself tend to be holiday photos because that's when they get taken.

thomas said...

No, I don't mean to spill all your dirty secrets in a diary form, but to see how your thinking patterns emerge and combine to reach the conclusions on which to build a platform.

One of my favorite pieces of journalism ever was a report by C4 Moscow correspondant Gaby Rado about a day in the life of a potato. There was something extraordinary about the way an ordinary object could form the narrative root to describe the reforms taking place under Gorbachev. It has stuck in my memory ever since partly because of it's simplicity, but also because the visual symbolism was a perfect fit.

To use another example, from la Mortimer, she wrote a really good piece about how hard it is to buy nails in her local high street. It took the story from something entirely practical and stretched it into a way of understanding the processes and pressures at work in the world and how these things hang together.

This form is only one method of leading a reader towards a conclusion and it is best suited to condensing big issues down to digestible chunks by building recognition with an air of familiarity. There are many others which surreptitiously dig their hooks in, but essentially this is a question of which style is most effective at engaging readers in the substance (ie picking your horses according to the courses).

Anyway, along these lines, perhaps it would be an interesting exercise to blog a stylistic analysis of Clegg's conference speech and even (if you have the time and interest) compare the tone and form of the political messages with Brown and Cameron.

Maybe they can offer some pointers which can be picked up upon, after all it is part of their job description to be good communicators so we should be able to learn from them!

Robert said...

All this from spelling phew.

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