The problems in the British education system began when university lecturers Bernard Lamb and Geoff Moore noticed that their universities had been letting the oiks in.   You are an oik if you are a student of marine biology English anything and you make any spelling errors in the following paragraph:

“It’s clear that the occurrence of the barnacle Chthamalus in the marine environment is attributable to its requirement for exposed rocky shores. 
Waves and airborne spray affect the position of the barnacle line, elevating zonal boundaries.  Better able to resist desiccation than Semibalanus, Chthamalus is dependent on sufficient height on the shore to provide necessary refugia for survival.  Whether these two species have complementary distribution patterns on all shores is harder to gauge, since their ecological separation involves accommodating the effects of other factors.  Nevertheless, their distributions illustrate in miniature the competitive forces and spatial constraints to which sedentary species are subject.” [1]

Now cover it over and write it down!!
   Moore cunningly disguised the exercise as a piece of dictation, so no student knew that their spelling was under the microscope, or that shorthand and abbreviations would be marked as incorrect.  Only three students (foreigners, no less!) spelled the whole passage correctly.   Moore and Lamb took their experiences as proof that schools were not teaching spelling or grammar.   They were cautious not to use the word “oik”, but the fact remains that these professors would not have noticed the decline in the teaching of English (which they don’t teach) in schools (where they don’t work) if their own personal standards had not, thankfully, been ever rising to make up for it, and if ever more pupils from under-privileged (read: “under-educated”) backgrounds had not been given the chance to Study at University.

So, we need not dismiss their observations as anecdotal or relentlessly negative.    If we’re going to be anecdotal, then I could relate my first-hand experience of an actual school: I went to a very average state comprehensive in the 1990s (the worst decade). In our English lessons we had weekly spelling tests, and each pupil compiled a whole file on where to place punctuation marks in sentences. In that decade, curriculum reforms had been brought in to encourage the teaching of grammar.

That might have been the end of that, but Moore and Lamb are members of the Queen's English Society, the organisation that is voluntarily better at talking than you.  The Society has printed the professors’ “findings”, along with several similarly anecdotal articles, all critical of education. They believe that this constitutes proof that the English curriculum should be changed.

The 1990s reforms seem not to have registered with the QES; n
one of their writers mention education policy after 1990. They mostly talk in reverent terms about the 1950s, the golden age of learning. Rules. By. Rote.    Martin Estinel believes that every student wishing to enter university should have passed an English exam (not an A-Level: it’d be more “costly” and “painful”); his masterplan ends with this unrealistic proposal:

“The actual content of the UEQ [University English Qualification exam] paper(s) would have to be very carefully planned by academics of the dying generation of the pupils of the ’50s or earlier who did actually learn correct English in their day.  This shows the urgency of the measures[,] for these people will not be around for ever.”

Drag them out of retirement, if they’re still alive!
   The language may have changed, but their superiority to everyone else has not.

The QES begin their reasoned debate of education with a mad-sounding article that suggests “we might as well vote for the Monster Raving Loonies”[4].    Society chairman Rhea Williams, who has long since left the teaching “profession” (more like “amateurfession”!) to become a regular contestant on Radio 4’s “I’m Sorry This Serious News Programme Contains Ill-Informed Blather about Language”, delivers a thought-provoking article highlighting her own failure to proof-read (which the QES deplore in others) and AQuI, exclaiming:
“I was SHOCKED? Absolutely.” [5]
It must be the fault of those drunken newsreaders from Other Regions that she manages to kick in the same article. One even introduced a bulletin with, “O’woit mate, you slaaigs?!”.  It was only a dream, but it still seemed chillingly real.

Actually, I don’t think she’s being old-fashioned to want the language we hear to be clear.  Like Williams, I don’t believe that computers are our saviour; language-learning involves same processes as it ever did.  But Williams’s argument fails because she comes across as a snob whose view of the world is years out-of-date (about 35, actually).

If she and her colleagues want the situation to change, they
’ll need to find some reliable modern evidence: they don’t know what schools today are really like.    All they have is an assumption, which won’t stand up in court.   They polarise opinion immediately with confrontational headlines like Linguistic criminals and 195 words, 54 spelling errors (a figure they invented out of thin air).  Of their six cherry-picked articles, only two are actually about teaching in schools (one of those is re-printed from the Daily Angry Mail, in which it is often hard to tell which issues actually make them angry).

(Furthermore, it strikes me that this article has not yet mentioned the culpable schoolmasters of the title; I shall be getting to them shortly!  You will have to stay behind after the end of the article)

The idea that it is a neutral, disinterested source and that “The Queen’s English Society does not exist to criticise the teaching profession” is hard to take seriously when you look at their title page, and yet I can.
[Bloody Hell! I jumped when I read “The Queen’s English Society does not exist”, it scared the life out of me! Thank goodness they still do. Make sure this note doesn’t appear on the website – Ed.] The British education system must be in terminal chronic decline; after all, experienced teachers who gave up decades ago say it is.

So we at the Proper English Foundation must be given Power, the Power to change our schools for what we deem to be the better, under the banner of “Massive Educational Overhaul Now!”.    Lobbying the Government in this way is far easier than finding evidence, and faster too; it will allow us to improve these children’s lives more quickly than if we had had to do research or conduct these “inquiries” that are so in fashion these days.

Firstly, we shall go one better than the QES, by comparing the two possible solutions to our schools’ crisis.   Should we return to the 1950s, or stay in the 2010ties?    Launch application!!

Back in the days when teachers were called schoolmasters and, to a lesser extent, schoolmistresses, things were very rosy indeed.   The Prime Minister, Monster Raving Loony Harold Macmillan, even claimed, “they’ve [the people of Britain’ve] never had it so good”.    Goodness me, that’s not a very well-constructed sentence.  “Never had it so well” would be better.   Let us strike that sentence from history.

Nonetheless, the advantages for youngsters – or “adolescent teen-agers”, as they were coming to be named – were numerous and the amount of language they were taught would beggar belief.   They could learn the rules of grammar with a minimum of thought, and the complete works of Shakespeare in an hour (which was longer in those days).    Wonderful times; I remember them as clearly as if they had existed.

ve no evidence that 1950s educational methods worked better than today’s, but no matter.  One controversial point of ’50s schooling, unmentioned by the QES, was the use of the cane, but I have found an highly convincing argument for its re-introduction:

[Image released CC-BY-3.0, "The cane is back" by PEF Web-Mister]

It convinced me to be even more opposed to it than I had been previously.    But K Neil’s beautifully-written article, in which an overview of caning is provided to you, could still persuade you to support caning if you concentrate solely on the words.    Such beautiful words!    (At first I thought it was satirical, but it is not. My jaw dropped)

The crux of his argument appears to be that caning replaced other dangers in children’s lives, whereas nowadays children go around getting mauled by lions and taking driving lessons in stolen cars.   If true, this is terrible!

Therefore corporal punishment (punishment of the body or corpse) is highly necessary for that authentic ’50s experience.    You wouldn’t go to a ’50s-themed restaurant without expecting to hear some rock and N-roll music to punish the ears, and caning is a similar punishment to the left hand or bottom.
It is an important life lesson: if you forget something, whether it is your PE kit or a noun adjunct, then somebody will hit you!    If this be what the Queen’s English Society believe to be the way forward, then we be only too happy to follow them.    I presume most of the QES members got caned, and it clearly never did them any harm.

(All things considered, they are quite fair towards these Awful Kids These Days, and they never appear resentful or out-of-touch.    Nobody has ever successfully proved that adults object to whatever younger generations do or say or wear or think, which is a relief for us. Otherwise we might’ve had to defend what Rhea Williams said about young people, but now we don’t need to.)

In the current decade (the “2010ties”, not to be confused in future with the “2020s”, which sounds completely different on a crackly space-phone line), very few people have made suggestions as to how pupils could learn English.
Of the suggestions we found, one is American, another American also (and therefore automatically at fault – or, as they might spell it, “falt”), and a third web-site from the UK presents some modern strategies for teaching grammar but also claims that:
“Grammatical knowledge is not taught for its own sake, so whatever its other benefits may be, it is always integrated”. [6]

Heathen!   Of course we should learn grammar for its own sake.   Even in isolation, a well-written sentence turns me on to a dangerous degree, regardless of its content.  Even that Stalin quote: “The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.” [7] Horrible, but beautifully-constructed and refreshingly sexist.

So it should be clear that nobody has the right solutions to our linguistic quagmire other than we.

The Queen’s English Society quote an exam paper which contains ‘unclear’ information.   “You may only answer five questions”, or some such.   It is not a real exam paper; they just made the quote up.   But the fear is that it COULD become real if we do not find those potentially responsible, and by giving the QES unchecked Power over our schools we will avoid this dystopian future.

For our part, we suggest that all teachers, examiners and school governers be encouraged to join the Proper English Foundation.   If they refuse, we shall replace those dissident elements with our PEF party members, so that our nation’s children finally get a decent education instead of eating imaginary cakes all day and getting fat.

(And what is the reason for our media’s obsession with the word “obese”?    In days of old, the word we used was “fat”, and I do not want to see these days disappear!   It is a perfectly good, clear and non-hurtful word;   whichever politically-correct euphemism you create this fatness will not change and only the child is to blame!)

Could the Boy Scouts play a rôle? No.
The QES make a telling remark when they say that the word “only” is often mis-placed in sentences, just like a lost Girl Guide who has ended up in the Boy Scouts! [8]   This would have been as hilarious as their other ‘jokes(?)’, but, unfortunately for them, there have been girls in Scouts since 1991. (There’s no “Boy” in their name anymore either.) [9]

This is just another example of lefties, working in tandem with righty loonies, moving the goalposts in order to embarrass the Queen’s English Society and portray them as being completely out-of-touch with the world.   Which they are not.

We at the Proper English Foundation are intent on advising the Queen’s English Society on how best they might re-enter society, so here are a few suggestions.    Instead of distorting facts and shouting, they have could examined the role that schools have to play (considering that 8% of Brits have dyslexia, and how difficult and time-consuming English spelling is to learn – regardless of how well a few dozen foreigners learned it).

But instead they demand a non-existent quick fix.
   Prof Greg Brooks found that schools’ reading scores have never been higher, but also (to the QES’s delight) that one-fifth of British school-leavers are functionally illiterate; he wrote in 2002 that this figure has been fairly constant for decades:

“Many of those who believe that standards have declined are middle-aged and of above average attainment in literacy. They perceive, correctly, that levels of attainment among people younger than themselves are lower than their own, especially among school-leavers (16-year-olds in Britain); but they also believe, incorrectly, that their competence in literacy was just as high when they completed their secondary education as it is now — when it fact the survey evidence suggests that they have almost certainly improved.”
[10, PDF]

He could almost have been describing the Queen’s English Society...

The QES’s views on language usage are often ludicrous, but if they concentrated on being a teaching lobby who conducted research, and stopped demanding an immediate return to the era of the cane, I believe they could be more successful.   In a 1995 copy of QUEST, Bernard Lamb wrote a sincere review of National Curriculum guidelines, giving constructive criticism.   If they can remember what this is, the QES may be able to make a coherent argument for “traditional” education.    (If they really get their act together.)

Incidentally, they must have been disappointed to learn that the Coalition Government wants to give certain schools “academy” status – criminally overlooking the Language Acadamy, which was created to make a real cosmetic difference for pupils instead of tarting-up so-called “outstandingly good” schools with a new sign and greater control over their own affairs.    These academies must be opposed!   There can be only one!!

A “school”


class"-‘room’ in Japan. [pd]

Did we print this already? I’m forgetful.

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