Here Comes Illiteracy and Innumeracy

A couple of topical cartoons off Facebook today:



And something else I read today:

The leader of the National Union of Teachers has said that forcing children to know their full times tables is unnecessary because they can look up the answers on their mobile phones.

So they’ll only be able to multiply if they’ve got a mobile phone, and it’s fully charged, and they can get a signal?

I don’t have to do that to know 7 times 8 is 56, because I was taught to memorise an entire 12 times table at the age of 10. And I’ve used it all my life. It’s a great asset.

Next they’ll be saying that there’s no need to teach handwriting because children can just type stuff into their ubiquitous mobile phones.

And there’s no need to teach reading because their mobile phone can read text out loud for them.

Here comes mass illiteracy and innumeracy. Courtesy of the NUT.


About Frank Davis

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22 Responses to Here Comes Illiteracy and Innumeracy

  1. Roobeedoo2 says:

    Well, they’re too busy completing forms to show compliance for this, that or the other to spend time teaching the kids… Something’s gotta give ;)

  2. Tony says:

    In my day, complicated calculations were performed with slide rule and/or tables. In both cases, it was something very real and physical. The range, rate of change and more, that was visible at a glance in the tables and the sight of the scales on the slide rule, gave people a ‘feel’ for the functions that I don’t think you can ever get from a calculator.

    I fear children today may just see functions as something that their black box of a calculator provides.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I think I’ve still got my slide rule somewhere. I can’t say I was ever much of an expert at using it, because it had all sorts of capabilities that I never used.

      • nisakiman says:

        Heh! I never got the hang of slide rules.

        My father, who was an engineer and an academic (officer in the REME most of his life, had the military equivalent of half a dozen degrees from the Military College of Science in Shrivenham) used one all the time. But then he was the sort of person who could, when I was struggling with my homework, quote Boyle’s law (or any other bloody law or equation) verbatim at the drop of a hat.

        I never stood a chance.

        He couldn’t understand why I didn’t ‘get’ all this stuff in physics and chemistry. To him, it was just all in a day’s work. It was as much as I could do to use those books of ‘log tables’ that we had to cart around. Christ, I wish we’d had calculators back then. My life would have been so much easier!

  3. Smoking Lamp says:

    It almost seems as if they are trying to turn us into proles subject to the manipulation of the inner and outer party. I guess tobacco control is the inner party and the politicians and media are the outer party. They seek to dominate and control. The third hand smoke, second hand smoke, smoking bans, and related hysteria are designed to gain compliance that is reinforced through fear. The propaganda and suppression of dissent reinforce the fear and hysteria. Ignorance amplifies the fear. The only viable count is to expose the lies!

  4. devinna says:

    Totally agree Frank.!

  5. Some French Bloke says:

    This oldy but goody rather closely echoes the first cartoon on today’s page (also, it’s been a year since someone posted something by Robert Crumb round here):

  6. Lepercolonist says:

    I remember manually calculating logarithms in my youth before the advent of hand held calculators. It
    certainly sharpened other mathematical skills during the process. Without memorizing times tables and using long division and multiplication current students are unable to perform the extrapolation of logs. Similar to cursive writing. Sad state of affairs.

  7. waltc says:

    And what if, one day, their phones ‘ programmed by The State, decide to tell them that 7×8 is 42 or 96? The other thing their cell phones are already teaching them is unnecessary is actual face to face human contact. This leaves them unable to read the body language and facial expressions that are the subtext of words. It also, I think, leaves them just enough sociopathic, devoid of the profound understanding that other people are actual,human beings, to do things like shoot up,their schools, rampage thru malls, and use movie theaters as shooting galleries.

  8. Frank Davis says:

    Rainbow I caught on my dashcam a couple of days back.

    It doesn’t really do it justice, because it was the brightest rainbow I’ve seen in a long time.

    • Rose says:

      Lovely composition Frank, I can imagine it’s brightness.

      We discovered an optical illusion over Christmas, my sister noticed it first.
      Because the days were so dark but it was still too early to close the curtains, she noticed that, unremarkably, our christmas tree was reflected in the window at the opposite side of the room.
      What was remarkable was that this christmas tree seemed far larger and much brighter than the one it reflected.
      It was an effect of the double glazing of course, but no matter how many times we tried to photograph the illusion, sadly, it just couldn’t be done.

      • Frank Davis says:

        “Lovely composition”

        It wasn’t ‘composed’ at all, really. I was just driving my car as I usually do. On this stretch of road I happened to capture the whole rainbow in the dashcam’s 160 degree wide angle view.

  9. garyk30 says:

    “Here comes mass illiteracy and innumeracy.”

    I would say that they are here.

    In the USA, about 20% of adults can barely read at a basic level and about 30% of adults can barely do math at a basic level.

    That gives about 25% of adults are incapable of telling BS from reality.

    If you can manipulate 20% of the adult population you can be elected President.

    Here is how that works:
    Take 100 adults

    Only 90% will be eligible to vote = 90 adults

    Of that 90, only 75% will register to vote
    90% x 75% = 67.5%

    Of that 67.5%, only about 55% will vote in a Presidential election
    67.5% x 55% = 37.1% actually voting

    Of that 37.1%, you only need 51% to win the election.
    51% of 37.1% = 18.9%

    So, if you can control the correct 20% of the adult population, you are President of the USA.

    Then, you can claim a ‘mandate’ from the people to do what you wish:

    “The people have spoken!!”

  10. garyk30 says:

    Britain has up to eight million adults who are functionally illiterate, a report out today revealed.

    The World Literacy Foundation said one in five of the UK population are so poor at reading and writing they struggle to read a medicine label or use a chequebook.

    • garyk30 says:

      Young adults in England have scored among the lowest results in the industrialised world in international literacy and numeracy tests.

      England is 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy out of 24 countries.

      The study shows that there are 8.5 million adults in England and Northern Ireland with the numeracy(math) levels of a 10-year-old.

      • garyk30 says:

        Sad to say, many of those people are in elected positions of power.

      • nisakiman says:

        Those are very depressing figures, Gary, but I can’t say I’m terribly surprised. The educational establishments have long been controlled by the idealistic left, with their ‘learn through play’ approach to education. Which of course means no learning at all.

        I remember when my eldest daughter was first at school (she’s 32 now) in inner London. At a parent – teacher meeting, we asked why she didn’t seem to be reading very well yet. She was 5 at the time. We were told that she was in fact very advanced, and in reality we shouldn’t expect any child to be able to read before the age of seven.

        Seven? I could read when I was four. Likewise my then wife.

        So we had to teach her ourselves. As we did with her younger sister (who has just gained her Master’s in International Law, with honours, not because of, but despite the education she was given). Both daughters learned as much, if not more, at home than they did at school.

        And that is why the educational standards in UK are so abysmal. Socialists, and the gormless ideas they have, control the education system. And as long as they are in the ascendancy in that system, we will continue to have an illiterate and innumerate population.

        You really would have thought they’d have been rumbled for the charlatans that they are by now., but apparently not. Their madcap ideas are still common currency in the education system today.

  11. Clicky says:

  12. harleyrider1978 says:

    The Medicalizing of America

    Part I: The Numbers Game

    Medicalize: “To identify or categorize (a condition or behavior) as being a disorder requiring medical treatment or intervention,” American Heritage Dictionary.

    Responses to virtually all questions, medical and otherwise fall into two categories: 1. Those having a finite number of answers, including yes, no, or in-between, for example “are you hungry?” or “are you sick?” and 2. Questions having a range of answers or values. Biologic and other scientific measurements fall into this latter category and include such things as weight, age, height, blood pressure, blood chemical values, such as glucose, cholesterol, PSA, etc. Where we get into trouble is in deciding, particularly in medicine, what is indeed normal and what is not. No matter where we place the dividing line or cutoff point, we are faced with an irresolvable medical dilemma.

    If we make the cutoff between normal and abnormal too low, we include too many normal in the abnormal group (called false positives, a Type I error); if the cutoff is too high, we include an excess of abnormal in the normal group (false negatives, Type II error). In the first instance we call too many well people sick, and in the latter, too many sick people well. (We are assuming the spectrum of low to high corresponds to the range of normal to abnormal; sometimes this range is reversed.)

    Over the years, various cutoff points for normal values have been based on generally accepted statistical and common sense clinical grounds. For example we have “normal” values for fasting and non-fasting blood sugars, upon which the diagnosis of diabetes is based; the “normal” level for blood pressure, defining the condition, hypertension; cutoff points for weight, defining obesity; and “normal” levels of blood lipids (HDL,LDL and total cholesterol) which for some even define the presence of heart disease (sic!). In what appears as a fatally misguided hope of extending treatment benefits to as many citizens as possible, various professional societies as well as Government Agencies have indeed changed our definitions of disease with unforeseen consequences. Specifically, in the present climate of change driven by a perceived need to keep us healthy and long-lived, these cutoff points have been lowered progressively and so drastically as virtually to create a nation of patients.

    In a revealing article in Effective Clinical Practice (March/April 1999) Lisa M. Schwartz and Steven Woloshin conclude that the number of people with at least one of four major medical conditions (actually risk factors) has increased dramatically in the past decade because of changes in the definition of abnormality. Using data abstracted from over 20,700 patients included in this Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III, 1988-1994) conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, the authors calculated the prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, and being overweight under the old and the new definitions and calculated the net change (i.e., number of new cases). Here are the results reported in the above article.


    Old Definition: Blood sugar > 140 mg/dl
    People under old definition: 11.7 million
    New Definition: Blood sugar > 126 mg/dl
    People added under new definition: 1.7 million
    Percent increase: 15%

    The definition was changed in 1997 by the American Diabetes Association and WHO Expert Committee on the Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus.


    High blood pressure is reported as two numbers, systolic or peak pressure and diastolic pressure when heart is at rest) in mm Hg.

    Old Definition: cutoff Blood Pressure > 160/100
    People under old definition: 38.7 million
    New Definition: Blood Pressure > 140/90
    People added under new definition: 13.5 million
    Percent Increase: 35%

    The definition was changed in 1997 by U.S. Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure.

    Prehypertension, a new category created in 2003: blood pressure from 120/80 to 138/89 includes 45 million additional people! If one includes this category, we have a grand total of 97.2 million total numbers of hypertensives and prehypertensives (whatever that is).

    High (Total) Cholesterol:

    Old Definition: Cholesterol > 240 mg/dl total cholesterol
    People under old definition: 49.5 million
    New Definition: Cholesterol > 200 mg/dl total cholesterol
    People added under new definition: 42.6 million
    Percent increase: 86%

    The definition was changed in 1998 by U.S. Air Force/Texas Coronary Atherosclerosis Prevention Study.


    Body Mass Index (BMI) is defined as the ratio of weight (in kg) to height (in meters) squared and is an inexact measure of body fat, though it supposedly establishes cutoff points of normal weight, overweight, and obesity.

    Old definition: BMI > 28 (men), BMI > 27 (women)
    People under old definition: 70.6 million
    New definition: BMI > 25
    People added under new definition: 30.5 million
    Percent Increase: 43%

    The definition was changed in 1998 by U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

    “The new definitions ultimately label 75 percent of the adult U.S. population as diseased,” conclude the two researchers. They add cautiously that “…the extent to which new ‘patients’ would ultimately benefit from early detection and treatment of these conditions is unknown. Whether they would experience important physical or psychological harm is an open question.”

    We seem to live in an equal opportunity consumer culture tyrannized by the fear of growing “epidemics” going by the leading risk brand names, High Blood Pressure, Obesity, Diabetes, and High Cholesterol. Just read the papers, peruse the Internet, or turn on your TV to learn what the Government watchdogs, the consensus insurgency, and the other image makers have to say about our disastrous state of health.

    Several related questions arise when we consider the implications of these new definitions of disease (actually disease risk-markers). First how did these official and semi-official watchdogs achieve their status of “guideline-makers,”who appoints them and why, and how powerful an influence do they wield in terms of medical practice? Finally, one has to wonder what is the rationale for adding over 86 million new “patients” (not counting 45 million “prehypertensives”) to our already staggering over-the-top healthcare cost.

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