Friday, December 16, 2016

The Once Upon a Time Story

It is a story which is remarkable in some ways, and in others....demonstrates how Germans are fixated on fixing a problem that they perceive.

So, SWR tells the basic story.

Some education tests and surveys were conducted, and in the Baden-Wurttemburg region....there's some lousy numbers for kids and their ability to spell.  Bad enough...that the Minister of Culture (Education as well)...wants to shift a huge focus on this issue.

The teacher's union reaction? need better equipment (hint: computers).  Some of the retired teachers would probably grin and say that they did just fine with writing and spelling activities long before computers came along and that it's a skill or talent that needs simple enforcement.

Normally, you'd look at this issue and just say it's the bottom 50-percent of kids...those in Hauptschule who are on this dismal negative list.  Well, in the past year....there's been some university talk in Germany that kids arriving at their front-door....aren't prepared in terms of language skills (hint: writing).  So, this is probably a more broad issue.

As for the fix?  You get this odd feeling that computers and spelling software would be the solution, which translates in funding escalation.  You'd have to send Huns and Claudia to an hour a week of some computer-room deal, where they get 45 minutes of writing some story and having the computer check their writing for spelling errors and "encourage" (it's hard to make up another word to fit) them to spell better.

Eventually some smart German kid would suggest that his Microsoft Word program at home has a word-checker and he doesn't worry about errors because it finds and corrects his errors.  I admit....the kid might be right.

There is a historical side to this story.  In the early 1800s, if you went around and measured Germans on writing, reading and spelling would have found a marginal score not worth bragging about.

Then came the Brothers Grimm.  These two intellectuals have this one curiosity and hobby....they like to sit at a local pub, sip a beer and hear a good story.  They build onto their passion....the German language, and see this great chance to build an actual dictionary of German words and meanings (something that hadn't occurred).

Along the way, by 1810....they've written a collection of tales which catch on with Germans everywhere and serves as a vessel of entertainment.  Without TV, radio or regular news type publications....the book is a clear masterpiece with the general public.

Over the next hundred years....if you were looking for something that would draw Germans to spelling, language, reading, and story-telling....their book of fables did the job.

Today?  It's mostly forgotten and story-telling takes a back-seat to life.

So if you are watching on some night....some German news segment and the political folks are falling all over swords....left and right....about writing skills and needing more computers....that's what the whole story is about.  It's worthy of a fable, but it's hard to say who is the wolf or where these gold coins will be found in the deep dark enchanted woods.

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