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Is Germany Raising a Generation of Illiterates?

samzenpus posted about 8 months ago | from the me-write-pretty-one-day dept.

Education 431

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "Over at Starts With A Bang, the weekly question comes in from Germany, where we're informed: 'In Germany, many teachers have adopted a new way of teaching children to write properly. The way is called "Writing by Reading" and essentially says: Write as you wish, you're not bound by any rules. Recently, this way of teaching has been heavily criticized [link in German], but not before it has been "tested" on several years of school children.' The reading wars have been going on in the US, too, but will this wind up having a negative outcome? Or, as this piece argues, is it likely to be a wash?"

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u can rite any way u want (4, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 8 months ago | (#46741503)

i rite az i wish and it doz afekt my wrighting.

Re:u can rite any way u want (5, Funny)

rrohbeck (944847) | about 8 months ago | (#46741589)

This seems perfectly par for the course as far as Internet comments go.

Re:u can rite any way u want (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46741791)

Using the internet for a judgement on grammar is like using the paralympics for a judgement on top performance.

Re:u can rite any way u want (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741879)

All foolishness aside, this does go to the fundamental purpose of language, both written and spoken. The purpose that the vast majority of society expects language to fulfill is to provide a medium for communication. Up to the early 20th century, words were spelled phonetically, and as long as you had a grasp of phonetics, you could both read and write any word that you knew, and many words had multiple spellings that yielded the same phonetic result. In came the spelling/grammar elites and decided that this egalitarian system had to go and only they should be able to decide how a word was spelled or how a sentence should be properly constructed. These educational elites disseminated their propaganda and, with the willing accomplice of state run schools, they brainwashed the masses into believing that "proper" spelling was a prime indicator of education and refinement, and that misspelling words was vulgar and indicative of low intelligence. These days, "proper" spelling gives small minds the chance to feel important and superior, when in fact they have very little to contribute.

Re:u can rite any way u want (5, Insightful)

MakubeX (1708572) | about 8 months ago | (#46742161)

I'm torn between the issue. I discovered old letters in my house from the 1800's and was able to glimpse in the past of how life was like back then. The letters had their words written phonetically, and while I did "notice" what I perceived to be errors at the time, I did understand the letter and remembered that eduction wasn't necessarily standardized back then and not everyone had access or could afford to attend school.

Fast forward to today and a part of me believes that if an educator is actually teaching words and meanings to students that their should be actually definitive meanings for terms when given the chance. We know that written language is derived from verbal communication which is why we used phonetics in the first place. So, for example, if a teacher was teaching the world "there" without a definitive meaning, then students would always have to rely on context clues to figure out if the communicator is saying the equivalent to "there, their, or they're". Which can become even more confusing if there are other words that are also homophones in the same sentence.

Granted we already did with this when we speak, but if you are reading words, then there is the chance to be explicit and avoid the confusion from the beginning as you can specify intent with words.

Again, I'm not the grammar police (English was always my worst subject), but I'm torn between if grammar is overbearing or necessary. Instructions are clearer when a standard exists, but then again someone being pedantic about bad grammar (commas) when the meaning clearly gets across merely seems to belittle someone to feel superior about something irrelevant to the topic. Case and point, when I write a paragraph to defeat someone's argument and they point out that I didn't capitalize a nationality, inferring my argument is thus invalid.

-my 2 cents

They've got a lot of catching up to do... (4, Funny)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 8 months ago | (#46741513)

The US has been raising illiterates for decades (if not longer). In this metric we can truly shout

We're number one!
We're number one!
We're number one!


I doubt they could catch up with our functional illiteracy rates even if they tried.

Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (4, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 8 months ago | (#46741695)

That statistical argument ignores the details in those statistics.

If you ignore all the demographic information that actually tells you what is going on in the population and only focus on ONE variable then you find a high level of illiteracy.

However, if you filter the list you'll find that much of the illiteracy is in communities that have been historically prone to that status for... literally... ever. Nearly all of it is in America's urban squalor. And even then you don't find Asian Americans with high levels of illiteracy despite the fact that many of them either still live or recently came from those urban blight zones.

We have certain demographic groups in the US that are having a very hard time. The reasons for this are debatable but to pretend that our problem is universal and broadly distributed throughout our society is merely to admit ignorance of the facts.

Certain groups are having a problem and they need help. Their failures however do not speak to the general ignorance of our population as a whole.

The US remains one of the better educated populations on the planet. What drags us down is that we have a diverse population where as Japan for example has a very homogenous population. There isn't much immigration from mexico for example or a large discontented african american population that has sadly enshrined ignorance as a badge of honor. Those are facts of the American population at this point. And it isn't reasonable to expect any society to be able to raise everyone up to the same level especially when factions are currently being encouraged to resist integration.

The mantra of the day is "be different, honor your distinctions, etc" and that's fine if your differences are either neutral or admirable. However, if they're a general detriment to yourself and society maybe adopting a more successful attitude might be in everyone's interest.

Here is where someone calls me a racist or a bigot. I am neither. My comments were not anti race but anti subculture. And only against subcultures that have failed. The US is full of subcultures and most of them are successful. If it works, then keep doing it. You'll hear no complaint from me. But if what you're doing isn't working and you're draining national resources to keep your subculture on life support... maybe that should stop.

These communities get enourmous amounts of money from the federal, state, and city governments. Society at large wants to help. We want them to be successful. But it will NEVER happen until these subcultures either adapt to be independent or are supplanted with a more rational framework.

And that is the problem with education, crime, etc in the US almost entirely.

I'm sorry if that sounds politically incorrect but there is reality and there is delusion. Pick one.

Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (1)

dinfinity (2300094) | about 8 months ago | (#46741787)

Can you name some of these subcultures?

Besides that, I'd like to warn you that you seem to be implying that there is nothing wrong with the education system in the US.

Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741837)

You think that we not be doin anythin wit are education system but we do.

Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (2, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 8 months ago | (#46741977)

Can you name some of these subcultures?

To be blunt: black people, and to a lesser extent, first generation Hispanics. The difference is that Hispanics tend to approach the mean for their socioeconomic status by the second generation. Blacks have made progress, but just enough to keep the gap from widening even more.

you seem to be implying that there is nothing wrong with the education system in the US.

There is nothing specifically wrong with America's education system. When you correct for demography, America does about as well as anywhere else. Norwegian kids in Norway do great. Americans of Norwegian descent do just as well. Blacks do poorly in America. They also do poorly everywhere else. There is no obvious "quick fix" that is supported by actual evidence, and pointing to something that works well in Singapore or Stockholm, and saying it is the solution to the problems in Detroit is just stupid.

Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (2)

reboot246 (623534) | about 8 months ago | (#46742103)

And, may I add, the solution in the United States is NOT Common Core. Have any of you seen that crap?

There's no reason for experimenting with education. We know what works; we're just too chicken shit to do it. Gotta be politically correct even if it kills us.

Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46742177)

There is nothing specifically wrong with America's education system. When you correct for demography, America does about as well as anywhere else.

Yes, nothing *specifically* wrong with America's education system. In reality, the problem (rote memorization, one-size-fits-all education systems...) appears in every place with an education system, simply because that's what's most easy and cost-effective. Never mind that it's not really education. People praise countries like Japan for their education systems, proving that they have no idea what education actually is.

Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (2)

russotto (537200) | about 8 months ago | (#46742191)

I suspect you'd find high levels of illiteracy among the rural white poor subcultures (the ones who smoke meth instead of crack) as well. But nobody cares about them; they're too poor to concern conservatives and too white to concern liberals.

Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46742029)

Blacks. They perform poorly in education and they commit a disproportionate amount of crime (even when poverty is accounted for) in almost every country they inhabit. Cry racism all you like, but the stats don't lie.

Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (4, Insightful)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 8 months ago | (#46742083)

Observation from Orange County, California: Kids who do well have parents who literally taught their kids to read and write BEFORE they entered a classroom.

I have seen all races in this group, though some more than others.

It is strictly a parental issue in believing in education and starting it at home, where it must start by example.

Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 8 months ago | (#46742015)

Metric.

How ironic.

Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (3, Insightful)

stenvar (2789879) | about 8 months ago | (#46742107)

According to the Human Development Report, Germany's functional illiteracy is 14.4%, the UK's 21.8%, and the US's 20%. Given the large number of immigrants we have, I'd say we're doing pretty well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F... [wikipedia.org] And if you look at scientific literacy, university graduation rates, etc. the US beats most of Europe hands down.

Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (4, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about 8 months ago | (#46742159)

Well, of COURSE! In any report about any country having a problem, a comment about the USA being worse will pop up within the first 20 comments.

Can the writings be read? (5, Interesting)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 8 months ago | (#46741517)

I take value in writing correctly (my native tongue is Dutch, not English, in case anybody finds errors).
But language is not something defined by laws; it is alive, changing and evolving all the time.
I may enjoy writing following proper grammar rules, but that's just my personal preference and just because I like it, doesn't mean everybody should do so.
If the text written using this method can be read as easy and fast as text written according to the rules, what really is the problem?

Will it help them get a job? (2)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#46741605)

If the text written using this method can be read as easy and fast as text written according to the rules, what really is the problem?

The problem is that a lot of people with the power to hire and fire may pretend that they cannot read the text "as easy and fast as text written according to the rules". HR may judge a prospective employee as "uneducated" for not following traditional prescriptive rules.

Re:Will it help them get a job? (2)

Rhymoid (3568547) | about 8 months ago | (#46742071)

Another native Dutch here. If you want to read poor Dutch, go read the shit HR writes.

First off, many Dutch are anglophiles: they think English sound really much cooler than their 'boring' mother tongue. People in HR are no exception. Many Dutch also think they read, write, speak and understand English really well. Few do. Even fewer don't have an accent thick enough to stop a bullet -- which is strange, given that the majority of movies, TV series and music we get here is anglophone, with a native or 'neutralized' accent. You'd think that people pick up on that. Well, no. It's really painful to hear our Prime Minister's English [youtube.com] , not because it's sounds bad, but because the average Dutch person speaking English sounds like this. Again, people in HR are no exception. It's even worse with HR: they copy a lot of management speak, which is invariable chock full of English-sounding terms, most of them made up or literally translated from Dutch. So, TL;DR: HR prefers to speak English, but are too stupid to notice they can't.

Secondly, we have a linguistic phenomenon called "Engelse ziekte" (lit. 'English disease'): ignoring that Dutch is an agglutinative language, and forming nouns through juxtaposition (e.g. "*tomaten zaden" for 'tomato seeds') rather than agglutination ("tomatenzaden"). Formally, this results in ungrammatical Dutch, hinders fast reading comprehension ("zaden" isn't a verb, but many plural nouns and infinitive verbs both end in "-en"), and may even change the meaning of sentences. You'd think that HR people know their own language well enough to know this; well, in many cases, they don't. Another thing that seems rocket science to some native Dutch, especially the kind of people that end up in HR, is basic verb inflections. The "dt-probleem" (not knowing whether a verb ending in an alveolar stop needs to be written with "-t", "-d" or "-dt", even though the rules are very regular) is mostly cosmetic, but it is exactly the kind of thing that makes you look "uneducated". Guess what: it's hard to find a newspaper or website that has more than a dozen descriptions that don't make those mistakes. TL;DR: HR probably won't notice basic grammatical errors in Dutch, because they make those mistakes themselves.

(Nota bene: I may be a tiny bit cynical about how well the Dutch master their own language.)

Re:Will it help them get a job? (1)

Rhymoid (3568547) | about 8 months ago | (#46742077)

(And ironically enough, I can't even get my grammatical number right in the first TL;DR.)

Re:Can the writings be read? (5, Insightful)

GenieGenieGenie (942725) | about 8 months ago | (#46741619)

People who are encouraged as kids to be sloppy about their writing tend to emerge from adolescence sloppy about their thinking too. This is a cliche but it is, unfortunately, quite an accurate one. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but where I live there is a generation of people who can't spell or read efficiently and this is reflected in how shallow their thoughts are.

Re:Can the writings be read? (2)

CRCulver (715279) | about 8 months ago | (#46742043)

People who are encouraged as kids to be sloppy about their writing tend to emerge from adolescence sloppy about their thinking too.

Can you cite this from a peer-reviewed publication, please? If this is really such a problem, surely you can back it up with scholarship.

Re:Can the writings be read? (1)

GenieGenieGenie (942725) | about 8 months ago | (#46742081)

If you can formulate an objective measure for "sloppy thinking" and/or "depth of thought", I will apply with you for a grant from the NSF to do the study, and then write the paper together. One thing though - you will have to convince me that there's a chance you can convince them to cough up the cash. Until then, I'm going with feeling here.

Re:Can the writings be read? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 8 months ago | (#46742053)

but where I live there is a generation of people who can't spell or read efficiently and this is reflected in how shallow their thoughts are.

Where I live, students score higher than anyone else in the state and regularly compete in National finals in spelling and composition contests. People are still pretty shallow.

A walk through the ocean of most souls would scarcely get your feet wet.

Deteriorata

Re:Can the writings be read? (5, Insightful)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 8 months ago | (#46741633)

Language rules are critical to communication. Eventually if too many linguistic rules and word meanings are discarded, communication becomes essentially impossible as statements don't have the same meaning to both parties in the discussion. There are some rules that don't make a lot of sense, but they are what they are and mostly need to be adhered to in order to ensure that communication can happen.

Re:Can the writings be read? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#46741719)

Has it ever actually happened that a natural language has either achieved such unambiguity that reliable transmission of meaning can be expected, or such chaos as to descend into mutually unintelligible babble?

Obviously, we muddle through, so it's not as though meaning is totally impossible to convey; but even areas of (pseudo)natural language, like contract law, designed and implemented by trained experts in the hope of mutually unambiguous expression are constantly hitting the rocks. At the other end, languages can and do diverge over time if some sort of population separation occurs, and certain in-group jargons and slang can be used specifically to impede understanding by outsiders; but (as much as one or both parties might loath the encounter) languages just devolving into babble because we didn't nip slang in the bud doesn't seem to happen.

Re:Can the writings be read? (5, Informative)

houghi (78078) | about 8 months ago | (#46741937)

There are some rules that don't make a lot of sense, but they are what they are and mostly need to be adhered to in order to ensure that communication can happen.

Dutch has had several changes over the last 100 years. This is to follow the evolution of language.

I do not believe English has had the same done to it. Otherwise you would not end up with something like:
Dearest creature in creation,

  Study English pronunciation.
  I will teach you in my verse
  Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
  I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
  Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
  Tear in eye, your dress will tear,
  So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

  Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
  Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
  We say hallowed but allowed,
  People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
  Mark the differences, moreover,
  Between mover, cover, clover;
  Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
  Chalice, but police and lice;
  Camen, constable, unstable,
  Principle, disciple, label.

The trest can be read right here [houghi.org] . Read it out loud the first time you read it. You will start to wonder what is so adhered in the language.

Re:Can the writings be read? (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | about 8 months ago | (#46742087)

Eventually if too many linguistic rules and word meanings are discarded, communication becomes essentially impossible as statements don't have the same meaning to both parties in the discussion.

You really need to read some Saussure, especially the principle of l'arbitraire du signe and the distinction between langue and parole. This science is a century old at this point, there's no excuse for an educated person not knowing it. Human language naturally contains some level of ambiguity, it is simply avoidable. However, this does not typically lead to multual intelligibility, and most of the human population handles diaglossia just fine.

Furthermore, this is a discussion about a writing system, not a language. Writing systems too have a great deal of ambiguity, starting from the ambiguity in the speech they represent and then going from there. Just think about how many different lexemes are represented in speech and writing as <set>, or how two different tense forms with two different pronunciations are represented as the single grapheme <read>. And yet, readers handle that just fine.

As an English speaker, your own language's history in writing should be enough to disabuse of the notion that divergent spellings are a threat to society. English spelling in the 18th century was not yet firmly established, and yet that era saw an explosion in popular literacy and scholarly publication.

Re:Can the writings be read? (2)

CRCulver (715279) | about 8 months ago | (#46742167)

Sorry, that should read "Human language naturally contains some level of ambiguity, it is simply unavoidable. However, this does not typically lead to mutual unintelligibility."

Re:Can the writings be read? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741663)

Grammar rules, such as the correct choice of tenses for verbs, can help distinguish between close but different meaning.

Re:Can the writings be read? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741727)

I take value in writing correctly (my native tongue is Dutch, not English, in case anybody finds errors.)
However, language is not something defined by laws; it is alive, changing and evolving all the time.
I may enjoy writing following proper grammar rules, but that's just my personal preference and just because I like it, doesn't mean everybody should do so.
If the text written using this method can be read as easily and fast as text written according to the rules, what really is the problem?

FTFY :)

Re:Can the writings be read? (4, Interesting)

AK Marc (707885) | about 8 months ago | (#46741741)

Communication is the goal. If you write as you speak, it's considered poor, as writings should be "more formal" but that was a declaration from a previous age when whiting cost money. Now, I can write something and be seen by hundreds in a few minutes. Something that would cost $1000 (or so, inflation over 200+ years isn't exact) in revolutionary times. So when you are paying that much to have your words seen, you would consider them more. When I can post about something and have a large audience, and I can edit/delete/repost with ease, why should I think about what I'm saying?

So the real problem with writing is that it's becoming more like spoken language, when before, they were almost separate dialects. That always annoys the purists.

Re:Can the writings be read? (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#46742021)

There are some ongoing differences, aside from cost: With written material, you don't get the use of tone, gesture, expression, and the various other spoken-language tricks of expression that don't directly make it to paper. It is hardly impossible to write such that the reader will (mostly) correctly infer some of them; but that's exactly the sort of thing that you have to work at, or have sufficient practice to do nearly effortlessly, that you'd get for free when speaking.

There's also the difference that most spoken communication takes place in more or less real time, which allows the other person to interject, or you to elaborate on a point if the audience appears baffled, speed through a point if they appear bored, and otherwise tailor your speech to the demands of the occasion. It will lack formality; but customization counts for a lot.

Some text communication, IM and the like, is largely the same and admits of the same sort of near-real-time course corrections; but even at the level of message board posts you really start to see the effects of delay. If I fuck this up, I can post a (hopefully) clarifying reply; but I could easily end up being misunderstood by numerous people before one of them posts something that informs me and I refresh the page and see that, and get my correction in.

The 'purists' who spend their time harping on The True Rules, or replying purely to note that somebody has used 'there' instead of 'their' or the reverse, are an utter waste of time. Spending more time thinking about communication that will be stripped of spoken and nonverbal cues and sent out into the world with a nontrivial turnaround time, though, is something that I suspect we won't escape.

I agree that logistical issues for most text have declined over time (and some things that used to be text, like 'letter writing' as an actual social institution are now largely dominated by spoken word replacements); but I would argue that they aren't gone, and that additional issues that the writer needs to consider start to crop up with surprisingly small delays.

Re:Can the writings be read? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741827)

But language is not something defined by laws; it is alive, changing and evolving all the time.

Which is of course regulated by law, for German the Duden holds the currently recognized words and their correct spellings as well as meanings in common use.

If the text written using this method can be read as easy and fast as text written according to the rules, what really is the problem?

The linked German article has a nice, short example "Die Bollizei isst da", "The police eats there" where the correct spelling "Die Polizei ist da" would mean "the police is here". As can be seen the few wrong letters in Polizei wont cause any confusion, however other words are not blessed with that much error correcting redundancy - "ist" being and "isst" eating mean completely different things.

Even if you manage to correct these errors from the context they appear in it makes the texts harder to read. Most texts it is likely that they will be written once and read a many times, with basic "Textverständniss" reading comprehension already being a problem for some having texts easy to understand is important and avoids misunderstandings.

Re:Can the writings be read? (1, Insightful)

InsultsByThePound (3603437) | about 8 months ago | (#46741833)

I may enjoy writing following proper grammar rules, but that's just my personal preference and just because I like it, doesn't mean everybody should do so.

If we're going to be limp-wristed faggots about this, why not be a limp-wristed faggot on all subjects?

Oh, I may enjoy math following proper math rules, but that's just my personal preference and just because I like it, doesn't mean everybody should do so. No, I don't mind being shortchanged by a cashier, she probably wasn't being greedy, she was just following her own wonderfully unique set of math rules.

Why even bother sending the kids to school? They can learn their own unique way at home.

Re:Can the writings be read? (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46741939)

Language, no matter whether spoken or written, is a means of preserving and transporting information. That's its primary function. Of course, a calligraphy enthusiast might disagree, but form is of secondary importance. But only to the point where form influences its primary function.

In my experience, grammar rules exist for a very simple reason: Error correction. You can actually observe changes in language towards simpler grammar and fewer rules. Personally, I think this is mostly due to more standardization in other areas and hence less need for error correction. When everyone is writing in the same font, if everyone is following the same rules for writing letters and words, moreover if everyone has the same understanding of the words used, you need fewer features that ensure that these letters and words are used properly.

You notice this mostly in some jokes in those languages, jokes that rely on the simplicity of grammar that cannot work for that very reason in other languages. Classic: "My dog has no nose. How does he smell? Aweful." That joke relies on "smell" working as a verb and a adjective, something that does work in English and a few other languages with simple grammar, but not in many others because of how verbs are being conjugated in many languages. It also becomes obvious that due to the simplicity of the language structure, word order and context become very important. English has a rigid word order exactly because words are not flexed to mark them as subject and object, something that is done in more complex grammar structures, and you will notice that word order is not such a premium in such languages (like German and Russian, for example).

We're pretty much at the point where languages are as simple as they get. The big push for "more beautiful" writing is over. Overblown word processions that should show off just how eloquent someone can write and just how big his word stock is are a thing of the past. Actually, using such language is seen as a mark of someone taking himself as too important and generally being an elitist prick. Simple is the new sexy. But I don't think we can simplify our languages any more without actually losing our ability to express clearly what we want to convey. And that can be quite dangerous. Contracts today are already way more wordy than they should need to be, simply because our language IS already at the point where it is no longer absolutely unambiguous.

No. (2)

Ultra64 (318705) | about 8 months ago | (#46741533)

No.

Re:No. (0)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 8 months ago | (#46741953)

I'll fix that for you:

Nein.

See? Our German is slipping already here on Slashdot!

ROFL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741543)

and the usa avg world rank in math is what 23 ....

yup retards are the way to control

PISA Results (2)

Kensai7 (1005287) | about 8 months ago | (#46741561)

I call this bullshit. The latest PISA results show that Germany is improving in the verbal (language) subtests.

Re:PISA Results (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about 8 months ago | (#46741643)

Maybe they weren't testing the right age group?

Re:PISA Results (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741687)

I want to know how this article summary made it on Slashdot at all? I thought only U.S. bashing was allowed around here. Europe is generally regarded as some sort of Utopian society by both editors and commentors here.

Re:PISA Results (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46741961)

The EU is the proverbial example of how "better" needn't be better than "good".

Re:PISA Results (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46742059)

You just proved his point for him. No bigot like a European.

Re:PISA Results (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741705)

Because the tests are getting easier. At least they are participating.

Politicians of the leading partys in Austria are trying to avoid them and don't even want to participate anymore because it would get too embarrassing. They are shitting on our childrens education.

Re:PISA Results (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 8 months ago | (#46741857)

Just wait until the pupils affected by the change are old enough to actually take the PISA test.

Re:PISA Results (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46741951)

When you're lying on your belly motionless, being able to crawl is an improvement of your situation, too...

Tested on school children? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741571)

I wonder how many of the teachers tested it on their own kids?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Re:Tested on school children? (4, Funny)

cold fjord (826450) | about 8 months ago | (#46741655)

They had to test it on school children. Environmental law is too strict to allow testing on rats.

Re:Tested on school children? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46742033)

Same logic as for canteen food?

Re:Tested on school children? (3, Interesting)

AK Marc (707885) | about 8 months ago | (#46741799)

I tested it on my kids, and didn't even know there was a controversy. I never could sound out words. I was raised under the "sound out only" rules. When I finally, despite all their efforts to the contrary, started reading like an adult, I read faster and with fewer errors than anyone in the class. It just took me 2 years of being functionally illiterate in a room of literates to jump 5 grades in a day.

Finland (arguably the best education in the world) does just that. Expose them to words and letters, but don't start reading until they are old enough to read words. I'd have been exactly on track in the Finland system. So maybe that's why they get better results for less money than the US. They use methods that are better suited to how children learn, rather than forcing children at an unnatural pace, based on what some senile old educators dictate should be covered on that year's standardized tests.

Uhh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741585)

were we honestly given the choices between "wind up having a negative outcome" and "likely to be a wash"?

why is it always the retards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741597)

who get to decide the direction our languages take?

Re:why is it always the retards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741689)

Because retards are the majority. Look how stupid the average slashdotter is. Well, itmight be hard to believe but the average human being is far more stupid.

Is something being casually elided here? (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#46741613)

I realize that Slashdot Summaries are one of the important, protected, habitats of a mixture of questionable proofreading and overt editorializing; but isn't something important being left out here?

The scheme in question is known as 'write by reading'. This apparently boils down to 'write however you want', according to a blog post that barely touches on the matter aside from a link to a German newspaper. Is it possible that this 'write by reading' theory involves some 'reading' somewhere? Maybe the notion that children will pick up grammar by exposure to it, which would make spending the time previously allocated to Learning Your Grammar Rules Children on reading things that are both examples of good writing and also useful, interesting, or otherwise better than distilled essence of grammar a plausible alternative?

Now, I'd be the first to agree that the standards of pedagogical research are... notably tepid... and education is much ruled by fads, many with little or no basis in evidence beyond anecdotes; but can we really have a useful discussion if we are going to start from a position of such inspiring intellectual honesty?

The question: "Do children pick up grammar from exposure to well written, but not otherwise grammar focused, texts sufficiently efficiently that we are better off skipping the lessons in pure grammar in favor of receiving the grammar as a side effect of reading that will also have other uses?" is a perfectly reasonable one, and it isn't immediately obvious which side the facts would come down on, so some research would be nice; but I'm pretty sure that 'Writing by Reading' is not actually a polite expression for 'Thare iz no ruls in Sckool.'

Re: Is something being casually elided here? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741749)

I don't know if it was intentional, but this was essentially what happened to me during my time in school. For a school type known as a "grammar school" it was ironic that "grammar" was never formally taught as part of the curriculum.

In principle it doesn't seem to have done me any harm when it comes to writing in English, but I suspect that a lack of formal grammar training was detrimental to my understanding of foreign languages. I found it very hard to learn what was different about French compared to English when I didn't know what "English" really meant in the first place.

Re: Is something being casually elided here? (2)

allsorts46 (1725046) | about 8 months ago | (#46741893)

This is something I've found as well. I've never received any formal instruction in grammar, but I like to think that my standard of writing is fairly high. A few years ago however, I started trying to learn a foreign language and found that my lack of understanding of the grammar of my own language made it much more difficult to relate to the rules of the foreign language.

Re: Is something being casually elided here? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#46742079)

I suspect that they don't emphasize this as much when teaching the not-dead ones; but when I took Latin it was overtly acknowledged that this was expected to improve my knowledge of English grammar and the (very large, if rather skewed toward jargon) chunk of English vocabulary that was pulled in from Latin with varying degrees of mangling.

Both because Latin grammar is substantially different, and because technical knowledge of English grammar couldn't be assumed, they didn't try to teach according to analogy with English grammar, or otherwise do something that required a formal knowledge of it.

Because of my...rather peculiar...profile on language acquisition, I ended up scraping through in large part by inferring Latin words I didn't know from the English words those Latin words were supposed to be helping me with, which was somewhat perverse; but so it goes.

Re: Is something being casually elided here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46742165)

FWIW This as much as anything points at the poor quality of foreign language teaching. You did not acquire your L1 (first language) by learning rules from a textbook. There are two reasons for that, one is that no such textbook exists. The state of the art in English grammar is a vast tome compiled by expert linguists and even so there are big sections of conjecture and outright "We don't know how this bit works". If it was necessary to learn the grammar from such works nobody could speak, let alone write, English. The other reason is that you acquire language before learning to read. Reading is a taught skill, it doesn't spontaneously arise in small human communities not previously exposed. Whole civilisations, big ordered societies, have existed without inventing writing. In contrast spoken (or sign, mostly if they're deaf) language occurs spontaneously in groups of young humans. We don't get to do controlled studies because it would be unethical, but the existence of creoles gives us a good idea how it would work, and spontaneously generated sign languages are still found occasionally in places where several children have been born unable to hear and early intervention is unavailable because it's too rural or they are too poor.

The BEST way to learn a foreign language is heavy exposure. Watch their TV shows, find someone who speaks the language and begin trying to have conversations without resorting to your L1, and if you can, move somewhere that the language is widely spoken and try to use it in everyday life. This may seem impossible - ludicrous, but think, every baby for whom that language is L1 will be acquiring it in this way. Some experts think there is a "critical period" in which babies are better equipped to do this trick, others don't agree and believe it's just that babies have SO MUCH time to spend on the problem, but even if there is such a critical period and you're past it, you CAN learn this way and unlike any textbook it will teach you how people REALLY speak the language.

Re: Is something being casually elided here? (1)

GenieGenieGenie (942725) | about 8 months ago | (#46742193)

This, in a nutshell, is why your first foreign language is the hardest, then things get easier (especially if you stick to one family, e.g. European).

Re:Is something being casually elided here? (2)

maweki (999634) | about 8 months ago | (#46741971)

In the original German article it's "reading through writing" and the posted article is an absolute mess that shows the lack of editorial oversight on slashdot, again.

Re:Is something being casually elided here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46742093)

And here I insert an anecdote. To be sure, I was taught English consistently throughout my school years, but it wasn't until 11th Grade that I was given a formal walk through of grammar as if it were an actual set of rules for construction and not simply a long list of exceptions I had to remember. Yet, it was in 12th Grade that I finally elected to take a Study Hall (as previous years I had doubled up on math, science, or something else) and had such an enormous amount of time I ended up reading through over two dozen books. From that point on, I was much more consciously aware of the idea that I wasn't restrained to constructing simple ten word sentences but was really only limited in scope to whether or not what I was writing "sounded" good or not. That seems to be the greatest standard used by most people anyways, so exposure to literature.(even "bad" literature) is good.

Still, my spelling is atrocious, and I still have to focus intently at times on what the correct spelling of a word is. The major thing that has improved from exposure to reading a lot in that area is that I'm more usually aware that a word is spelled wrong, so I can at least stop and try to fix a word rather than just mumble on through.

PS - While it might appear to be a sad state of affairs in my schooling that events happened so late in my academic career, I think the point is that until then I wasn't very self-aware of these things because rote memorization and mindless drudgery was such a rule that I never took a step back and examined the situation. Of course, without all that drudgery, I don't think I'd have been in a position to read all those books and appreciate them to be able to have that self-reflection. That is, of course, a major reason why elective courses are taken later in one's school years as it is presumed that the foundation of knowledge has been laid to reach the next level of understanding. That, of course, also means that in theory one will spend a lot more time outside of the classroom reading and learning than inside the classroom. If anything, I'd said *that* is where public school fails as required reading, writing, etc are pathetic to what could be demanded out of students.

You know... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741615)

Things would never have come to this if Hitler had won the war.

Re:You know... (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46742051)

Definitely. We would certainly not be sitting here discussing stuff like whether school kids learn this or that way. For the same reason you see few discussions about the impact of Google Glass on society in Somalia: We'd have real problems to deal with and no time to squabble about pointless drivel.

From personal experience... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741629)

Every German I've ever chatted with online seemed perfectly literate so the story is clearly hogwash.

Re:From personal experience... (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46742135)

You've never tried talking to a person under 20, have you?

Germany used to have a pretty good education system. But like the rest of Europe it's on the sharp decline. The goal is now instead of a well rounded education to give you the bare minimum of what's necessary so you can do your job. Schools have been turned from a place of education to something where you can lock up kids at least part of the day so they don't cause too much trouble, because a sensible education simply is not possible if you have 40+ kids in a class and 3/4th of them doesn't speak the language.

But rest assured, it ain't just Germany that's suffering from this.

Is this a propaganda piece? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741661)

There are forces at work to try to pair back public education using nefarious means. Now there may be schools in germany doing this but I doubt its widespread. We have similar bullshit artists here in canada trying to cut funds to public education using bullshit techniques. It's not that there is not money for improving education because we all know about the bailouts of the private sector and the big banks in 2008.

Bailout vid:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

Reform party right wing bullshit:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

Re:Is this a propaganda piece? (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 8 months ago | (#46741849)

I'm losing track, is it the Koch brothers or cultural Marxism which are doing the rounds on youtube as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man today?

Re:Is this a propaganda piece? (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about 8 months ago | (#46742175)

There are forces at work to try to pair back public education using nefarious means

Interesting. Tell us more.

phonics vs whole word (1)

Rinikusu (28164) | about 8 months ago | (#46741671)

I was raised on the phonics approach; my girlfriend was raised on the whole word approach. I'd never knowingly met anyone educated in the whole word approach and had read "Why Johnny Can't Read" years ago, wondering, "where the hell is it that they teach this crap! This sounds insane!" And yet, studies show that while we learned phonics to learn how to read, our minds actually read whole-word once we're well-practiced. Anyway, the gf has 2 master's degrees and is working on yet another post-graduate degree, so apparently it works well enough.

Re:phonics vs whole word (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 8 months ago | (#46741935)

In my case, I was taught phonics for years. I was illiterate in a class of literates. Until, about 2-3 years after everyone else was reading, I started reading whole sentence reading (about 5 year jump, taking me to above where the class was). I'd read the whole sentence in whole-word style, then repeat back the sentence, with understanding. Everyone else in the class was still sounding out the letters and couldn't read for comprehension yet. Of course, this led to lots of failing grades for not matching "expected". Finland teaches whole word and is considered the best public education in the world.

If reading is understanding what's on paper, then whole word is superior. If reading is sounding out the word without comprehension, then phonics is better. As an adult, I don't mind missing phonics. Though, I have trouble writing sometimes (still better than most, but some stupid mistakes creep in sometimes), and I can't help but think that it's related to the large gap in education where I spent my time in school fighting the system, rather than learning.

For second grade, I spent most of my lunch periods locked in a closet, and was beat for learning differently than others. The irony is that my mother lied about our address to get me in that school so that I'd get a better education than the neighborhood school my sister went to. I was only there a year, before I went to St. Mark's School of Texas, where I got 3 years of excellent education and abuse and bullying.

Re:phonics vs whole word (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46742085)

my girlfriend was raised on the whole word approach. ... Anyway, the gf has 2 master's degrees and is working on yet another post-graduate degree, so apparently it works well enough.

So what happens when she encounters a word she hasn't seen before?

The problem with the whole word approach is it's like teaching Japanese Kanji, each word is unique. If you haven't been taught a word, you don't know it.

Sure your gf is smart, she probably figured out how to sound out words herself.

But what about half the population with an IQ less than the mean? Teaching them whole word reading limits them to whatever words they've been taught in school.

On the other hand, teaching phonics allows them to sound out words. Which at least gives them a shot at understanding what they're reading.

Saying some really smart person was able to overcome being taught whole word reading isn't a vindication of the system.

Re:phonics vs whole word (1)

Rinikusu (28164) | about 8 months ago | (#46742173)

Well, a dictionary doesn't have any preference for either method, so she can still look up words as required. Also: Root words come in handy; she's much better at identifying word etymology than I am, but she also took Latin and I took Spanish. :D

And no, it doesn't quite work that way, i.e. Kanji (and even kanji has a similar root system at times: see kanji for tree vs forest, if meaning is what you're looking for). I just asked her how she learns to pronounce things: Mainly through root identification and through conversation, etc.

Re:phonics vs whole word - Requisite South Park... (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 8 months ago | (#46742099)

Hooked On Monkey Phonics!!! [southparkstudios.com]

Bring back... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741675)

... Hochdeutsch [wikipedia.org]

Feet first? (2)

rolfwind (528248) | about 8 months ago | (#46741693)

Do they always jump in feet first with these new teaching methods or something? Don't they test it on a small control group or a dozen to make sure it's not the latest new-age garbage?

It always surprises me how often I hear parents complain about a new way of learning something in school. Latest was my neighbors talking about a new way to teach math, they tried helping their kids but the methodology was so alien to them that they were stumped.

And that's where a lot of the new, marginally improved (if at all) methods fail, because parents have to be able to act as back up teachers, and if it's completely different than how they learned it. Fail.

Re:Feet first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741735)

Even if they did they would just "disprove" the strawman that the two groups of kids are exactly the same. If it happens the kids that got the method they are testing are in the "significantly better" group then they say it works. Its retarded.

Re:Feet first? (2)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 8 months ago | (#46741839)

Do they always jump in feet first with these new teaching methods or something? Don't they test it on a small control group or a dozen to make sure it's not the latest new-age garbage?

Teaching methods are almost never subjected to experimental verification. They are devised by 20-35 year old academics with little teaching experience and a desperate need to get enough publications to be put on tenure track. Experiments would get in the way of such promising careers.

They mean reading through writing (1)

maweki (999634) | about 8 months ago | (#46741743)

In the original article they talk about "reading through writing". The other way around would be traditional, with the help of a Fibel (hornbook?) that's being *read*.

German != English (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741757)

Independent of the question if this is a good idea, it's a lot easier in German to write something more or less correctly when spelled as it's spoken. That's because German (like e.g. Italian) has a much more "regular" orthography than English. You wouldn't be able to write "fish" as e.g. "ghoti" as (wrongly) attributed to Goerge Bernhard Shaw [wikipedia.org] . In German you could spell "Fisch" maybe also as "Visch" or "Fiesch", but not much different, and most people would probably understand what's meant. So it's perhaps not that much of an outlandish idea to let children write German words like they speak them as it would be in English.

Re:German != English (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46742195)

It would still cause a lot of trouble. German is actually one of the few languages I could think of right now that has a grammar of medium complexity yet still fairly rigid orthographic rules. In most languages, it's either-or. Either strict orthography with very relaxed grammar or a rigid, complex grammar with relaxed orthography rules. German of course needs rrrrigid rrrrules for everrrrything!

Jokes aside, I think orthography is more important than grammar. When I peruse the languages I know (more or less, in some cases), I can say that words spelled wrongly throw me off more than wrong flexing or inappropriate conjugation. Unless either changes the meaning of a sentence (e.g. by switching subject-object due to ending errors), wrong spelling impedes my reading speed a lot more than faulty conjugation. Maybe my "internal" error correction works better on sentence meaning than word meaning, maybe it's just me, but I can more easily deal with missing endings or wrongly placed modal particle than incorrect spelling.

Uh news flash (2)

Virtucon (127420) | about 8 months ago | (#46741795)

Most nations are raising illiterate people. Illiterate people vote the way their party leaders want them too and they're more content with menial jobs like flipping burgers or working in WalMart. They also produce a correct amount of replacement workers that can come into the workforce to fill more menial jobs which is good
for the economy. As always I blame the parents.

Also, stop picking on Germany they may go all Reichy on your ass!

German teaching methods (1)

AndyCater (726464) | about 8 months ago | (#46741801)

Most Germans speak and write better English than I do - and I'm posting this from the UK. For German, at least, it probably doesn't help to have had several attempts at reforming German orthography within the last 30 years.In the same period, I _think_ Dutch has had one major spelling reform.

+1 to the person suggesting formal German hochdeutsch: also, for the historically inclined, it may now be safe to start teaching how to read fraktur / black letter type again or the German speaking nations will miss out entirely on the original books and literature pre 1930 or so.

Re:German teaching methods (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 8 months ago | (#46742153)

it may now be safe to start teaching how to read fraktur / black letter type again or the German speaking nations will miss out entirely on the original books and literature pre 1930 or so.

Lots of peoples have abandoned their publications of earlier eras to obscurity and don't think twice about it, sad as it may be for lovers of books. Ottoman Turkish is completely unintelligible to contemporary Turks, partially because the Arabic script in which it was written was swiftly disposed or and even most educated Turks can't be arsed to learn it and read their heritage. Geoffrey Lewis's The Turkish Language Reform: A Catastrophic Success [amazon.com] is a pretty accessible presentation of this phenomenon.

Similarly, Latin-alphabet scripts were created for the minorities of Russia after the October Revolution, and there was an explosion of native-language reading and writing in the 1920s. However, Stalin came along and obliged all minorities to use a Cyrillic-based script, and no one makes an effort to read the Latin-script books that have survived today (athough most were pulped, as paper was scarce at the time of the switch).

Kazakhstan has long toyed with the notion of switching to the Latin alphabet, as Turkey, Turkmenistan, and the Tatar intelligentsia have done, but the prospect of the people being cut off from a century of Kazakh literature gives official circles pause.

How appropriate! (1)

PaddyM (45763) | about 8 months ago | (#46741805)

So now this should be a great thread. Slashdotters will comment on an article about writing without rules, wondering about whether this creates a generation of illiterates, without actually reading the article.

If a literate person chooses not to read, or an illiterate person cannot read, will the decrease in paper demanded raise a generation of enough trees in forests that can fall without making sounds?

My experience as one of the "tested" pupils (4, Interesting)

maweki (999634) | about 8 months ago | (#46741819)

I went to primary school in Germany from 1996 on and I was in one of those classes that learned "Reading by Writing" (I explained above that the referenced article gets the German original article the wrong way around).

The way it basically works is, that you get a phonetics-alphabet and learn just the sounds and then you write them down in the way you think is right. My class was, in direct comparison to the class that learned traditionally, on average half a grade better in writing and reading by year 4. But my class had only eleven pupils and our teacher had the chance to explain errors and nuances. Usually, classes nowadays are more than double the size.
I am sure that, without proper guidance, many mistakes can be made. The primary thing my parents loved was, that I was able to read stuff the first day I came home from school with my phonetics-alphabet. I could read my children-books from day one. We didn't start with the letter "e" or "o" and only short words. This gave me a real thirst for books and I read "Robinson Crusoe" in second grade.

Problem is overrated (2)

prefec2 (875483) | about 8 months ago | (#46741865)

Honestly, the article was published in a WAZ group newspaper. They are conservative and opposed to this learning concept. While it is true that there is no evidence that the method is more effective than other methods, especially not in German (German education scientist seldom read work from other countries), there is also no prove that this other more regulated approach is more effective. In the WAZ article, there are also no publications referenced only statements and opinions of people opposed to this present education method. I am personally in favor for the method which tries to teach the correct writing in the beginning, however, I have no prove that that method is more effective.

BTW: Most people becoming teachers in Germany choose this path, because it is easier than other subjects at university (except economics). German teachers education is actually the real problem, but it will not be fixed any time soon.

Re:Problem is overrated (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 8 months ago | (#46741991)

Honestly, the article was published in a WAZ group newspaper. They are conservative and opposed to this learning concept.

+1 Informative. I read the article, and it to a swipe at "children of immigrants" who are part of the problem.

Go figure.

fuc4?! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741877)

Indecision and Claim that BSD is a coomitterbase and FreeBSD at about 80 PPor priorities, an operating system elected, we took THINKING ABOUT IT. Most people into a members all over

It is Writing by HEARING! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741881)

I know from the children of friends, that the criticized method is "Writing by Hearing" as it is written in the german link.

No. (1)

chispito (1870390) | about 8 months ago | (#46741929)

Having poor reading and writing skills is different than none and, besides: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B... [wikipedia.org]

Jewish nation-wreckers... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741933)

Gee... I wonder who could possibly want a nation of illiterate fools who can't communicate with each other?

Could it possibly be our unelected Jewish 'masters'?

http://balder.org/judea/Hate-Speech-Laws-Immigration-Jewish-Influence-Britain.php

as laung as googul undr standz mee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46741987)

thares no poynt to lurn proppr spellng and gramars

Title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46742027)

Do you have anymore of them outrageous stupid, blown out of proportion titles ?

  I so sick and tired of the whole outrageous title followed by a fake fair and balanced article.

  If you make down right stupid and outrageous claims in your title at least have the balls (or dare i say integrity) to stick to your guns and follow it with a reasonable reason for making such outrageous claims!

This is how I was taught in English.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46742075)

Isn't this how all of North America are generally taught English grammar? I.e., not at all?

I'm not saying it's the best way, but I think most Americans and Canadians would be astounded at the level of attention paid to grammar in most European schools.

Can't teach, won't teach (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 8 months ago | (#46742089)

Write as you wish, you're not bound by any rules

This was (maybe still is) the fashion in UK schools for a long, long time. So long in fact that the current generation of teachers were brought up this way. The idea being that correcting grammar and spelling mistakes would somehow "stunt" creativity - and that creativity was more important than you know: being understood or communicating clearly.

Since the teachers were not taught that there was a correct way of writing, they cannot possibly pass on to the next generation a skill they never gained, themselves.

Downward spiral, anyone?

Surprising they became literal at all. (0)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 8 months ago | (#46742147)

German hasthishabit of squishingtogethermanywordswithoutanyblanksbeween and creatingnewwordsbytheverysameprocess. It is a bigsurprisethegermanscouldread anythingatall inthefirstplace.
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