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Subject: Re: Why Johnny can't spell ( 2 of 58 )
Posted by Douglas Adams

I couldn't agree more, and I apologise if I gave the wrong impression. Absolutely it is the education system that is at fault - and ours is not far behind yours in its downward plunge. In fact it's of particular concern to me because I'm intending to move with my family to California this year...

I was talking to Stephen Pinker a few months ago (the author of The Language Instinct). He made the point that a big mistake had been made in assuming that we learnt to read and write in the same way that we learn to speak. The ability to learn to speak is, he argues persuasively, an innate ability. We have evolved a bit of the brain which is entirely concerned with understanding and speaking language. We don't need to _teach_ children to speak. Provided that children are surrounded by people who speak to them and to each other the child will learn. However, reading and writing is a cultural invention, not an innate capacity. In other words there is not 'immersive' short cut to the difficult work of acquiring the skill. He also mentioned that the idea that reading and writing could be learnt by immersion had coincided with a dramatic increase in dyslexia. In other words, while many people are genuinely dyslexic, many more are, in his opinion, merely the victims of misguided and lazy teaching.
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