Children, by the age of seven – or eight at the very very latest – ought to be able to do long multiplication and long division. This is a simple hominid brain-skill which merely involves adding, takking away, multiplication, simple division, and “place-value” – which the Hindu philosophers invented fourteen centuries ago. None of this was beyond the wit of average, undernourished English boys and girls in the 1950s, such as myself, when sugar was on-ration and we all had Ricketts and Worms (so we must have been “eating healthily”) to do this thing, when we were starving and still bust. It was not even unavailable to people classified as “Dumb Children”, who were classed as “dumb” by their teachers, their schools and their own perfectly willing parents, but who still tried hard, because they were given no option. Like D-Day landings, or Dunkirk, or Alamein, which some of their fathers (whom I of course knew as I played with their sons) had of course experienced without complaint.
Why they therefore can’t do it now must be down to the Universal Provider of the “skill-delivery-system” … which has to be … “The State!” For most of them at least.
And, more worsely, the “Private sector” can afford to mark time and NOT teach cubic factorisation by the age of twelve, because it can still stay ahead even when not doing so.
It cannot be suitable to suggest that the children today are “more dumb” than 50/60 years ago. Therefore, “non-availability-of-skills” has to be down to “non-delivery-of-solutions”.
Instead, they spend seven years, – SEVEN YEARS – in “primary schooling” … and what do they do? They colour in posters about “healthy eating”, and they learn that “The Tudors” were responsible for “Pirates, Smoking and Slavery”, and that Henry the Eighth “had SEX WIVES!!!!”
So….two whole generations wasted… and the best part of a third. And all that time lost. Fred Bloggs, who very kindly sometimes writes for us, asked me the other day about what could be done to rescue the education system in the UK. I had to admit that if I was him, I would not have started from here. And it would take decades, and we probably had run out of time.