CHAOSTOCOSMOS

Thursday, 13 March 2008

You don't need to be a genius ...

genius... to read this blog, but for those of you, like me, who had no idea what age group junior high school equates to, that's apparently about equivalent to Middle Schools for 8-12 year-olds. Sounds awful doesn't it?

Enough to make anyone think that I write some pretty infantile things. Well, they probably wouldn't be wrong.

But I am reminded that way back when I was at college in about 81 (1881, I think) they called this "reading age" and, we were told that you needed a reading age of 8 to comprehend The Sun and a reading age of 11 for The Telegraph.

(You just need a better BS deflector for the former, though it has been asked Is The Sun newspaper good reading material for chavs?.)

These days, with the seeming dumbing down of everything, I'd love to know what current Newspaper Readability ratings are, because I personally reckon they've all slipped several notches, but they change the tests and methods of assessment so much that I doubt we could compare "apples with apples."

It also seems to me the only fiction in the plot of Idiocracy, where, "the world has devolved into a dystopia where marketing, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism run rampant and dysgenics have resulted in a uniformly stupid human society", was setting it 500 years into the future.

For those similarly afflicted with some fascination though, here is an article dealing with measuring the reading age of books and other reading matter.

But did you know that 2008 is National Year of Reading in the UK? Maybe I just missed it, or it isn't being publicized well, because this is the first time I came across it. You can understand the need, when the National Literacy Trust point to this article (from the Guardian in 2006), which says in the UK: "Up to 16 million adults - nearly half the workforce - are holding down jobs despite having the reading and writing skills expected of children leaving primary school."

Average Reading Age in the UK - 9 years! It, sadly, sounds perfectly feasible that the information in this post, dated 2004, is correct in saying that, "Time and again, I see articles in UK newspapers about how the average "reading age" of the UK population is in decline. The last one estimated this to be equivalent to that expected of a nine year old." Likewise, I have seen plenty of similar reports, but not a lot that would back them up.

What I can say, from my own personal experience of recruiting school leavers in the UK, in the 80's, is that the problem is not that new. I think the rot was creeping in when I was at school and they abolished Latin, slates and the cane. Not that I think bringing the last two back would help any.

This report from the BBC suggests that in 2002, the UK was above average: "The report suggests teenagers in the UK are reading well above their peers in other OECD countries. Of the 31 countries examined, the UK is rated seventh in terms of the average reading age of 15 year olds. Finland has the highest mean reading age of 546, while Brazil has the lowest at 396." That doesn't necessarily mean UK teenagers six years ago were exceptionally bright, I think it means that the average is decidedly crap everywhere.

In 2001, "psychiatrists suggest that the average UK reading age of the internet population is 14." Hummmm, sounds high and again, based on no scientific proof whatsoever, I would also beg to suggest that once upon a time, you had to have at least half a wit to work a computer, but that with the availability of cheap PCs and much easier to use Windows, the level has inevitably dropped.

The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America

For those of you who would like a free read, here's the ebook version (PDF all 736 pages of it - Right click and "Save Link As" Click here to begin download. File is 6.75 MB) of Charlotte Iserbyt's The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. (You can see reviews of the book and order the dead tree version here.)

The Literacy SiteIt's been my contention for years that a) education is the worlds most important issue and b) yet it's in governments' interests not to have too bright populations, so I can see how they would have an agenda for letting standards slide. Today, it's more about conformity and attitudes than any real thinking and knowledge. For those who want to discover or even improve their own reading / comprehension levels, things available online: The Child Development Institute offers a Reading Ability Screening Test. Or you can download the The Burt Reading Test (1974) Revised.

RocketReader offer some Fun Tests: How fast can you read and understand? and How does your reading speed, comprehension and vocabulary rate?

But I suggest you look at this Speed Reading Test Online. As you read the passage for the test, you'll realize that there's a very simple method to improving these and anything you want to do better in life. PRACTICE.

And why would you not want to do better, whatever your current level is? After all, you wouldn't want to wear this T-Shirt because it's true, would you?

For what it's worth, I did the Speed Reading Test and find that I'm still faster than the average reader (I'm nearly a good reader) at 285 wpm (being old, lazy, having eye problems and needing new specs have slowed me down a lot in recent years.) However, my comprehension score of 82% (compared with a typical average level of 60%) wasn't too shabby, so I am not too dissatisfied overall.

Hardly genius level though, is it?

Yeah and I never had the body of an athlete either! Sarcastic

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