Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Times they are a'changin'

Well, of course they are. They always have done and they always will do. Maybe it would be better if we said 'evolving' rather than changing. Ever since the days of the Luddites (and probably since the days of the Stone Age) whatever was set to come afterwards was never seen as being as good as what we had now.

But two pieces of news in today's newspapers have set me thinking. First of all in the farmer's Yorkshire Post where Ian McMillan writes on a Tuesday. Today he writes about how he thinks we are becoming a 'Headline Society' - and I do think there is some truth in what he says.

I usually read other folks' blogs while the six o'clock news is on. At two minutes to six I will say to the farmer 'I'll just watch the headlines' - and I do. If there is something really interesting to me then I will watch further but usually the headlines are enough to keep me up to date - or so I think.
But Mcmillan suggests - and I think there is food for thought in what he says - that we are in danger of becoming less subtle in our thinking. Today's headline tells us all we need to know and we don't want to be bothered with the rest. Headlines no longer give us a hint of what is to come (like a chapter heading in a book), now they sum up the whole situation and we accept it as all we need to know.

I wonder how this relates to teaching and learning in school. Because this leads me to the second piece of information which I found interesting in today's Times. It seems that one of the major supermarkets recruited staff for a new store in an area where jobs were scarce and unemployment was high. They had far too many apply and after interviews they appointed what they thought were the best young people for the jobs of stacking the shelves and serving the public in the shop.

The trouble was that once these young people started the job their social skills were so poor (this has nothing to do with the skills of literacy and numeracy) that three quarters of them had to go on a remedial training course, teaching them things like how to turn up for work on time, how to treat customers, how to make eye contact - all the things which my generation learned automatically at school.

I am not sure whether these two things are connected. If they are then the connection is at the most tenuous. But one thing is for sure - things do not always change for the better. People will no doubt blame the mobile phone, texting, lack of conversation and the like. But then the Luddites blamed the invention of machines. We have to move forward but we must be sure that we don't stop looking more deeply into things and that when we communicate with folk we can at least look them in the eye.

Any comments?


Heather said...

I must confess to being a headline person myself and attribute this to the fact that I was discouraged from reading newspapers as a child during WW2, so that I wouldn't learn of the awful events which were taking place. It became a lifelong habit.
As for the lack of social skills in many youngsters, I feel that many even 'not broken' families don't communicate so the young ones have no way of developing these skills.

angryparsnip said...

I also listen to the headlines, and if I hear something I haven't read about so far I will listen to it but I read the paper.

I think you learn many of these skills at home. Talking, eye contact, manners and being polite. Children learn from what they see and hear at the home. Parents actions and not being distracted by all the gadgets that are a must for today.
One day as I was walking into my sons grade school many years ago one of the 5th grand teachers came up to me and commented on the fact my son who was walking in front of her, when he saw her he held the door open for her and then zoomed off to his class. She was amazed.
I raised my children at a early age about correct behavior at home and in the world.
You learn by seeing what is about you.
Great post today.

cheers, parsnip

Loren said...

I actually get most of my news of The Daily Show, but I don't watch televised news at all. I'm more apt to read stories in the New York Times or BBC or, even, CNN.

I really think the news channels are pretty much a waste of time if you really want to understand why we are having the problems that we are. They focus on what's happening at the moment rather than why it's happening.

Not sure how that relates to kids not learning basic work skills, but as former caseworker I suspect that has a lot to do with the socioeconomic level of parents.

MorningAJ said...

I'm an ex journalist. I read. I was encouraged to do that by my parents.

But somewhere in the next two generations someone forgot to maintain those standards.

Dartford Warbler said...

Headlines are fine for keeping up to date with the latest events, but it is so easy to skim over important issues. We still get a good broadsheet newspaper on Saturdays and Sundays, when there might be more time to read in depth and analyse what is really going on.

One of our local supermarkets is very choosy about the young people it employs and communication skills are important to them. Their staff are then regularly trained in good ways to deal with customers and how to problem solve.

Communication skills are learned at home and school, but a responsible employer still needs to keep educating staff. It improves their performance and makes them feel valued, even if the job they are doing is not a very exciting one.

Cloudia said...

Yes, we make snap decisions. Heuristics replaces thinking.

What was that book about this a while back?

Our thinking IS changing, which is not ALL a bad thing when you look at the long winded and convoluted locutions (4 hour sermons!) of the past!

Aloha from Honolulu,
Comfort Spiral
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> < } } (°>

Robin Mac said...

I agree that communication skills are learned at home, but I am not sure that the better educated are necessarily any better teachers - sometimes I think parents these days are so consumed by their work that there is no time for real family life. I love reading our broadsheet papers at the weekend and I do look at the TV news at night, but I also like the in depth reporting on the radio in the mornings. All my children depend on the internet and TV for their news, mostly headlines I imagine! A thought provoking post. Cheers

Pondside said...

If it's not in a headline online or a major network intro it doesn't seem noteworthy to many.
I interview a lot of young people for positions of responsibility and I am no longer shocked when an applicant whips out a phone to 'check for messages' or to text mid-interview.
Don't even get me started about rudimentary manners, conversational skills or dress. I am becoming my grandmother!

Dave King said...

I do so agree with the remark about us becoming a headline society. it' the sound bite thing in another form. Two big objections I have to headlines is that a), some people read no further, and b), they often say - or suggest - the very reverse of what the article says when you bother to read it. Like much of our vaunted free media it comes down to spin - with the emphasis (usually) on the negative, the down side.

Jenny Woolf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Weaver of Grass said...

Some good points made here and it seems also that we are largely agreed about it. Thanks for joining in.

ArcticFox said...

take Twitter as a great indicator of our times...... you must sum up anything you wish to say, boil it down, distill it, precis, until you reach a maximum of 140 characters.... that doesn't leave me much time for my thinking dots..... does it?

(bearing in mind there were 242 characters up to my question mark)