Friday, August 14, 2009

Is it me or is the world getting dumber?

Following on from my little rant about dumbed-down BBC science shows and the recent allegations that degrees are getting easier, how about this from today's Daily Telegraph?

Teenager given 'council certificate for getting on bus in Greater Manchester'

A teenage boy, Bobby McHale, has been awarded a certificate from a holiday scheme in Bury, Greater Manchester - for getting the bus. The 15 year-old got the certificate from exam board AQA after attending a three week holiday scheme run by Bury Youth Services earlier in the summer. Some of Bobby's friends also received the qualification although others, including Bobby's younger brother Joe, 13, missed out it. The teenager, from Bury, Greater Manchester, wasn't even aware he had sat the test and admitted he was surprised to be awarded the certificate.

"It just seems really silly to me," said Bobby, who is set for A grades at GCSE. "At first I thought I'd got some sort of GCSE early. When I read out the details to the family we all fell about laughing. The Bury Youth Scheme is excellent and we get the chance to a lot of different activities but I can't see the point of the certificate at all. I haven't bothered framing it."

His father, Andy, 44, who runs his own marketing company, said the family were bemused by the episode. "Bobby's face was a picture when he saw the certificate," he said. "To be honest we are all a little bemused. I can only suppose this comes from some box they have to tick in order to get funding. As part of it Bobby certainly travelled by bus. Maybe it's boosted his confidence because he was nominated as head boy. He was particularly surprised because he doesn't look out the window. He listens to his music instead."

A spokesman for Bury Council, which operates the scheme, was not available for immediate comment.

The full AQA certificate reads:

Bobby McHale (date of birth 22.5.94) a student at Bury Youth Service has completed the following unit of work.

Using Public Transport (Unit 1)

In completing the unit the student has demonstrated the ability to:

1. Walk to the local bus stop.
2. Stand or sit at the bus stop and wait for the arrival of a public bus.
3. Enter the bus in a calm and safe manner.
4. Be directed to a downstairs seat by a member of staff
5. Sit on the bus and observe through the windows.
6. Wait until the bus has stopped, stand on request and exit the bus.

Bloody hell. Has the world suddenly suffered a huge IQ recession? Oh hang on.

1. Breathe in.
2. Breathe out.

Yay! I've now successfully completed my Respiration (Unit 1).

I'll expect my certificate in the post.


Karen Redman said...

No, Stevyn - it isn't "just" you. The world appears to have gone entirely mad. But heartened, at least, to read that the boy himself was completely bemused on receipt of certificate. Do you ever feel like using huge fly swat on Local Authorities, MPs & the like? I do. Oh yes, I do! But I probably won't because it may well be considered abusive behaviour by Health & Safety!

truestarr said...

On reading the title of your post, I thought "of course the world appears to be getting dumber, but that's because our education system is "dumbing" things down"... and then THIS! I can even anticipate dumb!


Winifred said...

Hate to disagree but some qualification like this are needed for certain youngsters who are not able to travel independently. Lots with learning difficulties have been taxied to school for years and being able to get on a bus is a really big learning step for them.

I worked as a careers adviser in a special school and this was something they had to be taught to do before they could progress to college or a training scheme.

Obviously this young man wasn't in that group! So black mark for communication somewhere along the line.

Spud said...

and i thought you were just getting smarter!

chris hale said...

When I first started this post I assumed the certificate was for someone with a learning disability. For the disabled, learning how to catch a bus can be a momentous step that thoroughly deserves a certificate. But for an able bodied youth? They are, in common parlance, taking the p*ss!

punk in writing said...

What? They've done away with the written test?
In my day they made you write an essay about the use of buses in public transportation and learn match the numbers to the proper destinations.
Soon they'll let anyone on the bus... ;D

Stevyn Colgan said...

Hello all

Yes, all right, I may have jumped the gun on this story - as did several of the tabloids the day afterwards - and this certificate may be a legitimate award for people with learning disabilities. However (a) it was awarded to someone who hasn't, (b) Bury Council has utterly failed to explain the true nature of the certificate, and (c) even if it is for people with learning disabilities, why does a 'unit' need to be completed? Some people do need help with life skills that many of us find easy. Surely the trick is to teach them these skills so that they can operate within society. To my mind, units and certificates highlight the differences between 'them' and 'us' and, as in the case here possibly, set people up as something to laugh at. It seems to me that any such certificate is more for the council to 'tick a box' than to reward the bus user.

I hope it was a simple mistake and that the certificate is a clumsy attempt to give people life skills. If not, well, blimey. We're all doomed.

John G. O'Neill said...

The infantilisation of society continues. Would the last functional, autonomous adult please turn the lights out, having first changed our nappy, sterilised our dummy, tucked us in, sung us a politically-correct non-threatening lullaby and put on the halogen nightlight that scares ALL the bogeymen away.
(As I read that, I realise I've turned into a reactionary old codger. At 44. Mummy always said I was advanced for my age.)

rhinestonecatboy said...

I have decidedly mixed feelings about this. I have just finished working with a group of school leavers, looking to find work or a college place. Whilst certification is probably unnecessary, learning how to use public transport, read timetables, work out where to change, journey planning, finding the closest stop to work/college etc. is something a great number of young people struggle with and don't feel comfortable doing. I've been hoping on and off buses since the age of 10 or 11, but to a generation used to being ferried everywhere by their parents, support to travel independently is a real need.

Is that really any less useful than my GCSE in Drama and performing arts or my A-Level general studies (a glorified pub quiz)?

She Means Well... said...

But didn't you know? Kids are getting smarter. The GCSE results published today (one-fifth got A or A* grades) prove that, don't they?

Needless to say, I with you and all other right-thingking grumpy middle-agers on this issue.