The numbers of people in Britain who can tell the time from an analogue clock and do joined-up handwriting are plummeting

[First published 1 June 2019.]

Schools in Britain are removing clocks with hands from exam rooms, because so few adolescents aged 16 and 18 are able to tell the time from them. I refer to ordinary clocks with hands that rotate around the face allowing you to read off the hours and minutes – if you know how. It seems, many adolescents don’t.

Where were these boys and girls when they were two years old? What were they learning, if it wasn’t things like how to tell the time? What were their parents doing? Picking their mobile phones?

Meanwhile, ever fewer people in Britain are in the habit of doing joined-up (“cursive”) handwriting. Many prefer to scribble things down using either capital letters or “block” letters, meaning they write each letter of a word separately, not joined to the one that follows. (This is sometimes called “printing”.) Or at least they write most letters like this, because there are a few letter pairs, such as “e” followed by “r”, which they find easier to join together rather than lifting their pen from the paper halfway through.

When I’ve mentioned these developments elsewhere – developments which indicate falling literacy, rising stupidity, widespread poor parenting, and a kind of “emperor’s clothes” effect where it’s not the “done thing” to criticise the rapid decline of the culture – some have responded by saying that clocks that go “tick tock” are a nuisance, and that infant-style block writing is easier to read than joined-up writing. It’s remarkable how minds that are not in the habit of asking “Why are things like this?” can think up fast reasons, often multiple reasons, for why they should be like it.

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