Fourth Floor Studio

November 12, 2006

Kiwis go digital?

Filed under: news, stupidity — chris @ 4:20 pm

It appears that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, which sets standards and curricula for high school exams there, is to allow credit to be given for IM-style text speak in exams, provided there is adequate demonstration of understanding.

I can’t begin to list the reasons why this is a bad idea – so I’ll just give one: perhaps the only redeeming feature of the time-limited exam we all know and hate is getting students to develop basic writing skills. That is, outlining a set of arguments concisely but clearly, by mastering the difference between written and oral communication. Written language is directional: information flows from author to audience, unlike speech which usually has multiple active participants. Try reading a play sometime: it’s rather jarring, but feels much more natural when acted out. Unlike other niche vocabularies students routinely use (eg algebraic notation or chemical symbols), textspeak is inherently a conversational medium. I suspect this would tend to steer students away from even the rudiments of composition they know – frightening given the average science major’s writing abilities, or even many professional scientists’, for that matter.

Let’s face it, if you’re going to do anything more high-powered than bag burgers and fries, you need to be able to write. Well.

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