That state run education system’s working well then, eh?

One in five British people cannot name a single author of literature, a survey has revealed, as writers warn there is a section of society that is “shut off” from the benefits of reading.

Good thing we did just hand over the whole shebang to the lefties, eh?

78 comments on “That state run education system’s working well then, eh?

  1. I`m not sujre many of your UKIP droogs have got much further than the Beano judging from the comments I see here Tim.
    One of the inteersting ironies of life in the mobocracy is that the people banging on about our glorious valuable culture have generally avoided it religiously

  2. Ohhhh Newmania has read Anthony Burgess – well done. Go to the top of the class and jump off.

  3. “Children’s writer and author of War Horse, Michael Morpurgo, warned against minimising “the significance in our society of the vast numbers, albeit a minority, who do not know or value or love literature.

    “There seems to be a gulf that shuts off 20 per cent of people from the benefits of literature, a gulf that I know the RSL and others are determined to bridge.””

    Let me guess how – more taxpayer moolah?

  4. Do they have Wi-Fi I the nuthouse NewRemainia? It seems they do but you have to wait your turn eh?

    The mobocracy beat you -you crawling middle-class cultural Marxist London Bubble puke–and we are still stomping you and your buddies.

    As for culture –Rugby Songs is about the nearest you and your friend Sand–sorry Jackal Heart –have ever got. The two of you should ensure your post-Brexit future by setting up the the “Bona School of Face-Painting and High Art”. It is a shame Mr Horne is no longer around to vist you.

  5. Nowt rong wiv the bleedin’ Beano mate, when you are 6 years old.

    Or intellectually never got past six.

  6. In a peice about literature their book pile includes 3 by Dan Brown and Oz Clarke’s wine buying guide. (I stopped looking after that).

    Telegraph up to its usual standards.

  7. How are they defining “literature”? Is this not just them saying “authors I like or they are not worth reading”? I would imagine most of the female population of the UK can name the writer of “50 shades” – never read it myself but wouldn’t say it was more or less worth reading than books I have read… It’s not up to me to decided what books you should like…

  8. As for the ways in which literature is valued, the British public seems to have much in common with Barack Obama, himself a great writer as well as an
    omnivorous reader.

    Ho hum.

  9. @DuckyMcDuckface – I reckon the average Brit is more than capable of being as great a writer as Barry O.

  10. Illiteracy was a real issue for centuries. How many modern Brits can’t read?

    I teach in NZ. I’ve never met an illiterate kid born in NZ. Even the morons can read. Immigrants usually, but the ones who arrive late sometimes slip past.

    That doesn’t make them clever, so they have no interest in books. Let’s concentrate on what matters — can they read? Not do they read the sorts of things I personally value.

    Modern education has plenty of flaws, but failure to reach literacy is not one of them.

  11. Bloke in Cornwall,

    They probably mean “the classics”. Austen, Dickens etc.

    And the problem is, many of them just aren’t very interesting or relevant. I spent about a week on holiday reading Moby Dick and it’s fucking dreadful. It’s like reading a trainspotter, except about whales and whaling. Whole chapters are dedicated to types of whales and types of harpoon for no good reason. Joseph Conrad? Why make a sentence short when you can make it irritatingly long. Catcher in the Rye? Some rich Emo kid whining about his life. And Dickens is probably good if you’re curious about Victorian literature, but I didn’t get much else from it. On the Road is just typing. Lord of the Rings needed a better editor.

    That said, I really like Edith Wharton and Dorothy L Sayers. And I like Austen, although I think that works that have heavily borrowed and updated them like Bridget Jones’ Diary and Clueless have more relevance to a modern audience.

  12. @Bob – that’ll teach me to read the article but not look any further!!

    @BiW – your interpretation is what I thought, old books that everyone says is great but really are out of date and not actually worth reading by modern standards

  13. MC,

    The Harry Potter books are garbage. Rowling can’t write a cohesive plot for toffee, can’t keep her universe consistent, is a snob against the lower middle classes, and writes boys like girls (like most female authors). And she only sold a load of books because little kids don’t know any better.

  14. When I joined the Army in 1972 the recruitment Sgt asked if I read because “the Army is 23 hours hanging around followed by 1 hour racing around doing stuff that could have been done in the 23 hours” or words to that affect. Then we only had reading to pass time and it didn’t really matter what we read.

    Now people have so much stuff to do reading books is no longer necessary as a pass time and is usually only done for pleasure or education or a combination of both. I quite like reading and try to find an hour a day, but usually fail, and enjoy reading books that entertain and I find interesting and educational. I’m currently reading 1776 about the American civil war and recently read A Voyage For Mad Men about the first round the world sailing race*.

    I’ve no interest in the classics, they bore me and are even worse when they are turned in to costume dramas and “adapted”.

    We need our population to be literate for employment and social purposes, but beyond that if they don’t find any pleasure reading books, especially “literature”, so what?

    *I’ve also read a few/most of Tim’s books; like has web stuff entertaining and educational.

  15. There is pleasure in shared culture. More than the sum of its parts. If you quote shakespeare it’s value to you increases if I recognise the reference. The pressure on literatary classics by other genres to fill this hole is even greater with a lot of very culturally active and receptive minds spend their neuron hours on video games. When this was space invaders then yeah you could say it’s not comparable to the immersive world of books. But the immersive world of MMO games? Those tanks have been on the lawn for a while now, and they are going nowhere.

  16. Bloke in Cornwall said:
    “I would imagine most of the female population of the UK can name the writer of ’50 shades’”

    Could they? They’ll know the title and what the book is about, but the author’s name?

  17. They surveyed 2000 people and asked questions that ‘We acknowledge and relish the fact that the results are open to interpretation.’

    They could have just asked 30,000 people two simple questions, ‘what was the last book you read’ and ‘when did you read it’ but then the results could not be presented to reinforce their agenda.

    The list of staff members is a diverse bunch, 2 men and 8 women, very representative.

    This report makes better reading
    http://www.publishers.org.uk/EasySiteWeb/GatewayLink.aspx?alId=21230

  18. BiND: I’m currently reading 1776 about the American civil war

    How far have you got? I fear disappointment awaits…

  19. Newmania nails it .Isn’t it curious that the percentage of Beleavers in the Brexit Economic Suicide Cult is highest in areas of low educational attainment? Talking of which, the above comments are littered with really crass errors of grammar, spelling and syntax.
    Further Education in this country was privatised suddenly and completely and the universities are going the same way, but slowly, as Martin Wolf deplores in his latest FT piece.

  20. When a book was written and its story / setting do not affect its beauty as a piece of literature. Ultimately, it is a matter of individual taste and why one reads. I love Tale of Two Cities especially, but enjoy Dickens generally. I’m a huge fan of Zola (IMHO Germinal is the greatest book ever) and much of Rushdie too. I think Sartre’s Nausea is sensational. Tomasi Di Lampadusa’s The Leopard is another outstanding read. I also never pass up the opportunity to see a Shakespeare play.

    But this is all in terms of what I enjoy, others can casually dismiss these books as garbage.

  21. Leftists read Rowling, where magic is basically free stuff, rightists read Pratchett, where magic is real enough but generally works out to be more trouble than doing it the hard way.

  22. I spent about a week on holiday reading Moby Dick and it’s fucking dreadful.

    Ooh, I loved it!

    It’s like reading a trainspotter, except about whales and whaling.

    I know! Fascinating stuff!

    Whole chapters are dedicated to types of whales and types of harpoon for no good reason.

    I loved it. But then, I did do mechanical engineering… :-/

  23. “the Army is 23 hours hanging around followed by 1 hour racing around doing stuff that could have been done in the 23 hours”

    Oh look, an oil company!

  24. Moby Dick: unreadable. Did nobody warn you?
    Catcher in the Rye: I laughed and laughed but I was sixteen.
    Tale of Two Cities: the only good book by Dickens.
    The Leopard: I loved it when I was seventeen and I loved it even more when I read it again last year.
    Miss Austen: not to be missed.
    Shakespeare: absurdly underrated.

    Why has nobody mentioned Mark Twain, by far the best American writer?

  25. TMB –

    BiND: I’m currently reading 1776 about the American civil war
    How far have you got? I fear disappointment awaits…

    I got that referrence. But it was the first american civil war.There were loyalists and rebs. The rebs won so as is usual the war gets a different name.

  26. Reedy you are on that down-bound train for sure.

    “Newmania nails it .”

    His dick maybe–nothing else.

    “Isn’t it curious that the percentage of Beleavers in the Brexit Economic Suicide Cult is highest in areas of low educational attainment? ”

    And yet they are smart enough to know who their enemies are. And if any of them had ever heard of you they would have zero trouble sussing you out as the socialism-sucking little traitor and stooge of CM evil that you are.

    “Talking of which, the above comments are littered with really crass errors of grammar, spelling and syntax.”

    And your hebephrenic ramblings aren’t?

    “Further Education in this country was privatised suddenly and completely”

    Say what? When did this event occur (outside your head that that is) and how did the Teachers Unions miss it –and prove so useless. If you mean the fucking Academies your marxian fanaticism has got the better of what passes for your brains. The state still funds and owns them.

    “and the universities are going the same way, but slowly, as Martin Wolf deplores in his latest FT piece.”

    The sooner the Unis are purged of leftist scum the better. Too long have they peddled their tripe on the taxpayers tit.

  27. The two books I did not finish were Gulliver’s Travels and Turn of the Screw. In the latter case, a couple of pages was all I could stomach.

    I greatly enjoyed Don Quixote. I tend to like stand alone stories within novels. I thought the first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, was a really good read.

  28. DocBud said:
    “Tomasi Di Lampadusa’s The Leopard is another outstanding read.”

    Indeed, yes.

  29. BobRocket said:
    “four-fifths of 16 to 19-year olds have a reading age higher than the average of the working population”

    Interesting, thank you. So basically although UK State education is still piss-poor, it’s better than it was in the 70s, 80s and 90s (at least at teaching reading and writing).

    That’s probably about right.

  30. I’ve tried reading classical literature but mostly I find it’s incredibly tedious. The writing’s technically atrocious. Enormously long, largely irrelevant, descriptive passages & characterisations little better than cardboard cutouts. But then, for readers of modern literature, they’re rather like getting out of an F35 & into a Sopwith Camel. They were written at a time when novel writing, as an art form, was in its infancy. Most of the works, if addressed by a good modern writer. wouldn’t make much more than a novella or even a short story. t’Pratchett is mentioned above. It’s worth reading his stuff with an eye to the technique. How he imparts so much information in so few words. He doesn’t need long descriptive passages because the reader discovers the scene through the eyes of the characters, as they do.

  31. Richard,

    they teach them to read at Primary and kill off any interest in reading at Secondary.

    They are attempting to kill off reading in Primaries now with the use of Jolly Phonics. (it’s working)

  32. dearieme – “Moby Dick: unreadable. Did nobody warn you?”

    But with good bits. How else would we know how they used to cut up and boil down whales in their own blubber?

    “Catcher in the Rye: I laughed and laughed but I was sixteen.”

    Tedious hell. I think I would be physically repulsed if I ever even touched another copy.

    “Why has nobody mentioned Mark Twain, by far the best American writer?”

    Dashiel Hammett? America, I think, suffers from Shakespeare envy. They want to create a Great National Literature. The problem is most of their writers are boring and hate their own country. Twain is not bad. But it has been down hill ever since.

  33. I’ll take the Sopwith Camel most days, but colour and movement are less important to me. Modern novels I’ve enjoyed include The Name of the Rose and Focault’s Pendulum by Eco, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Murakami (the story within a story of the Japanese occupation of Manchuria is a fascinating and enjoyable read), White Teeth by Zadie Smith and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

  34. I’d like to drag the score for Moby Dick back up to 2-2, I’m with Tim N on this one.

    I think it was A A Gill who wrote an interesting article about snipers – that they’re really boring to interview, because they just talk about their kit all the time. He thought he might be able to find some other angle: anecdotage packed with threat and heroism, or the moral and emotional dimension of seeing your victim without them seeing you, or the transfer of the “thrill of the hunt” and sporting values into a military arena. But no, it was just kit, kit, kit, kit. Because that was their world, what they lived and died by.

    Moby Dick has some phases like that too. But if you don’t understand the whales, the economy of whaling, the technical aspects of the profession, the culture of the sea-going men, then you can’t follow the danger and drama of the scene – nor grasp what the author is reaching for in those moments when the book transcends whaling. So I didn’t mind being lectured to about it, though I also enjoyed the social and technical history in its own right, which perhaps puts me in the same boat (ha!) as Tim N.

  35. bloke in spain – “The writing’s technically atrocious. Enormously long, largely irrelevant, descriptive passages & characterisations little better than cardboard cutouts.”

    It depends on what you are reading and how it has been translated. It is hard to say that about Tolstoy, especially early Tolstoy for instance. Lermontov either.

    “They were written at a time when novel writing, as an art form, was in its infancy.”

    A lot of them, like Charles Dickens, were first serialised in newspapers. Which, according to the urban legend, paid by the word. It shows. But it hardly applies to something like Jane Austen who can show an entire character in a single little scene. It is hard to think of much that could be cut form P&P for instance.

    “How he imparts so much information in so few words. He doesn’t need long descriptive passages because the reader discovers the scene through the eyes of the characters, as they do.”

    This is the enormous influence of the telegram on American literature. Someone like Hemingway tried to cut out all the cr@p from his prose. Someone like Dashiell Hammett not only had to write reports, he had to send them over the wires as well. Absolute minimalism that makes Pratchett look chatty.

    It depends on what you like and what you are used to. But Pratchett – while a great under-appreciated author – does characters rather poorly. He cannot treat people he does not like with anything like fairness which makes them one dimensional cardboard cut outs. Even his heroes tend to be boringly repetitive.

  36. “which perhaps puts me in the same boat (ha!) as Tim N.”

    You mean on the spectrum? I say that as a fellow engineer and, therefore, according to MrsBud, on the spectrum.

  37. During one bout of being off sick from work – about six months or so – I found time to get a lot of reading done. Don Quixote was most enjoyable and if I’d been fit and working I don’t think I’d ever have got through it, or if I had it would have been in a bitty way and not able to immerse myself in so thoroughly.

    I found it a much better experience to read that way, rather than in the fragments of an hour or so during quiet spells that I normally manage. I should probably prepare a proper library for retirement. But I can completely understand if people are reading e.g. more web articles and fewer novels.

    To some extent I even regret the amount of time I’ve spent reading “Literature” in the past, even the things I’ve enjoyed. I feel I’d have been better off to have invested the time (and “investment” is the word) in reading something factual. Obviously books about history, politics and travel tend to be very readable (as is the “popular science” genre, though I absolutely can’t stand the stuff) but even A-level or undergraduate-level textbooks in quite technical subjects are surprisingly accessible these days, much more readable than ones from the 70s or even the 90s.* They may not be “fun” reads but they’re often fascinating – and I usually feel much better for having read one. If I could have my time again, I’d probably trade most of the Literature I’ve read as an adult against having got through a few more factual books instead.

    (Which partly explains why I’d rather read a “proper” science textbook, than a “popular” one. There’s a certain “geek” subculture these days where “geek” means they read comics, play video games and enjoy watching Sherlock, but who have zero technical ability/knowledge. They often say they have a passion for science, enjoy reading about quantum mechanics for example, yet don’t even have high-school level maths or physics. The books they read consisted entirely of words. They couldn’t read an equation let alone solve it. When did this all happen? Up to a certain point in history, didn’t we expect geeks to at least be able to code?)

  38. Richard,

    I’ve been looking at that one fifth again and I’m not sure things are getting any better.
    It could be that a functional illiteracy rate of 20% of 16 to 19-year olds actually results in a working population functional illiteracy rate of around 50% as people who have good literacy tend to enter the workforce later (after university) and exit earlier (early retirement).

  39. Dashiel Hammett? America, I think, suffers from Shakespeare envy. They want to create a Great National Literature. The problem is most of their writers are boring and hate their own country. Twain is not bad. But it has been down hill ever since.

    Dashiell Hammett, yes. John Steinbeck, too. Margaret Mitchell’s sole effort was brilliant, as was Harper Lee’s. I like what I’ve read of Hemmingway. Emily Dickinson’s poems are pretty good. Nah, I like American literature.

  40. BiS,

    I was joking about Finnegans Wake (one of the few books I started but didn’t finnish)

    You might like this one by Paul Rutherford though

    38-24-36. 180/120. 911

  41. Mr Rocket. I avoid anything Finnish. Something very odd about the Finns. The males & females seem to be of different species. And they don’t cast shadows, you know.

  42. “I think it was A A Gill who wrote an interesting article about snipers – that they’re really boring to interview, because they just talk about their kit all the time. He thought he might be able to find some other angle: anecdotage packed with threat and heroism, or the moral and emotional dimension of seeing your victim without them seeing you, or the transfer of the “thrill of the hunt” and sporting values into a military arena. But no, it was just kit, kit, kit, kit. Because that was their world, what they lived and died by.”

    That doesn’t mean they’re boring. It just means kit matters to them. You then have to work out why it matters to them.

  43. For years I’ve been struggling through the original Phantom of the Opera. It’s dire in the writing, but I want to read it as there’s so many other things that refer to the story.

  44. Can I redeem the good name of engineering and say that as a mechanical engineer I found Moby Dick unreadable.

    I read C. Bronte for the first time this year, and found her brilliant.

  45. Mr Ecks is a teacher. You can tell by the way it’s so knowledgeable about fucking everything

  46. “One in five British people cannot name a single author of literature…” At which point, one pauses and asks that essential question about survey-derived statistics: is it believable? One in 10? Don’t think so. One in 100? Maybe, but I’m still not convinced. One in 1,000? Perhaps getting there, but I’m wondering if the framers of this survey have a particular definition of “author of literature” they want to support their results.
    Another example of rent-seeking methinks.

  47. Twain is (still) the best the best American author, in my estimation. By the time I was 10, I’d read everything he’d ever written (though not THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER and other stuff after about 1900). But a piece that actually caused me to think seriously about literature and reading matter, in general was LITERARY OFFENSES OF JAMES FENIMORE COOPER. i came to the conclusion that virtually all “writing,”
    was actually political propaganda, intended to implant the (usually leftist) slant of the author through the medium of
    entertainment. And, because I needed more time for outdoor playing, biking, fishing, camping, etc., I simply abandoned
    reading altogether when I was 12 and haven’t read a book since (with the exception of 1). I still read magazines and, of course, the fact-based, true-to-life newspapers (of which I read at least two major-city dailies a day (plus the NYT on Sundays). Somehow, it took me years to appreciate that the newspapers and the radio/TV “news” were even more firmly
    propaganda vehicles of the left and so, gave up on those as well. That was 1980. (Coincidentally, the last newspaper I read was a Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer, bought in Miami for the flight to Philly. I think it was March 1–but I could be mistaken. If I want to know about the weather–I look out the window.)

  48. “When you’re wounded and lying on Afghanistan’s plains
    And the women come out to cut up what remains,
    Then roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
    And go to your God like a soldier.

    All anyone ever might have needed to know of Afghanistan–but I guess nobody reads poetry anymore, right?

  49. In some feminist circles Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is no longer politically acceptable because the hero “didn’t believe the victim” when she claimed she was raped.

  50. “In some feminist circles Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is no longer politically acceptable because the hero “didn’t believe the victim” when she claimed she was raped.”

    any proof?

  51. “That doesn’t mean they’re boring. It just means kit matters to them. You then have to work out why it matters to them.”

    Yes. If a keyboard could get a journalist killed even if it wasn’t merely defective but slightly substandard they’d be even more vastly self-obsessed than they are already.

  52. 50 Shades Of Grey is Mr Ecks’s favourite.

    His predilection for young, illiterate, illegal immigrant children made sh/it publish sh/it’s safe word around in those ‘fulfillment’ circles, just in case sh/it wasn’t strong enough for their innocent attentions..

  53. Tim Newman – “Dashiell Hammett, yes. John Steinbeck, too. Margaret Mitchell’s sole effort was brilliant, as was Harper Lee’s. I like what I’ve read of Hemmingway. Emily Dickinson’s poems are pretty good. Nah, I like American literature.”

    I did not say all American literature was cr@p. Although I am dubious about Harper Lee. I said they have a case of envy. There is a need to build up a national canon of Great Literature. Which means they tend to hype a lot of people who should not be hyped.

    Still, if you want to read Jonathan Safran Foer please be my guest.

    What is odd about this is that America does brilliant science fiction. Their best is much better than Arthur C Clarke. But the sort of people who are into serious literature won’t even consider it. Thank God.

  54. john malpas – “What about reading books with lots of pictures in them. The ‘Phantom’ is good.”

    The Phantom is outstanding. Although so many microaggressions. I mean, the Africans actually have bones in their noses.

  55. What is odd about this is that America does brilliant science fiction. Their best is much better than Arthur C Clarke. But the sort of people who are into serious literature won’t even consider it. Thank God.

    Yet the same sort of people go mad for ‘magical realism’, which is just SF, but really bad SF.

    SF’s NO GOOD!
    They bellow ’til we’re deaf
    But =this= is good
    Well, then, it’s not SF!

    Kingsley Amis

  56. Tricky as books can be if their time or even when you read them matters. I went through the original foundation trilogy recently and it was to me really poorly written, had I read it when I was younger 30-40 years ago I’m sure I’d have a very different opinion.
    I recall enjoying catcher in the rye when we did it in school aged 14, also did brave new world for o level, can’t see that being allowed on a modern syllabus with all the drugs and sex
    Liked docbuds list, have read all of those and enjoyed them.
    My 12 year old just read tale of two cities and did a presentation in French on it

  57. Over the years I’ve enjoyed many books at all levels of brow elevation.
    Special recognition goes to the previously-mentioned ‘The Leopard’ for its brevity, precision and sly humour: Lampedusa could well see where socialism/fascism led.
    Others have mentioned Dashiel Hammett, but Raymond Chandler’s pretensions to be taken seriously as a literary thriller writer were constantly being punctured by his keen eye for absurdity and quixotic chivalry. And he had a great turn of phrase.
    Neal Stephenson writes massive and meticulously researched steampunk novels often laden with detail at the expense of characterisation, but his Baroque Cycle trilogy is a tour de force.
    Michel Houellebecq’s profound disillusionment with himself – and the rest of humanity equally – merely nourishes his dystopic black humour: ‘Atomised’ is still perhaps his best.
    Among contemporary British writers, Kate Atkinson is a cut above in terms of mordant perception, ingenious plotting and freedom from political correctness.
    There are books that I’ve needed much persuasion to overcome my initial reluctance (or possibly laziness), of which three stand out: ‘Crime and Punishment’, which really is as good as it’s cracked out to be – and improves on re-reading; Thackeray’s ‘Vanity Fair’ – a classic of duplicity and chicanery; and Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’ – although I’ll readily concede that you’ll need to get past the first hundred or so pages before anything even remotely starts happening.
    Interestingly, because one is so verbose and the other so economical, it is Proust and Di Lampedusa who, more than most writers, so accurately portray the self-serving, social-climbing hypocrisy that typifies so many of our favourite buffoons of the left.

  58. Thank you, KrakowJosh, somehow I managed to forget Crime and Punishment, a truly awesome read, but it also reminded me that one of my all time favourite novels, certainly in my top five, is the amazing Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, a novel I shall read again and again every few years. Another of my favourites is Kim by Kipling, I’ve already read it three times.

    Bnic,

    I read the Foundation Trilogy in my mid-teens and loved it. Been wondering about re-reading it, now in my 50s, maybe I shouldn’t.

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.