Alice Before the War by Debbie Bennett

Nobody told me there was a new series of The Apprentice on television. You know – the BBC sitcom/drama (well it feels like one most of the time …) which we only really watch to see how inept the candidates are and how rude Lord Sugar can be to them. Granted, some of the past performers have gone on to bigger things – and I hesitate to say better – such as the lovely Katie Hopkins who’s made an entire career out of being a bitch.

I came home from work this evening. It’s dark outside, Andy is away overnight and I have tomorrow off work. Tea cooked and eaten, jammies on and before I sit down and write this very last-minute blog, I think I’ll just have a look at the latest episode on catch-up. Because I’ve seen a few things online about how this year’s crop of budding entrepreneurs has hit an all-time new low of ineptitude…

And it’s true. Does anybody in the UK over the age of about 15 actually not know when WW2 started? Really? We’re coming up on Remembrance Day this weekend and there are people out there who don’t know? And why did they need to know, I hear you ask? Well it was 'items week' on The Apprentice, when each team has a day to buy, haggle and negotiate for a series of bizarre items, with penalties for a wrong or missing item. The winning team comes in with the lowest overall amount spent.

So, from what I can remember: Mortar board. Easy – yet one team didn’t have a clue. They’re in Oxford and Cambridge, for heaven’s sake! Snaffle. Yeah, I used to ride as a teenager, so I knew that one too. I suspect most girls do. Pre-WW2 edition of an Alice in Wonderland book. That was where it helped to know when WW2 actually was. I didn’t know some of the rowing/punting objects – but isn’t that where good old Google comes in? Are they not allowed to use the internet?

Seriously, what do these people learn in school? I’m hoping they are the last of the poor children who’ve been educated in line with the fad for creativity trumping common-sense and basics. For years, children were never corrected at school, for fear it might damage their creative spirits – it was better to spell badly and have no clue about grammar, so long as their minds were free! And many were never taught things which might challenge or stretch them - or might make them fee uncomfortable. Or make them think. Fortunately, we’ve seen the error of our ways – probably due to the millions of young adults who can’t string a coherent sentence together, never mind fill out a job application form. I’m a primary school governor and the year six classroom we meet in is now wall-to-wall posters and signs about nouns and adjectives, participles and modifiers., which can only be a good thing.

Maybe if we can teach our children a love of words and language, and the sheer joy of a sentence that conveys the exact meaning we want to give it, then we will keep them reading, absorbing knowledge as they go. Maybe then they will know that WW2 began in 1939.


Jan Needle said…
Some of us might argue that WW2 began with the Armistice. But I'm being silly. As usual...
Jan Needle said…
Even by my low standards that was sillier than usual. Must be the rain!
Susan Price said…
I know what Debbie means. I go over to a friend's to watch The Apprentice and we regularly end up in a sort of ball of cringe on the sofa, in sheer embarrassment at the ignorance and misjudgement parading across the screen. Honestly, it's like watching politics.

(We try to remember that the contestants are set up. No one could succeed at what they attempt, in the time they have and without the internet -- yes, Debbie, they are forbidden to use the internet.)
Debbie Bennett said…
@Sue - that explains a lot! Presumably they are also forbidden to 'phone a friend'!
You took the words out of my mouth, Debbie! I wasn't all that surprised none of them seemed to know what a snaffle was, since ponies are apparently out of fashion in favour of unicorns (Sir Alan should have sent them off to find a unicorn horn, maybe?) But... mortar board? Did none of them graduate?

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