Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Can't Read, Can't Write

I’ve already done a blog post on Can’t Read, Can’t Write, which got too rambly to put out in the world. So, after watching the last part yesterday evening, I’m having another go.

First, I need a mini-rant on the fact that the ‘reality format’ has invaded just about every type of programme. Not only is it virtually impossible to find any decent drama on the TV, but there are also hardly any documentaries. Every topic deemed worthy of enquiry has to be explored through a group of ‘real people’ on ’a journey’, which we follow without this having the slightest impact on their behaviour, of course... So, we get lots of engineered little showdowns and unnecessary intrusions into the lives of the participants. I felt this particularly keenly with this series. I also felt that the ‘students’ were expected to reveal far more than the ‘teacher’. We didn’t follow him home to watch him have a row with his mum, did we?

While the programme did have some interesting moments, did anyone else want to scream when it was announced that the participants would all be sitting exams? What a lack of imagination! There was nothing to stop that teacher suggesting a performance or an anthology – something that everyone could have contributed to in their own way. They could have chosen something to bring the participants together, to celebrate all they had achieved. Instead, the programme went with tense exam room and sorting the sheep from the goats – yet again. I could have cheered when Linda refused to do the exams or come to the award ceremony. At least they didn’t get everyone playing the game.

I felt this series was a real missed opportunity to actually look, in some depth, at different learning styles or explore techniques that have worked for people with dyslexia. Yes, some people made incredible progress and the world of the written word opened up for them. But, I wanted the details – and I wasn’t going to get them from this. Ho hum.

What did other people make of this programme? Come on people, it's getting lonely here at Greenhouse with no comments...


Em said...

I didn't watch any of the previous programs for fear of shouting at the telly. I did watch it last night though, and thought along the same lines as you. I was horrified that the teacher lied to one of the students to trick her into taking an exam she had clearly already said she had no desire to take. I was frustrated by the importance that was placed on passing an exam, and how it was linked to being the same level as a GCSE, like that matters. I was pissed off how they were told over and over how important the exam was to be able to 'prove that they are not stupid'.

NO. That is so not true. It just goes further to reinforce the idea that you are only intelligent if you can prove it with an exam, and if you have no GCSEs then you are clearly not.

The teacher going on about how exams are important as a professional to show his progress. ARGH. If you lack that much confidence in yourself and your pupils that you have to measure your own worthiness by them taking exams, perhaps you should be in a different job.

Nic said...

I watched all of them and shouted at the TV each week.I found last nights disappointing - the exam taking was stupid (and a real backtrack for Phil from the first episode when he disagreed with the adult literacy woman who claimed that passing exams was the whole point.), I thought lying to Linda was really low too.

I did think the following the people home aspect to the programme was really interesting because in most cases it gave some insight into what had 'gone wrong' in their lives that they had not learnt to read.

I think a lot of the programme was in line with my thinking / feelings about literacy, teaching and learning but sadly in order to get made and aired it probably needed to fit more tidily into the mainstream thinking on these things.

Allie said...

Yes, em, I too felt that Phil was just betraying his own lack of confidence as a teacher. But I suspect that the programme makers told him what the format would be and he just had to go along with it. That's probably why he seemed to be backtracking, Nic.

I thought that the whole 'lying to Linda' thing was just done to make another dramatic scene. That's what I don't like about the 'following people home' thing too. Though I'm sure you're right, Nic, that people's home lives have a lot to do with it, all we get is a manipulated little snippet that the programme makers are feeding us. We were meant to think that Teresa's mum had dented her confidence and held her back in life, so we were fed little examples of that in action. We'll never know what was edited out. I'd rather there had been more up-front, old fashioned interviewing to give people the chance to present their own realities.

Jenny said...

I thought it was a shame I havent been able to see any of these but maybe Im not that sad now!
Maybe I caught one of the only 'good' bits... The lady saying right at the end that shes found a joy in reading, that she now has to read before she goes to sleep and she finds it every bit as wonderful as she imagined it would be?
I get so sick of these engineered programmes which basically revolve around watching people perform some miracle, all because of the wonderful programme makers blah blah

Sharon said...

I watched the 1st episode only and didn't like it. I know exactly what you mean about the engineered set-up of the reality show. I wondered a few times if they re-shot any of the tense or emotional scenes. I was irritated at Phil whatshisname, heading off to teach a class of adults and seeming to have no idea how to start. He dissed the adult education woman, who was portrayed badly with her it's-all-about exams stance. I'm sure she's not as bad as she was made out to be, but they had to have a villain for their brave maverick hero to best.

I was bothered by how long it seemed to take them to realise that the woman who was a hands-on learner, was not benefiting from the phonics. And it seemed just like school, when the learners who had the most problems were sent out of the class to be taught by the 'class-room assistant' figure.

Anyway, grrr.

I like Jenny's point about these miracle programmes too. What would have happened to these people if they hadn't been on this show? Would they have had to live forever without learning to read? I'd say not.

Gill said...

I didn't see it. Kinda wish I had, now - if only so I could say more about it here!

Allie said...

Yes, Sharon, they do like a hero in these shows and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find they re-shot emotional scenes. I once knew a family who took part in a tv show and their kids had to bounce around excitedly in a window about four times!

Jenny, I did enjoy Linda explaining why she wasn't going to do the exams. She seemed to have a healthy anger about the way she'd been treated in the past and was using it to fuel her own future.

Gill, you didn't miss much! I felt it was a missed opportunity to look more closely at the issues.

Joyce said...

I didn't watch it as - Monday night I do voluntary work in adult literacy lol. People get two hours a week, for however long it takes, working one to one, on whatever they want to learn to read. No bouquets. No awards. No exams. But real people having success after being badly let down somewhere along the line. Mind you, the council (its a council scheme) values the volunteers so much that it won't even pay for the coffee that I always end up buying for the two of us, nor will it pay things like my travel, my childcare or the celeb mags I'm currently buying for my student to read. Don't get me started. If I wanted, I could borrow a sodding reading scheme, but nothing else.

mamacrow said...

I'm tempted to say - I'll comment on your blog if you'll comment on mine! ;)

I'm very very lonely over there but not much homeschooling content yet, so maybe give it a while...

I didn't catch these programes = we're having a tv cut down round here. From the sound of it, I'm glad I didn't.

But I did catch a bit of one a while ago where a bunch of teenagers ran an alternative school. It was on one of the BBC channels (3 or 4 I think) and might have been called The School in the Woods, or Leave the Kids Alone... anyone see any of that?

It was interesting in that it was a bit more observational. Oh, apart from all the hyping up of the power dynamics :(

Allie said...

Good point, mamacrow. I'll pop by!

Never saw that one about the kids running an alternative school. Sounds interesting.

jax said...

saw part of one episode of the children running the school one, stopped watching it for all the reasons you disliked this one. Missed the first part of this, have recorded rest, was considering trying to find a repeat but going off the idea now.