Ewe're joking! It's enuff to make you tear ur hare out

Many students are reluctant to give up their dream of a place at university
Many students are reluctant to give up their dream of a place at university
Joe Barry

Joe Barry

A few weekends ago I attended a festival and among the many stalls offering home baking and other country produce was one selling second-hand books at very reasonable prices. Its purpose was to raise funds for the local girl scouts and the stall was staffed by four smiling and helpful teenage girls who were enthusiastically doing their best to make the venture a success.

It was a pleasure to browse through the books on offer and having chosen a few I moved to the point where you paid and to my amazement read a large handwritten sign that stated "PAY HEAR".

It was one of those moments when you don't know whether to laugh or cry. I thought at first it might be a joke but on enquiring gently, I found it was a genuine error which none of the girls had noticed.

Here were a group of bright teenagers selling books and clearly none of them could spell properly. How could they ever enjoy any of the books they were marketing if they couldn't understand the text fully?

What an appalling indictment of our education system that anyone could reach the age of fifteen or sixteen and not know the difference between "here" and "hear".

I have no idea if this is the fault of the parents, the teachers, too much TV, texting with abbreviated messages or the fact that because so few young people read books these days, they never feel the need to challenge their own knowledge and increase their word power.

Just check out any of the internet websites selling goods and read the advertisements and you will find "boat" spelt as "bote" and numerous other appalling spelling errors. Even worse, many journalists cannot spell and rely on the spell check function on their computer to do the proof reading for them.

This can lead to some awful blunders and I recall many years ago a girl who had a masters in journalism writing a piece on trees where she wrote the word "ewe" instead of "yew".

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How anyone could reach that level of education and not know the difference between a tree and a female sheep is quite astonishing.

Up to the 1960s, poverty was widespread both in our cities and in the countryside but education was revered as a chance for the younger generation to better themselves and escape from the hardship of manual labour or the need to emigrate.

On small farms throughout rural Ireland, thanks to the hard work and sacrifices made by their parents, many sons and daughters managed to get third level education and prosper.

A highly qualified engineer I know who is now retired often relates tales from his childhood when growing up on 20 acres in south Kerry.

He speaks of how his father took part time jobs whenever he could get them and would head off for work on foot with his lunch in his pocket which consisted of just two boiled potatoes.

Looking back, he laughs at how, by today's standards, his family would have been considered far below what is now popularly called "the poverty line" but they were never hungry or in any way neglected.

He and his siblings read constantly and good books were highly valued, minded carefully and always available.

The gift of literacy was properly appreciated then and it provided my friend and thousands of other young men and women like him with the opportunity to follow their dreams and prosper.

Many people of genius have come from a small farming background where their academic talents were encouraged and further education was acquired despite the endless difficulties of finding the funds to pay for it.

The late John Moriarty who grew up in the 1940s on 16 acres near Listowel is one such example. He was a brilliant scholar and at University in Dublin he was acknowledged as a giant among his peers.

It is doubtful if he could have succeeded in his studies without the support of family and the appreciation of education that was widespread then in Irish rural society. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, immigrants flooded in to the United States from poverty stricken countries throughout Europe.

Most could not speak English and yet they knew that if they were to survive, the must master the language quickly. Otherwise starvation threatened.

Education was a matter of life or death yet nowadays free education is accepted as normal with students living lifestyles that their parents could never have dreamt of. Why is it then that so many of them cannot spell, write an essay or compose a letter with any competence?

Perhaps some of the old fashioned teaching methods were not so bad after all.


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