Liberal Education Part 2 home

When I wrote the title the first time around, I had no idea...

Previously, I told the liberal democrat candidate about his apostrophe errors. The gentleman, keen for my vote, has replied.

Dear Mr Frieze

Thankyou for your letter of May 25. I'm pleased to hear that our policies interest you - we certainly feel that they are the most progressive, positive, and honest of all the main parties.

I apologise if our punctuation error with an apostrophe has distressed you, and have corrected the error, although there will be no further print-runs of this leaflet. I'm sure that you will accept that this particular error is quite a common one, and that the English language can often be confusing, even to native speakers!

I very much agree that proper grammar, punctuation, and overall literacy need to be taught in British schools. On punctuation in particular, however, I do believe that this needs to be taught at an appropriate point in a pupil's progression; there is little point in trying to force pupils to use strictly correct punctuation tool early, when it may have a counter-productive effect on their motivation to learn.

I feel that the Liberal Democrat pledge to pump 3bn per year into education, recruit 40,000 classroom assistants, and decrease primary class sizes to 25 will help to achieve this improvement in standards. I hope that your concern over our mistake with an apostrophe will not lead you to conclude (or vote) otherwise.

Yours Sincerely,

Stephen Psallidas

As usual, the letter has been reproduced verbatim.

I decided to email my reply, since the election is getting near, and I doubt there will be much interest in me once he's lost it.

From: Ashley Frieze

Dear Mr Psallidas,

Thank you for your prompt reply to my letter. I have decided to email a reply to you in order to save time.

You may be pleased to hear that your apostrophe error did not cause me any distress. Unfortunately, I think it did make you look ill-educated. I do not accept your points that this is a particularly common error and that this aspect of the English language is confusing. However, I was lucky. At the age of seven, a very nice man stood in front of me and my school mates, and taught us how to use the apostrophe. It took a single thirty minute lesson and I have never had any doubts about apostrophe use since.

It is a matter of no small concern to me that your support for teaching punctuation comes with a proviso that it should be held until "an appropriate point in a pupil's progression". In my opinion, part of the rot in our present-day education system is caused by large sections of the teaching profession attempting to avoid laying down the fundamental rules of their subject too early for fear of alienating the class. What is the point of an education system that will not teach? Are we not selling our children short by letting them make mistakes without correction? Surely children work better when rules are presented for them to follow?

I am also a little concerned about what you mean by classroom assistants. If a classroom assistant's role is to provide extra manpower to help teach children, why can you not recruit more teachers?

I think education is very important. I'm not sure, however, that the Liberal Democrats' policies will impact on the core problems within education.


Ashley Frieze.

02 June 2001
Ashley Frieze