From the desk of Roland Rocchiccioli – 24 October

October 24, 2021 BY

Early adopter: Look Mummy was Roland’s first book. He cannot remember a time when he could not read. Photo: SUPPLIED

It is a statistic which pours shame on every post-war Australian government; and one which should galvanise every thinking person to take stock!

INCREDULOUSLY, forty-three per cent of Australians, in a country as rich and prosperous as ours, have numeracy and literacy problems – unbelievably, some are illiterate: they cannot read or write – is a national disgrace.

Embarrassingly, our national literacy and numeracy rate trails behind some of the poorest South American countries. WTF!!!

I started school aged four-and-a-half, by which time I could read. Every morning it was, as my mother said, “The same bloody pantomime!” I wanted to go to school with my sister, Nita, who was eight years older. In desperation, she said, “will you tell Sister Mary Bertrand that Ronnie wants to come to school? He is driving me bloody mad!” Dutifully, Nita repeated exactly that. Bertrand laughed and said, “Yes, of course.” I was there in a flash!

Try as I may, I am intellectually incapable of processing the notion that almost half the population of this country has been denied opportunity. What, in God’s name, has been happening in our schools?  What has been allowed to happen to our education system is a disgrace. I want to line-up all those politically correct, meddling blabbermouths – who have been so busily throwing-out the baby with the bathwater – and shoot the bloody lot of them at dawn – metaphorically speaking, that is!  To have denied somebody the joy of reading and writing is, in my opinion; academic vandalism. A crime against humanity.

I cannot imagine, even for a nanosecond, spending one day of my life without exploring some form of text; of attempting to expand a concept; of reading and writing; of exploring the horizons and discovering how little I know, and how undereducated I am for my potential. It makes one want to tell all of the so-called new-age, educational experts to leave town. Piss-off!

I still have my first book – Look Mummy – from which I learned to read, and which by today’s standards would, unquestionably, be deemed heretical by some hubristic smart-arse. The thought police have been so caught-up in their own self-aggrandisement; so occupied in stopping our children from chanting their times tables; from reading Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven, Famous Five, and Noddy, and Winnie the Pooh (talking animals are an insult to God. I wonder what he made of St Francis of Assisi?), they have forgotten their professional raison d’etre.

Some of the literary extrapolations, viewed through the jaundiced adult prism of 2021, are too stupid. It never crossed my mind that Georgie from Famous Five might be a lesbian. I thought, like my sister, she was a tomboy; or that Noddy, Big Ears and the policeman were locked in a triumvirate homosexual orgy; and the Gollywog was naughty because he was black; or the language in Uncle Tom’s Cabin was offensive. You have to be taught to hate. My parents taught me inherently not to be racist – neither of whom noticed the colour of people’s skin. In fact, my father, Ginger, had a torrid love-affair with Tessa, an indigenous Australian. He wanted to marry her. She refused him.

Many from the post-war generation of learning are still perfectly capable of solving a quadratic equation; explaining the difference between a metaphor and a simile; conjugating a French or Latin verb – regular and irregular; resolving theorem 99 – the square on the hypotenuse; distinguishing the difference between CO and CO2; and effortlessly naming the three types of rock.

Shamefully, having been denied their birth right, it is too late for many of the 43 per cent who have been cast out into the wilderness. Now, as matter of great urgency, we need to turn our attention to critical basic learning; to examine our teaching training methods; and to give everyone, regardless, the opportunity to appreciate the glorious language of Shakespeare, Milton and Keats!

It is the right and proper thing!

Roland can be heard with Brett Macdonald each Monday, 10.45am on Radio 3BA and contacted via [email protected].

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