The prevalence of spell checking on computers and mobile phones has created a generation of adults so reliant on auto-predict technologies that they are unable to spell common words such as ‘necessary' and ‘separate,' according to a study that is appearing in a number of popular national newspapers.
The survey found that when 2,000 adults were given a short spelling test, only one in five participants were able to obtain full marks, with 65 per cent failing to spell ‘necessary' correctly and 33 per cent making mistakes with ‘definitely' and ‘separate.'
The mainstream press is having a field day with the statistics, pointing to the fact that 18 per cent of those surveyed said they relied on spell checks at all times and an additional 21 per cent said they used them in most instances, as proof that the long-standing technology is impeding basic skills.
The sensationalist headlines are misguided. True, 80 per cent made errors in the assessment, but since fewer than 40 per cent claimed to be reliant on auto-correct functions when writing, only half of the subpar spellers can be directly tied to one of the more popular aspects of modern computing.
The rest must be attributed to wider failings in the education system, as nearly all those surveyed said they thought spelling was an important skill. The present Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, seems to acknowledge that shortcomings in early learning is the real cause of these uncomfortable figures.
"The failure to test spelling - as well as grammar and punctuation - in exams over the past decade has been a costly one," Mr Gibb said.
Somewhat bizarrely, 76 per cent of those polled describe their spelling capabilities as ‘very good' or ‘fairly good' - close to the same amount who failed to spell all the basic words accurately. Not unlike the erroneous notion that the national football side is made up of world beating talent, it is symptomatic of the culture of delusion modern Britain has developed.
Whatever the Stone Agers claim, the inability to spell to a good standard is not caused by digital dictionaries being synced to our computers and other devices. It is far more obviously rooted in an increasingly dumbed down education culture that puts too much stock in collecting pieces of paper.
A few choice statistics prised from a survey might offer a convenient distraction for some, but it avoids addressing the underlying issue. It also completely ignores the fact that spell check technology can serve as an empowering solution for those the education system has already failed.
We cannot change the reality that auto-correct functions exist, but we can improve the standard of our schools and universities. This is a process that technology - new, old, and existing - will help far more than it hinders.