Modern Education: Schools Remove Analog Clocks as Students Can't Read Them


As a sign of the times, it doesn’t get much worse.

Every school in the Western world is dealing with students who’ve grown up in a digital world where computer assistance is as close as the cell phone in their pocket.

But for sheer laziness and craven responses, a movement in British schools is hitting a new low.

According to the U.K. Telegraph, schools in the formerly Great Britain are removing analog clocks from testing halls because students are apparently unable to read traditional, “big-hand-is-on-the-12” style wall clocks.

And teaching them to do it — which is what schools are getting paid for, after all, is apparently too much work.

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“You don’t want them to put their hand up to ask how much time is left,” one British “educator” explained, according to the Telegraph.

Well, no. You don’t want them to have to do that — mainly because schools are supposed to be teaching students to do things for themselves, as independent thinkers in a democratic society.

The digital clock side argument is that students have grown up looking at numerical displays that can make traditional clock faces seem mysterious — some might even have Roman numerals!

And in an examination setting, that adds unnecessary stress to an already stressful time.

Is getting rid of analog clocks in schools a stupid idea?

“Schools will inevitably be doing their best to make young children feel as relaxed as the can be,” Malcom Strobe, deputy general secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders, told the Telegraph. “

There is actually a big advantage in using digital clocks in exam rooms because it is much less easy to mistake a time on a digital clock when you are working against time.”

The big problem with that argument is that ordinary life involves stressful situations that involve working against time, too. But preparing students for the workaday world might be too prosaic for an education system that is currently pushing ahead with plans to ensure Modern Education: Up With Gay Sex, Down With Analog Clocks and lesbian sexuality is part of the national curriculum, according to the U.K. Independent. It’s good to see the British education system has its priorities in order.

As might be expected, the social media response to the digital-clock-only idea was caustic:

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For the more aesthetically inclined, there’s an argument that analog timpieces — watches or wall clocks —  are more appealing to the eye. The round form of the dial, the symmetrically arranged numbers, the steady, predictable movement of the hour and minute hands, the second hand’s industrious determination — they all add up to an elegance that a starkly utilitarian LED display can’t match.

But there’s more to it than looks. An awful lot of brain power is being developed when students are forced to compute the time by interpreting position of the hands on a clock face.

As the British newspaper The Guardian put it in an editorial:

“Telling the time by a pattern of hands on a dial is part of the primary school curriculum. And rightly so, because of the computational gymnastics involved. Reading an analogue clock is a cognitive workout, requiring attribution of different values to the same 12 symbols, interpreted on three parallel planes – seconds, minutes, hours. Only with practice does this awesome mental feat come to feel easy.”

(Most people wouldn’t consider being able to tell time an “awesome feat,” but that doesn’t mean it isn’t. It just means the human brain is an awesome creation.)

The argument for doing away with analog clocks is basically that they’ve been replaced by digital technology.

But so has everything else. Many cash registers make change automatically – so kids don’t have to learn to count money?

It’s a solid bet that anyone in favor of getting rid of analog clocks entirely because children allegedly can’t read them is a political liberal. Because liberals would love nothing better than a world of supposedly free people who are actually dependent on the government for everything – even the ability to know what time it is.

Don’t be surprised when this idea starts getting serious traction from liberal teachers’ unions on the eastern side of the Atlantic.

As a sign of the times, it doesn’t get much worse.

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Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro desk editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015.
Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015. Largely a product of Catholic schools, who discovered Ayn Rand in college, Joe is a lifelong newspaperman who learned enough about the trade to be skeptical of every word ever written. He was also lucky enough to have a job that didn't need a printing press to do it.