Thursday, 18 August 2011

Annual A-Level result moan

Today has been A-Level result day in the UK, the day thousand of teenagers find out if all those hours spent revising photography on Facebook and English Lit on Twitter were time well spent.

It's also the traditional time of year for the Mail, Telegraph, in fact the majority of newspapers to splutter and sneer at the glut of A* results and the lack of failures. This obviously proves that  A-Levels have got gradually easier every single year since the journalist in question took their own. I'll tag on a FACT too, just to nail the point home.

No one seems to wonder if the fact that results seem to get better over time (This year wasn't a massive shift upwards but it still shifted slightly) isn't due to the fact that the exams are getting easier but the young are getting cleverer.

The Flynn effect, named for a Kiwi professor who was one of the first to describe it, is the observation that as you re-calibrate IQ tests every year the average score increases. This has been demonstrated in numerous data sets from various countries around the world and indicates that over time people are getting brainier. It also explains doddering old men in Nissan Almeras driving in front of you on roundabouts. You may think the old fella's losing his marbles, but no he's always been that thick, just that in his day being that thick was actually labelled "quite bright". The world's turned into a more complex place since he was at the top of his game, when he probably struggled to get a C grade in his A-Level, and he's no longer got the mental horse-power to keep up.

While it might make you feel good to know you're better than anyone slightly older than yourself, remember that in your twilight years the world is going to be a scary confusing place. In fact maybe it's getting that way now. This photo from the Mail is one of about 900 of attractive, jumping teenage girls happy with their results (As pointed out by Chris Cook on Radio 4 it seems blokes and ugly girls get their A level results on another day if newspaper photographers are to be believed) The thing I find scary confusing is the hairy blonde crash helmet worn by the skulking exam failing youth on the right hand side...

Do helmets of straw offer much protection
when you fall off your bike?

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