Once upon a time in the world’s most refined country

Once upon a time in the world’s most refined country

State-run Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) uploaded a portion of its archive on the web. Click and watch. Especially from the 1970s to the end of the 1990s, the state television would make its rivals envious in terms of quality. The drama and comedy sequences, culture talk shows, entertainment programs and interviews… the 1970s were especially the years when TRT was truly a TRT. 

What drew my attention from those years is a situation that sounds surreal for us now: Everybody speaks with very proper Turkish. The sentences are clear and profound, the vocabulary is rich and the expressions are clear. More importantly, this wonderful Turkish is accompanied by an awesome culture, politeness and modesty. 

Forget about the artists and presenters; even the criminals of that time spoke politely explaining how they were caught in the crime ring. Their usage of Turkish could rival that of some academics of today. Seen through the lenses of the TRT, the 1970s look like a utopic place, a cultural oasis, as if Turkey was the world’s most sophisticated country.

Yes, I know there were plenty of problems in those years; but obviously, in terms of education and culture, lessons should be drawn from that period. 

In those years, there was only one television channel and everybody watched this single station. They only saw these cultured, knowledgeable and respectful people. Thus, if you wanted to be an “important person,” these seemed to be the prerequisites. These were the conscious times when excelling in your mother tongue, courtesy, modesty, good education and knowledge were cherished. It was exactly the opposite of today in which illiteracy, aggression and rudeness are celebrated and blessed. 

Nothing wrong with kids

They took a step back in the insistence on handwriting in schools, it has been reported. Well, when handwriting was initially implemented, parents and educators were mostly against it. 

What I hear lately on the street and on TV is talk about the intelligence of students. Almost one in three kids goes to a psychologist. They suffer from learning difficulties and have trouble concentrating. Some parents worry whether their kids are super intelligent but that they don’t fit into school. 

Guys, I don’t think there is any problem with our kids. It is our education system that is schizophrenic. 

The quality of teachers has always been the debate. The percentage of educators who fail the math questions that students are supposed to solve is high. 

How much money does one need to pay for private schools? Are there any regular high schools left? Or, is it only vocational schools and imam schools left? What about Anatolian high schools? Are there any left that are properly teaching a foreign language? 

We experienced an era of “tablet, absolutely tablet.” Now, it has been observed that because of the tablet, students have forgotten pencils and paper, so tablets have been given up. They are only to be distributed to ninth graders. 

What about the Arabic letters and handwriting classes? Are they back on or lifted now? What is the latest situation? 

In which class are the students preparing for the university entrance examination? How do they make their choices? How are the students channeled toward their university choices? All of these change almost every year. And also, before I die, will I ever see a year in which none of the questions have at least one mistake?
Has the theory of evolution totally been removed from the curriculum? What happened to the content about Atatürk?  

There are smart boards in certain schools. When so many sudden decisions are made and also canceled at the same speed, the education system has turned into a scratch pad – what do we do with that? 

Even our education minister cannot keep up with the sudden and dramatic changes in education. Parents are already in tears. How can we, then, expect kids to adapt this quickly? 

Dear parents, I don’t think your child has any learning difficulties, any compliance problem due to superior intelligence, any concentration issues, extreme excitement or examination anxiety, etc. I suggest we leave the children alone, but work on the education system, fix it and not change it again. 

I swear I would have dropped out in grade three if I were a student in this era.