Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 4.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

Literacy dogs

Children can now read to dogs. Reluctant or weak readers can now attend sessions at local libraries and read to therapy dogs. Organisers claim it encourages reluctant readers to develop the vital habit of reading and thus improve their literacy skills.

Surely that’s a good thing. Yes, but is it necessary?

First of all, dogs can’t read. Secondly, reading to dogs won’t solve Australia’s literacy problems. Australia has some of the lowest literacy (and numeracy) levels in the developed world, and solving this problem requires a joint effort from society, governments and parents, not from dogs.

Parents must:

Read to their children.

More actively support reading and study in every year of schooling.

Spend less of their own free time glued to their devices while at home.

Buy and read books themselves.

Stop attacking teachers.

Stop buying their children smart phones, and stop paying for their data.

Society must value school teachers and academia, and governments must adequately fund all levels of education as well as increasing teachers’ salaries. Otherwise, the following scenario is likely to develop:

One reluctant reader enjoys reading to a therapy dog. The child insists on reading to a dog, even at school where most reading occurs. The student is allowed to bring a dog into every class. That student is not the only reluctant reader. Soon, school classrooms are overrun with therapy dogs. Teachers are then forced to integrate dogs into their curriculum after attending at-cost ‘literacy dog’ training sessions in their free time. Multiple dogs cause chaos in classrooms and in the playground, and at the end of the day, who will be forced to clean up the mess?

Even some university students, at one of the more prominent universities in Sydney, are able to pat a dog upon entering an exam hall – to help calm their nerves. The country’s best and brightest can’t handle the stress of doing an exam. More proof that this country has gone soft. More proof that this country has gone to the dogs.

Image: 2PhotoPots

Read what you like.

Potentially dire consequences await those who ‘like’ social media posts before or without reading the text. The true message of the post is often not evident in the headline and can be contradictory to the reader’s world view or online image. Liking a post without reviewing its contents could even damage someone’s online reputation.

Be particularly wary of satire. This very website contains an entire category full of satirical articles. Satire uses humour to criticise or ridicule particular situations, organisations or people, and the meaning of the text is very rarely evident in the headline.

Beware of hashtags.

Just because a post is accompanied with hashtags such as pets, dogs, dogowners, furryfriends or fourleggedfriends doesn’t mean that the article is supportive of dog owners or pet ownership. In fact, numerous articles on this website, especially in the Satire category, are highly critical of dog owners and their flagrant disregard for dog walking laws. The articles portray the dog owners as selfish, disobedient, arrogant, disrespectful, inconsiderate and in some cases illiterate. Hardly complimentary. Despite this fact, many pet supply companies ‘liked’ the posts.

The pet companies were responding to the hashtags. They have most likely established their social media marketing strategy to identify and respond to any hashtag relating to dogs, pets and dog owners. The companies believe this increases exposure for their brand.

…but what kind of exposure?

If a pet supply company is seen to be endorsing a text which implies that dog owners are selfish, disobedient, arrogant, disrespectful, inconsiderate and in some cases illiterate, this could backfire severely on the company. The company is essentially insulting its customers and insulting the very people which sustain the business and all of its employees.

Has a business ever prospered by insulting its customers?

Think about what you ‘like’.

Liking an image of a person you admire can also lead to misinterpretation or support of an opinion contradictory to your own.

The Frownlow Medal is a satirical award given to the Australia-based professional footballer who commits the worst off-field scandal in any given year. The award exists to criticise the footballers and society’s adoration of them, and uses irony to do so.

An Instagram account holds images of all of the footballers who have so far been nominated for The Frownlow Medal and The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame. Many people ‘like’ the posts containing images of their sporting heroes, without knowing that the player is being criticised for their off-field behaviour. The fans are thus supporting or endorsing a satirical award which is heavily criticising their heroes.

Of course, some fans agree with the award’s premise, and can separate the player’s sporting brilliance from their off-field flaws, but many fans ‘like’ unknowingly.

Another article related to football demonstrates this point. The article relates to the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, and attacks his support for the Cronulla Rugby League club and exposes it as a shallow publicity stunt. The article is heavily critical of Morrison, and implies that supporters of the prime minister, and the Cronulla team, have been fooled into supporting and voting for their local representative. Nevertheless, fans of the club ‘liked’ the article when it was posted on this website.

They are essentially liking a post which calls them gullible, uneducated, easily fooled and impressionable.

A food catering service also fell victim to their automated hashtag marketing system. I wrote a travel article about a particularly unsavoury pizza I ate at a local restaurant in China, where I saw customers being given blood pressure checks – after they had eaten. The food catering company had inadvertently associated themselves with poor quality and horrible tasting food – food so bad it could give someone a heart attack.

Be sure to read what you like.

Image: 2PhotoPots

Dog ownership linked to poor literacy.

Mounting scientific evidence has established a direct link between dog ownership and poor literacy among a large proportion of the Australian population.

In a worrying trend for the nation, experts have traced an increase in dog ownership and a decline in literacy standards among the populace, and they fear the problem will only get worse.

The inability to read even the most basic texts is being blamed for the behaviour of many Aussie dog owners. Countless dogs are taken to off limit areas such as beaches, rock pools, parks, children’s playgrounds, barbecue areas and sports grounds throughout the country. The only explanation for such flagrant disobedience is the inability of dog owners to read the multitude of signs informing people of the rules.

Standards of writing have also declined, as the following examples illustrate. In response to an article about dog owners breaking the rules at Sydney’s Mackenzies Bay *, Michael wrote,

“Up you’res kieran im gonna take 10 dogs n do drugzzzz”

This was sent directly to this very website. It is not a text message. Let’s unpack the utterance.

  • It starts with a capital letter, well done Michael.
  • ‘you’res’ is not a word. Michael was trying to say ‘up yours’ which is a crude insult in colloquial English. This dog owner can’t even swear properly.
  • kieran is a proper noun, so the k should be capital.
  • ‘im’ should be written with a capital I and an apostrophe.
  • ‘n’ should be ‘and’ – again, this is not a text message.
  • ‘drugzzzz’ should be spelt ‘drugs’. Michael must have already taken some before he wrote this message.

The second example of the death of the written word in Australia comes from Adam Smith, in response to the same article.

“Hi Kieran. Fuck you and your shit article in the beast. I will make sure and take my Dog to Mackenzies Bay more frequently from now on…”

Adam can swear properly, which is refreshing.

  • the beast is the name of the magazine (which is well worth reading) so it should be written The Beast.
  • “I will make sure and…” should be written ‘I will make sure to…’ so the reader knows exactly what Adam is making sure to do.
  • Dog does not need a capital d, unless Adam is a Christian and thinks his dog is God.

Authorities and educational experts have tracked declining literacy in the country for many years. The national literacy and numeracy test, called NAPLAN, has demonstrated a steady decline among students as they progress from primary school to high school.

University lecturers and tutors complain of undergraduate students who are unable to construct basic sentences or understand basic course material – and they are the best and brightest of the country’s youth. Conversely, Australia continues to fall behind many other countries in international literacy and numeracy standards according to results of standardised exams.

In a country with an undeniable literacy and numeracy crisis, more than one in every three households owns at least one dog, or about 40% of the population.

The irrefutable link between dog ownership and poor literacy is a problem that looks set to plague Australia for many years to come.

*The article referred to is “Safe Injecting Space Planned for Mackenzies Bay” which appears under the category Satire on this website, and at http://www.thebeast.com.au