Getting better all the time?
I can't be the only person who is nonplussed at the illiteracy of many accountancy trainees.
Even youngsters who have studied literate subjects at university seem unable to spell, punctuate or put together a grammatical sentence. Worse, they are often completely unaware that such a failure can jeopardise their careers.
This has been going on for ages and I see no sign of improvement. Things are probably getting worse from what I’m hearing.
Few would put down a music GCSE as a stepping stone to a career in the accounting profession, but news that three tracks from Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band are joining Santana, Haydn and Aaron Copland as exam subjects tells us all we need to know about where things are going.
Encouraging students to study books and music they find accessible is clearly a laudable goal. But at some point subjects requiring a modicum of intellectual rigour are going to be needed to challenge and educate those hoping to enter highly paid professions and moving up to become the next generation of industry leaders.
Every so often a fuss erupts when Shakespeare is dropped or demoted from an English literature syllabus in favour of the latest popular novelist, playwright or poet. There are some great contemporary writers. Following their lead would make a fine grounding for those who might ultimately need to write dull reports, communicate with HMRC or send letters and emails to persuade clients to pay ever-higher fees.
Yet the Bard knew a thing or two about the English language. Indeed, he created quite a chunk of it. As such, he is a perfect role model for anyone wanting to write with clarity and impact.
Some readers may call me a a fuddy-duddy for criticising the modern in favour of things that I hated at school - but they have helped me ever since.
Though the idea has its attractions, I’m not about to advocate a return to lengthy study of Latin and Greek. But occasionally our forefathers did get things right and surely Mozart, Handel and Schubert can still teach youngsters more about musical composition than Lennon and McCartney.
Similarly, Shakespeare, Dickens and Wordsworth could run rings around Roald Dahl and Sir Alan Ayckbourn.
There used to be a time when writing ability was the basic starting point for any career.
But if you take the literacy of graduates applying for jobs for granted, you’re likely to find yourself wasting time later rewriting basic documents and cringing at the disastrous errors that even the most intelligent are able to perpetrate with the aid of modern technology.
The moral of this tale is that in future, when interviewing prospective employees, remember to ask them about their musical and literary tastes as well as checking that they can add up a column of figures.