British schools ditch analog clocks because kids can't read them

How many children's songs are there that taught kids how to tell time?  Must be hundreds, maybe thousands.

But that was before the digital revolution made analog clocks a quaint holdover from the past.  In fact, in Great Britain, analog clocks in schools have become useless because kids are unable to read them.


"The current generation aren't as good at reading the traditional clock face as older generations," Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders in England, told the publication.  "Nearly everything they've got is digital so youngsters are just exposed to time being given digitally everywhere."

According to a report from the Times Educational Supplement, – a weekly newspaper for teachers in the U.K. – one educator said during a conference in London that many high schoolers were only able to tell the time on digital devices.

"It is amazing the number of students I am coming across in year 10, 11 and in sixth form who do not know how to tell the time," she began.  "We live in a world where everything is digital.  We are moving towards a digital age and they do not necessarily have analogue watches anymore and they have mobile phones with the time on."

As editor Lifson pointed out to me on I.M., analog clocks are superior to digital clocks because they give more data.  They show the relationship to other times.  Can kids today figure out that if it's 3:30 P.M., it is two hours until 5:30 P.M.?  You see that "holistically" with an analog clock, says Tom.

Teachers in the U.K. wrote about the situation on social media, with a "Mrs Keenan" tweeting that digital clocks had been installed in an exam hall.  Another, Nicola Towle, wrote in a tweet, according to the BBC: "Our school has replaced the analogue clock with a digital one in the hall for exams because pupils couldn't use it to tell the time."

The situation isn't only present in the U.K., though.

A 2017 survey in Oklahoma City found that only 1-in-10 children in the city between the ages of 6-12 owned a watch.  Of that number, only 1-in-5 knew how to read the analog watches, according to KFOR.

"I think the exposure to technology, everyone's so used to seeing digital," Caitlin Carnes, of the Boys & Girls Club at Santa Fe South Elementary, told the site.  "They all have cell phones and tablets so they don't have to look at a clock very often that's analog."

Sad.  We have to ask ourselves, is this really "progress"?  Just because something becomes obsolete doesn't mean there isn't value still attached to it.  Digital clocks can tell you the time down to the tenth or hundredth of a second.  In that way, this time-telling method is superior to analog, which may not even feature a second hand.

But not to teach kids how to tell time – which used to be the job of parents who taught their toddlers – perhaps we lose an awareness of some of the essence of time itself.

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