A new kindergarten curriculum introduced this school year in certain cities in certain countries requires the children to learn their alphabet both forwards (starting with A) and backwards (starting with Zed). The reason? To teach children the real meaning of letters rather than their order. Children who learn the typical alphabet song often end up thinking some strings of letters are single characters, such as “LMNO” and “YNZ.” In fact, the “Y and Z” of the alphabet song makes some children believe there are two N’s in the alphabet, which nearly all experts agree is patently false.
This new technique, called the Arbitrary Alphabet Method (AAM) was originally proposed by the Arbitrary Alphabet Association (AAA) and the Association Lysdexic of America (DAA), who also proposed changes (not yet approved) to road signs 1. Darles Chickens, a member of both organisations, explains:
We need to free our children from the chains of mediocrity which bind their hearts and souls to strict and stationary patterns of thought and prevent them from expressing their true instinctive intuitions in the written word. The alphabet shall no longer be a means of coercive intrusion into the lives of children to drag them down and jail them—yes, jail them!—under boulders that neither our fathers nor we could bear, the boulders of large, ungainly dictionaries and difficult spelling bees. We are now at a time when we can dear and twire both rofwards and kcabwards, and dupside-own as we sleape.
While no one is completely sure what he meant by that, many (how many is anyone’s guess) see this as a positive step progressing towards a culture of true education. Students learning the backwards alphabet will quickly surpass their parents in their ability to recite the alphabet backwards, and will be able to stump the staunchest police officer when pulled over for driving while intoxicated. Thus, this new method will be much more useful in life than the old method, which only taught the forwards alphabet.
There is also some precedent for this arbitrary change. Formerly, some alphabet rhymes included ampersand (&) as a letter. This has long been forgotten by most English speakers, who consider & a “special” character equal to shift-7 & don’t actually know how to pronounce it, much like * & #. And while no one has actually suggested it yet, @ may soon be considered a letter in the alphabet due to the sheer frequency of its use in correspondence.
Education experts are working with musicians to develop a melody for an alphabet song that can be sung with the letters arranged in any order, so that the next generation will be able to learn the alphabet in all its permutations, that is, all 403291461126605635584000000 ways the English alphabet can be recited. The song will be recorded as many times and posted on the internet where it can be downloaded for only £1 per permutation in the U.K. or $0.99 per permutation in the U.S.
- STOP signs would be changed to POTS, POST, and SPOT signs to make them easier to read ↩