CAE Reading and Use of English Part 6
You are going to read extracts from four reviews of a book about the way children are brought up. For questions 37-40, choose from the reviews A-D. The reviews may be chosen more than once.
Kith: the riddle of the childscape by Jay Griffiths
Four reviewers comment on Jay Griffiths’ new book.
In this new book, Jay Griffiths draws the familiar but erroneous conclusion that traditional societies and tribes treat nature and children better than modern ones. She is no anthropologist, writing more like a romantic poet about nature and people’s identification with the place they grow up in. To justify her admiration for tribal practice, she cites a 2007 UNICEF report that ranked the UK lowest among 21 industrialised countries for the well-being of its children. No analysis of this finding is provided, however. Instead, a single idea of lost childhood freedom is dressed up in excessively poetic, at times, absurd language, and applied to various cultures. According to Griffiths, what children in Britain and similar countries lack is access to nature and the freedom to express their true selves in it. The idea of ‘kith’, an attachment to your ‘home territory’ is an interesting one, but the claims she makes about children’s development are too often illogical and unsupportable.
In a 2007 UNICEF report, the UK came last among 21 industrialised countries for the well-being of its children. Jay Griffiths’ question is: why do they feel so unhappy? Her main answer, passionately and eloquently expressed, is that they are ‘imprisoned’ indoors in front of their TV or computer screens and have lost contact with their kith – the woods, mountains, rivers, streams and wilds of their home territory. There’s definitely something in this idea, but the trouble is that Griffiths pursues it in ways that simply don’t hold up. Part of the problem is that she regards children as originally innocent and good, and that these characteristics are suppressed by the restrictions imposed on them. As parents have known for millennia, however, children are far more complex than that. She is also guilty of selective deployment of evidence. That same UNICEF report found that children in the UK are healthier and safer than ever before, for example.
Jay Griffiths is a self-confessed romantic, believing in the innate purity of children and a need for them to be close to nature, mystery and risk and be gloriously free. She warns us, however, that children in the West today are caged indoors and deprived of their ‘kith’, a natural domain of woodland, play, solitude, animals, adventure and time to daydream, it’s a fascinating proposition, fluently and vividly delivered. But this book is also deeply frustrating. Griffiths ignores all the science that shows that children are, in fact, far from being the simple innocents of romantic tradition. She also fails to provide convincing evidence for her assertion that children in Euro-American cultures are less happy than other children. She refers to a UNESCO report on children’s well-being in the UK, Spain and Sweden to support her argument about the importance of the outdoors. That report, however, finds that well-being depends on many factors like time with family, good relationships with friends, involvement in creative and sporting activities, as well as being outdoors.
In Euro-American culture, argues Griffiths, infants often lack closeness with their parents and wider families, which leaves psychological scars. Simultaneously, older children are controlled, denied access to natural spaces and pushed through a school system designed to produce employees but not psychologically rounded citizens. Parents refuse to let children play outdoors for fear of over-hyped risks, and in so doing, deny children access to the outer worlds of private, unwatched play so vital to their psychological development. The natural playgrounds of childhood, the fields and woods, have been lost to most children. The result, as the UNICEF surveys of well-being that Griffiths’ quotes reveal, is a generation of children who are unhappy and unfulfilled. Her warning message is made particularly compelling by the rare vitality and admirable energy in Griffiths’ writing.
Which scientist …
37 has a different opinion from the others about Griffiths’ style of writing?
38 shares reviewer A’s view of the way Griffiths develops her ideas about the treatment of children?
39 expresses a different view from the others about the use Griffiths makes of data gathered internationally about children?
40 has a similar opinion to reviewer В about Griffiths’ depiction of children’s basic nature?
CAE Reading and Use of English Part 7
You are going to read a newspaper article in which a zoology student talks about her experience of doing practical research in an area of rainforest. Six paragraphs have been removed from the article. Choose from the paragraphs A – G the one which fits each gap (41-46). There is one extra paragraph which you do not need to use.
Fieldwork in the rainforest of Ecuador – the experiences of a zoology student
When I was at school, I was a huge fan of TV wildlife programmes, and at a certain point I realised that somehow the natural world would have to be part of my life. So here I am a few years later, in the tropical rainforest of eastern Ecuador, a novice field scientist. The word scientist evokes various images, typically perhaps ones of laboratories and white coats, test tubes and lab rats. But what does it mean to be a field scientist?
I am currently spending a year at a small scientific research station in a remote patch of the Ecuadorian rainforest belonging to the Kichwa community of San Jose de Payamino. It is glorious – everything you would expect a tropical rainforest location to be, and a world away from my university in the UK. The air is hot and thick, the trees are densely packed, and everywhere is teeming with life.
The local people own the land and govern themselves, but the Ecuadorian government also provides for them: a school complete with computer room and satellite internet, for instance. Each year, they vote for a new president and vice-president, who organise the democratic community meetings. Each family has a finca in the forest: a wooden home on stilts.
But my normal life here as a work experience student revolves mainly around my personal research, which is a biodiversity study of frogs. I am trying to establish exactly which species are here, where and when I can find them, and what condition they are in.
For most of the time, I am just crawling along looking at leaves. Much of field research is like this. It isn’t all finding new species and being transfixed by exotic wildlife behaviour. Have you ever seen the behind-the-scenes footage at the end of many nature documentaries, where it turns out a cameraman has been sitting in a tree for three days waiting for a bird to dance? Research is like this – laborious and monotonous – but it can be rewarding too.
Being a field scientist basically means being an academic, collecting data and publishing scientific papers. It’s interesting but it doesn’t pay well, and getting started can be tough. When I was looking for work experience, there were plenty of openings with pharmaceutical companies, but very few matching my desire to explore and investigate wildlife.
This is one reason I count myself lucky to be involved in this project. It’s largely funded by my university, so I can afford it. Then, by the end of this year, I will have acquired valuable skills, and I am hopeful that the experience will facilitate my progression into postgraduate study.
A To do this, I walk slowly along several paths in the forest, accompanied by a local guide, and at night equipped with a torch. When I spot what I’m looking for, I feel an intense adrenaline rush. Will I manage to capture it? Have I collected this particular species yet?
В Because of this, and having experienced fieldwork, I’ve decided it’s definitely something I would like to do as a career. Once this year is over, I will ask my lecturers to advise me what to do next.
C This morning, for example, a half metre square of mushrooms sprouted on the dirt floor of my kitchen. My favourite time here is in the early evenings. It’s finally cool enough to be comfortable, and the nocturnal creatures begin their nightly cacophony, while the setting sun paints the trees orange.
D The reality is, however, that to make your way you need to build up a range of contacts and a portfolio of work. Many of the initial work opportunities that do exist are voluntary – in fact, you often have to pay to join a scheme. A student job where you are paid expenses, let alone a basic salary, is quite rare.
E By and large, they work outdoors, and are interested in pretty much everything from discovering new species to the effect of obscure parasites on ecosystems. They explore and investigate, aiming to understand what they observe. Just two years into my undergraduate zoology degree, I don’t quite qualify as one yet, but hopefully I’m heading that way.
F They have their own traditions, too. One day, a local lady was bitten by a lethal snake; whilst I administered shots of anti-venom to her, the local traditional healer, was applying plant remedies to the wound and attempting to suck the venom from it. At least one of the treatments must have worked because she recovered.
G And the thing is to imagine being the person that has made a discovery – the person who first questions something, investigates and then contributes to the vast catalogue of information that is science. I find this concept inspirational.
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