Thursday, March 31, 2016

Satnav and the death of our navigation skills

England is a palimpsest of Medieval churches, abandoned mineral railways, ruinous Gothic institutions and follies built by mad aristocrats. But you won’t find them on your satnav.
So I wrote for the New Statesman website in the days when I wrote for the New Statesman website.

Today comes news (via the Telegraph) that a paper in Nature has backed up my anti-satnav prejudice:
Satellite communication consultant Roger McKinlay, former president of the Royal Institute of Navigation, believes the world is losing its way due to over-reliance on navigation aids. 
Writing in the journal Nature, he argues navigation and map reading should be on the school curriculum. 
Describing navigation as a "use-it-or-lose-it" skill, he warned: "If we do not cherish them, our natural navigation skills will deteriorate as we rely ever more on smart devices."
The school curriculum? I won a Map Reader badge in the Cubs and I think it meant more to me than my degrees did later in life. It was a hint that I might one day succeed in being the sort of outdoors child that I felt I ought to be but feared I never would.

Long before satnav came along, I was surprised by how little idea even educated people had of the geography of their own country.

Organise a work meeting anywhere but central London and you would be deluged with requests for directions. Can't you just look at a road atlas?

And this attitude persists in quiz programmes where questions about British geography or treated as something no one can be expected to know.

What can people who know so little about the subject make of the news?


Nicholas said...

I'm sure Mr Gove would have agreed with you if he were still Education Secretary. And what hacks me off even more is the fact that they no longer teach kids how to make a crystal wireless receiver - after all how else are they going to be able to listen to the BBC Home Service if their not so smart phone runs out of charge?

Jonathan Calder said...

I am glad Michael Gove would have agreed with me.

crewegwyn said...

One advantage of SatNav - I no longer have lorry drivers pulling up, waving a delivery sheet in my direction and shouting " 'ow do I get to the railway works from 'ere?"