Young People These Days Can’t Even Tell the Time

A recent article published in The Telegraph relates the grave news that schools are removing clocks from exam halls because teenagers ‘cannot tell the time’. This stark, dystopian report goes on to disclose that students can, in fact, read the time, they are just unfamiliar with analogue clocks because they are more accustomed to digital devices.

The schools concerned by this analogue illiteracy are apparently doing the right thing by installing digital clocks in order to protect the sanctity of another anachronism that most schools do their best to contend with – examinations. One educator quoted in the article suggested that, while students are more comfortable with reading time digitally, he hoped they would still be taught how to read analogue time. And this is often the core problem with so much of education – an inability to embrace changes that place students, not legacy tradition, control, or what we have always known, at the core of how schools operate. This is why many students are labeled “learning disabled, challenged, or different”. It’s not so much that young people can’t learn. It’s that schools can’t accommodate how they learn and what they want to learn.

In this context, some of the social media reaction to The Telegraph piece is revealing:

Instead of removing them, we need to teach them how to read them!

So, instead of requiring kids to learn how to tell time, we’re just lowering our standards once more?

I know I still visualize a clock face when I think about certain time limits. It’s just another tool people should know how to use. Like, sure we have calculators, but aren’t you glad you know how to add without it?

How educational to remove something that could be learned. Maybe reading analog clocks should be part of the testing.

Amazing how we are quick to change things instead of fixing them.

If the students are complaining that they can’t read an analog clock then they better sign up for a refresher course online.

Reading an analog clock is not difficult! Are today’s teens really so stupid that they can’t learn something that simple? Most of my generation could read them by 1st grade!

I bet none of the people who expressed these views can read a sundial.

This is a salutary illustration of how some of the things we are teaching in schools have no value to today’s learners, yet they are still forced to learn this way because this is how school works. The article, though fundamentally facile, represents a further contribution to the unenlightened view that technology is innately bad and kids these days are pretty much dumb slaves to all things digital.

The first generations that stopped writing on cave walls and divining water could probably relate.


Turner, Camilla. “Schools are removing analogue clocks from exam halls as teenagers ‘cannot tell the time’.” The Telegraph. 24 April, 2018.

Image credit: Brandon Wong on Unsplash and Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash.
Media remix by the author.