A government report on education in the UK, published today, draws radical, new conclusions about the causes of the apparent decline in educational standards.
'It had become established wisdom that young people were becoming more stupid,' explained Dr Smart, one of the report's authors. 'For example, year after year, A level examinations have required simplification to ensure that all candidates can be awarded an A************ grade. When we compared modern exam questions to those of forty years ago, however, we discovered that the problem was not that students were now less bright, but that life, and hence basic questions about any aspect of it, had become hugely more complex.'
The report concludes that too much emphasis has been placed on increasing educational attainment, when what is really required is to make life simpler so people do not need such a high level of education. The report highlights that the majority of current day stress and depression appears to be related to the frustration of undertaking what were once basic, everyday tasks, but which are now technically challenging adventures.
Sitander Couch, founder of TV Controllers Anonymous (TVCA), quoted a classic example to report researchers. 'I set up TVCA,' she said, 'to help the thousands of people who could no longer operate their televisions or the devices attached to them, such as digital tuners, hard disks or Blu-ray players. Many,' she revealed, 'were too embarrassed to admit that they sat in front of a blank screen each evening because they couldn't operate, or often locate, the relevant controller.'
'I used to find out what had been on TV from the papers, and pretend to work colleagues that I'd watched it,' confessed a report contributor from TVCA. 'Before I joined the group, I'd no idea how to get my TV to show programmes. I think that was the root cause of my depression.'
Peter Traveller, spokesman for the National Transport Users Association (NTUA), quoted a further example of life's new complexity in relation to transport. 'In the 1960s it was a simple matter to buy a train ticket to any location in the UK,' he told researchers. 'Now that we have multiple transport providers and complex fare structures, it's easier to journey overland to Afghanistan than it is to get a train from Newcastle to Bristol.'
'I remember when shops sold items made of paper that you could write on,' reminisced pensioner, Gladys Scribbler, a report contributor. 'We used to have writing paper and envelopes, and we had diaries in the form of little paper books,' she nostalgically recalled. 'I don't understand Facebook, Twitter, email and electronic diaries, so I can't write to anyone, anymore. I used to like a good read too,' she admitted, 'but I can't work a Kindle. I still go shopping,' she added, 'but with all these complicated credit cards, debit cards and loyalty cards, how long will it be before I can't use money anymore? I'm worried I'll starve.'
'It is clear,' concluded UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, responding to the report, 'that if we do not take immediate action to simplify everyday life, more than 85% of the UK population will be paralysed by uncomprehending bewilderment by 2030.'
Report recommendations aimed at starting the life simplification process include the reintroduction of the horse to replace the motor car. 'We are spending billions to convert grain into motor fuel,' noted Dr Smart. 'You can feed grain directly to a horse. Also, cars are now so complex that it's impossible for the average person to repair or service one. Anyone, however, can care for a horse using traditional skills. Finally,' he concluded, 'most emergency calls to motoring organisations result from failures of computerised central locking systems that prevent owners from opening their own car doors. Horses don't mysteriously lock you out!'
Other recommendations of the report include limiting any person's mobile or landline telephone calls to people they cannot visit on horseback within the following ten days, and replacing home entertainment systems with pianos.
In order to move plans forward, it is believed that the Prime Minister is seeking to appoint to Home Secretary an elder from the Amish community.
In a surprise development, Richard Dawkins and Brian Cox have endorsed the findings of the report. 'Now we're beginning to understand the underlying nature of the universe,' said Professor Cox, 'it's simply too complex and potentially unsettling for most people to grasp. It's best that they follow the most up-to-date Vatican guidance that the Earth is flat and at the centre of the universe.'
'We accept,' concluded Professor Dawkins, 'that simplification is required for the mental health and general wellbeing of the population. They should therefore simply worship God and not think too hard about His Creation. Astrologers and mystics,' he advised, 'can tell them anything else they want to know.'
'In due course, further legislation and guidance will emerge relating to the simplification of everyday life,' David Cameron assured reporters. 'In the meantime, the public are being urged to chill out and not attempt anything too difficult.'