Defining it as a key ingredient in the overhaul of the nation's education system, the British government revealed Friday that, from 2017, hundreds of schools in England, Scotland, and Wales will begin adopting American-style spellings in an effort to improve national literacy levels.
Declining to comment on whether this five-year initiative would mean a final farewell to traditional British spellings, education secretary Nicky Morgan insisted that the move could only be viewed as "hugely positive."
"Studies overwhelmingly indicate that the quickest and most effective route toward higher literacy rates is to simplify the very language pupils are expected to learn," said Morgan, at a public conference in Manchester. "There is no greater evidence of this than in America, where literacy rates are among the highest in the world."
Hundreds of British spellings were modified by American lexicographer Noah Webster with the 1828 release of his An American Dictionary of the English Language.
Opponents of the government's reform insist that British spellings such as centre, colour, and aluminium are ingrained into British society and should remain the standard for all schools.
Professor Peter Waft—head of linguistics at Lancaster University—thinks Morgan's plans are "unrealistic."
"Not only would such a move fly in the face of hundreds of years of linguistic tradition, but there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that American re-spelling, which—by the way—is hardly a new phenomenon, has had any effect on literacy," he said. "The move, to me, seems arbitrary."
The new measures come almost a month after the government also announced plans to move Britain toward an American-style date format, in which today's date would be written April 1 instead of 1 April.
Sometimes, it's better hearing me in a British accent. Click the red button below.