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Monday, November 05, 2007

America the Inarticulate

Public school teachers face a tremendous challenge. They face, not only unruly kids, but also parents with lawyers on retainer who firmly believe little Beevus can do no wrong.

It takes courage to teach. When faced with an unruly class, you pick out the ringleader (there's always one) and you remove him fast and hard. Then you ask, "Anybody else?" Send as many as necessary to the principal till the class settles. Thank those who stayed out of the fray and thereby helped you do your job and THEN get busy and teach something; something besides this vapid, politically correct treacle we've been spoon feeding our young-uns for the past 30 years. Teach them from the classics. Make them learn hard words. NEVER ACCEPT A WRITING ASSIGNMENT THAT IS INCOHERENT! Make them rewrite it until it makes sense.

It can be done. One of the biggest problems I see in American classrooms is that teachers will accept incoherent writing and give it a passing grade. Kids are not learning how to organize their thoughts and use words so they make sense. If you don't know how to express yourself, how in the world can you be expected to think for yourself.

I see student work that looks like someone poured words out of a dictionary onto a page and the teacher seemed to be grading by how many remotely relevant words they accidentally put into the thing. If we accept gobbledy-gook writing from kids on the assumption that this is the best they can do, then we doom them to a life of ignorance.

If you can't form clear thoughts, you can't think them. Our minds are the sum total of what we put into them and if we let kids dribble vague disjointed bits of rap music, MTV segments, video games and Anime' into their skulls willy nilly and never make them sort out all that junk and make something intelligible out of it, our kids will gradually lose the ability to think. This is frightening. How will they ever understand how to listen to political or religious speech and be able to make a rational decision based on what they hear and read?

What we need are better English teachers.
Unfortunately, teachers of English are a disrespected profession and it's no wonder. I asked my granddaughter what a sentence meant that she had written in an essay. She took two or three stabs at it and finally, after I made her lose the $50 words, she was able to do so. But she argued with me that her teacher wouldn't give her a good grade unless she used the big words.

It took me a while to shake that belief, but after working her through three or four essays that made top grades despite not having the bizarrely used big words in them, she realized she could write more like she talked and get better grades. The teacher was shocked. Her papers stood out from the pack because they were actually readable.

When did teachers surrender to mediocrity? When did they decide our kids were stupid and feeble and resolve to accept that standard of behavior? It's a pain to have to ride the little darlings, but somebody better do it or we're going to have nothing left but citizens who wander around with a vacant stare, an I-Pod in their ears and drooling on themselves.

I maintain a web page on another forum called the Banjo Hangout. I've noticed there is a high level of intelligent writing on the BHO. Apparently, people who are articulate are drawn to the banjo as a musical instrument; either that or playing the banjo makes you brighter. I've been to the guitar forums. The level of clarity of thought is not the same. Here, banjo players are bright, funny, articulate and quite fascinating to read.

Perhaps that's the solution. Let's introduce all our kids to the banjo at a very young age. I say we start them in 3rd grade or so - get 'em before they are corrupted.

Let's save America. Bring out the banjos!!!!!!

Just one man's opinion....

Tom King

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