Thursday, August 21, 2008

what's next?

So my niece, who is 16 years of age, was telling me that there is an educator out there, Mister Ken Smith, has taken a rather unusual position on spelling words incorrectly. He suggests we label those misspellings as variant, not wrong. Here's a snippet from the article in Time Magazine:

Most teachers expect to correct their students' spelling mistakes once in a while. But Ken Smith has had enough. The senior lecturer in criminology at Bucks New University in Buckinghamshire, England, sees so many misspellings in papers submitted by first-year students that he says we'd be better off letting the perpetrators off the hook and doing away with certain spelling rules altogether.

Okay. Sleeves up. Gloves off. Here's a rant I'll ne'er be ashamed of.

Are you on crack, sir? What possible benefit is there in letting your students spell words incorrectly? Is this some kind of lefty, pinko, liberalist ISM? Is you so fixed on being inclusive that we support the lack interest in learning one of the basic Rs? Or are you just looking for solutions because your pupils don't seem to be learning? What's next? Letting them skip class? Letting them write on their desks? Are you looking for an earlier flight to Armageddon?

Admittedly, in advertising, we pulverize most of the rules of grammar and sprinkle them on our Corn Flakes but that's obviously wrong and goofy and everybody knows that you don't turn to a billboard for edumacation. We do those horrible things to our language in the interest of sales! But good god man, in the name of all that is true and pure, are you suggesting that because your students can't be bothered TO USE SPELL CHECK they should be rewarded with a degree?

(In fact, you should penalize them doubly for being so stupid as to ignore the spell check function that is what makes them bad spellers in the first place. Fail them for showing such a lack of intelligence. That's what I say.)

Come on, professor Ken, we're not talking about memorizing the entirety of the Yongle Dadian, written during the Ming Dynasty, when at least 3 000 scholars spent 4 years to write all 11 095 volumes with 22 877 chapters. We're not talking about having to memorize all 370 million Chinese characters. We're talking about the letter R in February. What's that? February has a silent R? Well I suppose you make a good argume...hey wait a minute. February doesn't have a silent R. We pronounce it as though it does. Oh, your students spell twelfth twelth? Because the F is silent? That's not silent neither.

You're fed up having to correct spelling errors? It's tiring? Let me get this straight : You're a criminologist and the biggest trauma you experience is using a red pen on a paper titled "Strategys Four Righting Effecsively."

As an educator, I would glorify the uniqueness of the inconsistencies in the English language. Glorify them, I say! You know, English is one of the most drab and monotone languages on the planet. We don't have any throat clicking. We don't have any sing-song inflections. All we have is trough and plough and draught and quay and queue! You can't take that away from us, Mister Ken. Does anybody see a freakish coincidence here?Ken Smith=Ken Lee.


Here's the TIME article
Here's another

1 comment:

Damien said...

I'm not sure exactly which way to best counter this Ken guy's argument, mainly because there are so many juicy ones to choose from...

How about this one: popular not= true.

Just because a certain number of people repeat what they hear (like there's no second "r" in "frustRated" and 9/11 was an inside job) those things don't then also become true. If I could make things true simply by getting enough people to believe it, I'd be President.

Or this one: It's University.

I assume all of those papers were written on a computer. With a word processor. A word processor that would have a spell-checker.

If University students aren't sufficiently computer savvy enough to operate a spell check function, they shouldn't be in University in the first place (although following this argument to its logical conclusion ends up with the human race outsourcing much of it's cognition, delegating us all to life dependent on extra-cranial processing -- it starts with spelling, moves on to phone numbers and directions and the next thing you know you're asking Google how to spell your name -- but that's a story for another time).

And one more: School is supposed to be about learning -- if they're wrong they fail.

If enough people in med school mix up the difference between the ulnar and radial artery, does our anatomy change?

I think that's enough.