Saturday, June 4, 2011

Time out for Education

For a while now ignorance and stupidity have been glorified in America, and it needs to stop. I started to realize this phenomenon in middle school. It became not a good idea to have all the correct answers, cool to feign ignorance, and okay to be proud or indifferent of bad grades. Perhaps I had teachers who were also indifferent of how their students viewed accomplishment. Perhaps low self esteem lent itself to falling into poor peer pressure. Perhaps marketing and entertainment at the time showed us all to aim low and be proud of it. Whatever the reasons, the damage had been done and mediocrity and blatant ignorance have become acceptable.

I can't blame it all on these guys, though
And this was in the 1990s. By now, since it doesn't appear that anything has changed, this particular culture of failure has had time to grow. What happens when an entire generation embraces mediocrity and is okay with imperfect academic skills? When being educated does not necessarily equal economic success, why bother? Remember when it was necessary to graduate from high school and earn a BA to get a good paying job? Remember when a masters degree meant a large annual salary? Remember when you realized that people without these things could make just as much or more than you and not have college debt?

What happened?

We now live in an era when people who make an impact socially and culturally can come from anywhere, thanks mostly to the internet and reality television. Sarah Palin is a good example of someone who has no business being anywhere near impressionable people. I saw this on the news recently, which made me angry:

You would think that anyone in public life, especially politicians, and even more so governors (even ex-governors) would need to know basic US History. I would hope that anyone within earshot of this news would toss out any ideas of possibly supporting her. This is basic US history, not obscure details and policies studied by stuffy history PhDs in tweed jackets. This is essential national mythos. Paul Revere's ride is legendary Americana, and Palin presumably graduated from high school without knowing. She was somehow elected as governor of a state, and ran as veep on the GOP ticket.  I'm willing to bet Dan Quayle knows about the lamps in Old North, even though he doesn't know that Latin Americans speak Spanish and Portuguese, and not Latin. The sad thing is, this episode of ignorance will most likely be swept under a rug somewhere, and people will continue to support the GOP's weakest link.
but she's such a milf!
Palin is very good at brushing aside ignorance and being proud of her misconceptions and blatant inaccuracy. She defended herself by claiming the question was unscripted, and she gave the best answer she could without any prep. Why would you need to prep for a third grade history question?I'm not sure either.

History is not the only thing overlooked. Grammar and spelling have both taken their hard knocks. Apparently it is acceptable now to use the made up words gotten, and funner in professional settings, such as legal, academic, and government writing. Just so we're all clear: funner is wrong, its a modern bastardization. The correct comparative is more fun. Technically, fun shouldn't be used as a normal adjective at all, only as an attributive. But if you must, than more and most ought to be used. Anyone who tells you different is making excuses for using bad grammar. And I don't much care for dictionaries adding words to enable these poor speakers (see Merriam/Webster).

Secondly, gotten isn't technically wrong, but it is old, and awkward, and lazy. There are always better words to use in its place (obtain, become, moved, managed), it is not to be used to show possession (receive).

Also, the rise of texting and instant messaging in America has destroyed proper spelling and given rise to misspelled words, and phonetic spelling. Examples are substituting d for th, double o for hard u, combining words like going to into single words (gonna), and using numbers and letters to represent actual words like 2 instead of to or too, and r and u instead of are and you. Also, could of may sound like could've when you're speaking, but it actually makes no sense, and could have is actually correct.

Regardless of how you feel about proper grammar, or the facts of American History, the trend recently in government is to slash social budgets dramatically. This means, in short, that public education is in jeopardy. No matter how you feel about social spending, or public education in general, the majority of US citizens are publicly educated through high school. The fact that money is not going to public education, and budgets are unable to pay for the things that education specialists (the dudes with PhDs that spent their whole lives studying this stuff) say are needed for quality education means things will get worse. National trends in bad grammar and poor knowledge of history may not be that big of a deal, but if students haven't a grasp of those things, how can they possibly master critical thinking skills, good study habits, and effective reading and writing skills? Will our future as a nation be politicians that not only can not get their US history correct, but also can not read or write?

I found this poem by Taylor Mali, and it basically sums up my whole post and then some.  Enjoy.
Totally, like, whatever, you know?

No comments:

Post a Comment