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John Krygier jbkrygie at owu.edu
Tue Sep 21 21:00:18 EDT 2004


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Begin forwarded message:

> From: "Matthew Buckingham" <mdbuckingham at msn.com>
> To: <modlib at algol.owu.edu>
> Subject: Re: A Happy Note on a Sad Note
> Date: Tue, 21 Sep 2004 17:27:07 -0700
>
> Please, let's DO get started...
>
> I think we're talking about two different problems here, though. A =
> perceived decline in the quality of (public?) education, which I'm not 
> =
> sure is based on empirical fact, and a decline in proper English 
> usage, =
> which IS always occurring because languages constantly evolve and =
> change, and English (being the largest and greatest language on earth) 
> =
> evolves and changes more than most.
>
> On education, permit me to say only that I think the substance of what 
> =
> is taught has changed, therefore it creates the perception that 
> children =
> are dumber today than they were in the past, although I'm not sure =
> that's true. We don't teach children classical Latin or Greek anymore, 
> =
> so their understanding of language as a whole suffers perhaps, as does 
> =
> their knowledge of "classic" authors. The term "classics," indeed, now 
> =
> applies to just about any literature that has remained in print for =
> several decades, not just the works of Homer and Virgil. Therefore, 
> the =
> novels of Charles Dickens, which were essentially the pulp fiction of =
> their day, are now "classics." Everything in the Modern Library is a =
> "classic."
>
> But are kids today any "dumber" or less educated than their parents or 
> =
> their parents' parents? I don't think so. Was there some golden age 
> when =
> education--as a whole, not this school versus that one--was better 
> than =
> it is today? No. In fact, I would say the opposite is true. More =
> children are learning more stuff than ever before (maybe too much for =
> their own good). If average test scores are declining, it's because 
> more =
> kids (not just the smartest ones) are taking the tests. More kids (and 
> =
> more minority and low-income kids) are going to college and going =
> farther in college now than when our parents went to college, if they =
> ever did. Even with the rise of movies, broadcast media and the =
> Internet, literacy is more important than ever before and more books 
> are =
> sold each year than in the previous year, year after year.=20
>
> Where there are problems, the schools aren't usually the problem--we =
> are. Show me a child who cannot read, and I will show you a home in =
> which there are no books. Show me a school system that doesn't work, 
> and =
> I will show you an electorate that begrudges teachers every dollar =
> they're paid; that would rather pay $10 for a new prison than $1 for a 
> =
> new school; that elects presidents who proudly spend $200 billion on =
> foreign wars while parents hold bake sales to buy their children new =
> math books (or, worse yet, don't hold bake sales to buy their children 
> =
> new math books).
>
> Is our culture becoming coarser than ever before? Maybe. But that's =
> because our culture is coming to embrace so much more as culture. 
> Yeah, =
> the hip-hop lyrics may turn you and me pale, but classical music still 
> =
> lives and sells more CDs than ever before. Are we less civil than =
> before? Probably. But maybe that's because we grew tired of "being =
> polite" about all the crap that a "civilized" society said we could =
> never change, like children working themselves to death to support 
> their =
> starving families, and women not being allowed to vote, and little 
> black =
> girls having to be escorted to white schools by federal marshals, and =
> men and women not being allowed to marry whomever they love because 
> that =
> love isn't supposed to speak its name.




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