Monday, January 19, 2009


Dumb and dumber

Well, it's nice to know that the United States ain't the only country on earth that's actively trying to ensure that its youngest citizens don't know nothin'. The December 29, 2008, National Review reports on happenings in the United Kingdom:

Out with the old, in with the new. Oxford University Press publishes a "junior dictionary," widely used in British schools and popular with parents. More than 150 obsolete or offensive words have been dropped from the most recent edition, and a corresponding number of improving words brought in, to reflect, says the publisher, the fact that Britain is a modern, multicultural, multifaith society. So it’s out with "altar," "bishop," "coronation," "disciple," and "empire"; in with "apparatus," "blog," "celebrity," "database," and "Euro." How long, we wonder, before British encyclopedias follow the old Soviet example, mailing out packets of replacement pages to subscribers when some historical or political article becomes "incorrect," with instructions to cut out and destroy the superseded text?

Closer to home, the Tennessean recently reported on a Williamson County teacher, a Mr. David Rector, who had his students translate the Declaration of Independence into "text speak," the two and three-letter words kids use in instant messages and text messages. Here's how two students translated the passage in which King George III is taken to task for violating the American colonists rights:

"Ur King has treted us like slaves. Hes taxd us outragusly, & has takn almost all of our rights away. Hes evn cut off our trade w/ the rest of the world. Dude, we cant walk out our doors w/out getting poked at by an officers gun."

Encouraging kids to engage in such nitwittery is probably an easy way for a teacher to earn cool-points with his charges. But with more and more students needing remedial English classes during their freshman year in college, is it really a good idea to encourage them to purposefully misspell words and flaunt the rules of grammar and punctuation?

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for teachers trying to motivate students by moving beyond the standard lecture-reading assignment teaching methods. However, deliberately dumbing down the curriculum for the sole purpose of making it "contemporary" is just, well, dumb.

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