Friday, March 10, 2006

The Advantages of Being Middle-Class

Professor Annette Lareau of Temple University, author of Unequal Childhoods, takes the view that black and white children with a middle-class background outperform working-class children in the adult world because they develop a greater capacity to interact verbally with adults as a result of their being greater talk and negotiating with parents in middle-class homes and because their parents put them in a variety of adult-supervised activities that are often unavailable to the children of working-class and poor homes for financial and other reasons. I read about this first in the Columbus Dispatch in an op-ed piece by David Brooks. The headline was instructive: "Working-class kids held back by lack of verbal skills." I love this. It suggests that working-class kids have no verbal skills at all.

Most of us linguists who care about the sort of issues that interest Lareau must feel like we are experiencing what Bill Murray's character did in Groundhog Day. From time to time educators and sociologists and others who know little or nothing about language and verbal development come up with some version of what Professor Bill Labov, a sociolinguist at the University of Pennsylvania, has called the "verbal deficit" theory. Interestingly, much of Bill's research, like that of Professor Lareau's. was done in Philadelphia, but he focused on Black English Vernacular.

Labov focused a good deal of his field work on inner-city black children. In 1972, he published the book, Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English Vernacular. Unfortunately, others with little or no linguistic knowledge were also taking a look at Black English Vernacular with some alleging that there were nontrivial numbers of Black children who could barely form a complete sentence. I once heard or read a paper by someone who replicated the "experiments" of those who came to these conclusions, usually whites, of course, and got an entirely different result. He was himself Black and instead of being White and standing or otherwise positioning himself in a dominant position relative to children he studied, he sat on the floor with him. The children opened up with him with a flood of language. It seems that they had plenty of complete sentences to utter.

This "verbal deficit" theory got some purchase when a variety of well-known people like Nobel Laureate William Shockley, a physicist at Stanford University, decided that his status as a physicist entitled him to comment publicly on linguistic issues dealing with race. To give you an idea of his sociopolitics, he once openly suggested people with IQs lower than 100 should submit to voluntary sterilization. Naturally linguists like Labov tore into him and other nitwits like him, dispelling their linguistically incompetent views with actual research. An important element of the counterattack was a chapter in the Labov book mentioned above called, "The Logic of Nonstandard English."

Obviously, Professor Lareau is not as ignorant as the Columbus Dispatch's headline writer (or that of the New York Times if headlines travel with syndicated articles) nor of the nitwits who advanced the verbal deficit theory we dealt with back in the 70's and 80's.

Lareau based her study on the children of two schools. Count them. One. Two. How many schools are there in America? Lots. Maybe 50,000. Lareau obviously worked with a very tiny sample. Moreover, it does not take into account the effect of later higher education on those children from working class and poor families on their linguistic and intellectual development. Not all a child learns is learned at home or as a result of a parent's (soccer moms and pops) pushing them into all sorts of activities directed by adults. The problem, of course, is that there is a well-known built in bias against speakers of nonstandard English by K-12 teachers and a bias against children of the poor that is built into standardized tests, from the SAT to the Wonderlich test given to athletes who want to go pro. Recently we learned that the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback of the National Champion Texas Longhorns scored 16 out of a possible 40 and it was opined that he may drop in value to pro teams on draft day because of this score. Of course, a smart manager of a pro football team will simply get the tapes of his two consecutive performances in the Rose Bowl (against the University of Michigan and the University of Southern California) and replace the Wonderlich score with these tapes. Talented is as talented does, Forest Gump's mother probably told him.

The use I wish to make of Lareau's work (which should not be taken as an endorsement of it) is to further an argument I have often made to people, almost invariably White, who scorn poor people, including especially poor blacks, because they have failed to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities America provides, whereas they themselves have gotten what they have as a result of hard work.

Yeah, right. Their hard work. Such people are usually White and male and had middle-class parents who provided the environment Lareau speaks of and provided financial help during their college and immediate post-college days. Moreover, such people usually came from families with one or more members who have earned college degrees so college was not an alien notion for them as they grew up. Contrast that with a poor black inner city kid. I don't need to recite the limitations they are saddled with. They are well-known. Assume that they have the opposite background to that of middle-class White and Black kids and also have additional disadvantages heaped upon them, including growing up in crime-ridden areas where education is not valued. If I may be trite, success breeds success and failure breeds failure.

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Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

So what do you suggest from a pragmatic standpoint?

I know how much you like to talk about the problems and to criticize the non-minorities (middle class WASPs such as me and, I assume, yourself). But what do we do about it?

Surely you wouldn't suggest that having a "standard" English that everyone can share would be a bad thing. It brings to mind the Tower of Babel--when everyone speaks the same language then mankind can accomplish anything.

I also recall a time when the carnival was in the mall parking lot in Norfolk, Nebraska, where I worked at a Target store. A black carnie (carney?) came in and asked me for help--and it honestly took me a good three or four minutes to figure out what he was asking me. Turns out he was looking for Magic Shave, a shaving product designed for the different hair of black people. We didn't have it yet because of our very low black population. And I think of how much easier it would have been if we had a shared language.

So do we give ELL/ESL type classes to any child who doesn't speak the standard English? It might cost a lot of money, but I think that it's something everyone can agree on. One of the major complaints of "racist" people is that the other people don't "speak good English." (I prefer to call them frustrated rather than racist.)
Alternatively, do we teach all of the already-educated people the black vernacular--since we have all the other advantages then we should be given at least one disadvantage, that all business will be done in a minority dialect. Of course, the latter one would cost a lot more money and the black vernacular evolves at such a greater rate that it would be grossly inefficient to do that.

Or do we sit them all down in front of a Frasier marathon?

What do you think?

11:33 AM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

Caveat: I don't mean to suggest that no people are "racist" in the commonly-used sense of the term. What I was saying was that many people who appear to be overtly racist probably aren't as bad as we would like to make them out to be.

12:30 PM

Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

I worked a few summers at my uncle's gas station and one time a man in a station wagon with southern plates (I forget which state now) pulled in and asked me to fill 'er up and check the earl. Since I didn't see anyone even remotely resembling English royalty, just a tired-looking wife and a bunch of kids, it took me a good few minutes to figure out what he meant, too.

And he was white. Kelly, maybe it wasn't so much a race-related linguistic difference as just a geographical dialectal one; had you done a lot of traveling to other parts of the country by then (or now)? It takes exposure to loosen up the ole comprehension "module".

I'm not sure where you get the notion that BEV evolves at a greater rate than SAE (Standard American English), unless you mean the slang component, and even then I've never seen any research indicating BEV slang changes faster than that in the standard.

I don't have a definitive solution to offer, but I believe BEV is a symptom, not the basic problem in and of itself. Maybe with greater social integration of its speakers, BEV will disappear in the same way as other dialectal differences? Education (both of BEV speakers and of those others ignorant of the realities of matters linguistic) is definitely one area for attention.

(By the way, what abbreviation should you use for yourself if your AS component is lower than your Celtic (French & smattering of AmerInd) and the Catholic/Protestant distinction is no longer relevant?)

1:56 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

I have no easy solution. No one does. There are two problems. There are White areas like Appalacia where people refuse to leave to go to places that have work. And IMO, the Black community is nearly terminally ill in some places like S. Central LA. I know someone who tutors kids at an after school center there and he tells me that they lose almost every kid to the streets or the basketball courts. So, to some nontrivial degree, the problem requires a fix from within the communities.

The other problem is that liberals don't come up with genuinely workable plans and conservatives fight every measure to help with every fibre of their being. No measure to help the poor other than Bush's presecription plan (which to my utter amazement is actually helping some people) has been proposed by Republicans in living memory.

I have one hard solution, namely to set up new WPA projects to rebuild the infrastructures of our cities and whatever else needs building and pay a living wage. There is a cycle of poverty in the two cases I cited that can only be broken by going nuclear and a WPA type approach is such a measure. We have to put the chronically unemployed to work to break the cycle.

IMO, most people would prefer to work than not to work so long as the pay beats the dole. The drugged out won't. but they will likely be beyond help anyway. Child care services can be provided to mothers who need it. Maybe some good things can be done for the kids while in child care. This is the sneaky part of my plan.

3:09 PM

Blogger Mr K said...

An interesting note in your post is the physicist weighing in on a field he probably knows very little about. This sort of thing has probably been one of the most significant factors in making science seem less trustworthy, and given weight to the fringe theories (homeopathy, ID, the idea that global warming is not happening).

Although having said that, during a physics lecture last year my lecturer, teaching relativity and astrophysics started talking about the moon landing conspiracy as if he believed it... I wasn't sure if he was joking or not.

Kelly, I think the ultimate point here is that the claim that middle class kids get ahead 'cause they can talk proper isn't necessarily true. They get ahead because they're middle class. Whether you think this is fair or not is up to you.

3:12 PM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

I'm reminded of my first trip out of the country, to Rennes, France. I knew the trip was coming four months ahead of time and went out and bought three books to bone up on as much of the French language as possible. At the time, I lived by myself and my days were composed of eating, sleeping, working, and learning French...

I heard all the STEREOTYPICAL bullshit; French people are rude, arrogant, pompous---They HATE it when you slaughter their language...



what they HATE is arrogance, ignorance, and a lack of consideration...

I've been to Europe twice now (France, Belgium, Netherlands) and, much like my approach to intellectually stimulating conversation, came up with the perfect plan to avoid the pitfalls that so many ignorant, untravelled Americans spoke of...I would begin my conversations with foreigners by saying,

"Thank you for taking the time to learn my language (thankfully, most I ran into spoke English); I apologize for being ignorant of yours; je parle un peu de francais (i speak a "little" french)"

It was practically the same introduction with every person I met; and, I feel extraordinarily good about the fact that most of these people fell in love with some "ignorant" American...

Have we forgot about the question,

"what do you mean?"

have we forgot the fact that everyone is different?

do we not have the patience nor the humility to communicate with those who are different than we?

somebody help me here...in terms of LG's descriptions...i'm from a "working class" what i would call "upper lower" or "middle lower" class family full of prejudice and ignorance...

I'm somewhere in between the classes that were described in the post...I've busted my ass for my education (which has come outside of public schools)...I've busted my ass as a worker at every job I've had earning awards and honors...

my parents didn't give ME financial support when i was a teenager NOR when I entered college; I was giving THEM financial support...

I volunteer more than the average cat; donate to charity when i can; get involved (often, more than i can actually handle) and...AND,

I've never once had the problems with communication that everyone describes here...sure, i've run into slang and accents that are difficult to understand; but, it's nothing that can't be overcome with patience, tolerance, understanding, and forgiveness (mostly forgiveness of self for being ignorant)...

Pragmatic solution?

easy...one which I'm constantly working on by the way:

we need to stop being pompous assholes and start being human...

i'm not sure if its fortunate or unfortunate for me, but i have a lot less patience for those of you out there who were "gifted" the "upper" end of things...i'm marvelous at maintaining my cool with people when they're in need of help; but, for those of you here, i assume you're in a more advantageous position than those in slums; i assume most of you are more educated than those who need the help...so, i feel no need to candy-coat things...

yes, deep down, i know this needs to change; but, that's difficult for me, believe it or not, because it requires me to, on some level, assume that I'm on that "upper" level...and, maybe i'm a hopeless romantic; but, i tend to delude myself by assuming we're all on a level playing field BECAUSE of the opportunity we have here in America...

that opportunity does not change the fact that many are retarded in their efforts to advance.

The fundamental problem, the disease itself, lies in the fact that, go figure, the "majority" feels they have the "right" to oppress the "minorities," due to the "fact" that "democracy" is a "majority rules," government...

the only practical solution which could allow us to even begin to fix this issue is to drastically overhaul government so that each INDIVIDUAL, like you and I, have more power and control over our resources, THEN people who are willing to help won't have to worry about the red tape and extraneous bullshit that comes with a fascist government...

one last note...on your "trite" comment at the end LG...

i think it would be more accurate to state, "money breeds money and poverty breeds poverty..."

it could be argued that they are interchangeable, and i would counter argue that the perception


is a large part of the problem...

what we need to remember is

character breeds character and ignorance breeds ignorance.

peace n shit,


4:43 PM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

sorry to pick on ya again kelly; but i wanted (and forgot) to point out another fundamental part of the problem:

most people want things to be "easy"

ie-"And I think of how much easier it would have been if we had a shared language."

i would actually say that this is the BIGGEST problem with most people...they're in love with "easy."

easy women

easy work

easy education

easy life

It's so much EASIER for people to be prejudice than to be open, tolerant, understanding...much EASIER to take all the STEREOTYPES, much easier to FORGET OR IGNORE the FACT that EVERYONE is DIFFERENT so that we can summarily dismiss the value of people; how pathetic...

first, accept reality...

second, adapt or die early...



4:52 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Sean, you need to take a tranq.

There is a French Academy the purpose of which is to rid French of any Anglo-American vocabulary (other languages as well, I suppose). The French have passed laws limiting the import of American movies and TV shows. The Brits don't. They aren't threatened but the French don't apparently think they can compete. This is actually the same sort of action as the linguistic one. They are pissed that French is no longer a language of importance and they fear the English language and movies and TV shows in English. They, as a country, really hate that. Proabably most of the people don't.

You will never persuade me that it was reasonable for the French to withdraw from NATO when they did during the Cold War. Again, the French wanted not to be under the influence of English and American generals though they were happy that they were still protected by us. This is the third different respect in which the French were afraid of English and the people who speak it.

6:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

it always amazes me language guy that this kind of analysis is lost on most people. i dont understand how reasonably educated people today could even regard race as an issue. that they do regard it as such only propagates it as such. it compeletely misses the socio-economic factors behind the disparities in society.

im probably grew up at the lower end of middle class but i still got to enjoy all the shelter of suburbia and hang out with my friends in their 4500 sq/ft houses. even back then i knew it made a difference because i was moved to a french immersion school in the "east end" which was that area inbetween the downtown and the burbs. home of poverty aplenty. they didnt speak all that different but they sure didnt have the same vocabulary eg. prada, gucci . . .

11:01 PM

Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

The fact that the elite Academie has to enforce its ideals through legislation would indicate that enough French people are using English words and phrases to prompt it to a measure of last resort.

I find it helpful sometimes to think of language as a living thing (an infobiological symbiote which has arisen and evolved within human brains and which gets passed from carrier adults to infants, similar to some of the [actual physical] symbiotic organisms in our digestive tracts). This is why I think the Academie will ultimately fail: You can't stop Life. (No matter how thoroughly or often I weed, some new straggler always soon pops up in the veggie garden!)

I also think that unless there is some drastic change, the media (and education) will continue to foster the leveling of dialectal differences in American English. I assume this includes the possibility of the standard adopting elements of the regional and sociological varieties. (Heard any white people saying a little somethin'-somethin' lately?)

(Mark, maybe it's because racial discrimination was one of the original primary causes of those socio-economic factors today? Continuing ignorance and stupidity. Against which the gods themselves....)

11:21 PM

Blogger Copernicus Now said...

I know this is a bit off topic, but we've kicked the Intelligent Design can around a few times. And my opinion of the whole debate has evolved to a point where I find the both sides quite funny, in a Python-esque way.

One of the reasons I find it funny is the sky-is-falling hysteria about how terrible it will be to have a bunch of loonies running around the school making up silly laws of physics.

But, L_G, this post underlines the reasons I consider this reaction so much hyperbole. Not because ID isn't fundamentally a bit silly, but in part because the system is already has a full complement of very respectable well-educated ignormasuses(ignoramasii?) insisting on the rightness of their silly and unscientific theories and rules.

Don't split an infinitive. One mustn't end a sentence with a preposition. The 'gh' in laugh makes the 'f' sound. [It's actually 'au' in laugh that makes the 'f' sound.] Joual is "incorrect" French. Black kids can't form sentences. This group (or that group) speak sloppy English. We need to keep our language pure.

You mentioned the Academie de la Langue Francaise. They are a prime example of the loonies running the asylum. They make up nonsensical rules about the need to keep language pure, etc., and influence lawmakers and people in power. In the end, all they really do is stunt the growth of the language they purport to protect.

Of course, these attitudes are not French-specific. They are common in every society. And what is scary is that they are respectable in every society. They are cited by scientists despite the fact that they have no scientific bases.

With a system of intellectual tradition so rife with such highly respectable nonsensical reasoning, what difference are a few more loonies gonna make? Honest to God.

12:06 AM

Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

Copernicus Now, I don't disagree with anything you wrote about prescriptive grammatical rules (and assume LG won't either, since if I remember correctly he's the one taught the concept to me!) but have to ask about It's actually 'au'...that makes the 'f' sound.


The 'gh' represents an original velar fricative (like 'ch' in German after a, u, o) which usually changed to a labiodental fricative (f) at the ends of words (that ended up being spelled with a 'u' before the 'gh'; NB exceptions such as "plough") when it didn't disappear entirely (or contribute to the diphthongization of the preceding vowel, as in "night"). (Interestingly, a similar change in the other direction occurred in Japanese: p > f > h, except before 'u', where it remains a bilabial 'f'.)

Your statement would be correct for Modern Greek, where the upsilon in 'au', 'eu' and 'êu' is pronounced like 'v' or 'f', depending on what follows.

(The first bit above notwithstanding, I think the "let students write any way they want to" philosophy was a bit much of a silliness in the opposite extreme.)

1:38 AM

Blogger Copernicus Now said...

Hi Ibadairon,

I wasn't sure what you were referring to by the '"let students write any way they want to" philosophy'. Did you think you heard me say that?

If so, let me clarify that it is not part of my view. I am not against the teaching of standard English. Nor do I think there should be no standards in teaching. I just do not agree with labelling dialectical variations as "bad" language. Those labels seem to have annoying social consequences.

Where I live, there is a bias against some varieties of the local French dialect (which can be somewhat impenetrable to the unpracticed ear) by the very people who credit themselves with trying to preserve the local culture. There seems to be an unconscious embarassment about the historical language of the land--a language that many still speak day in and day out. Needless to say, there are not many options to learn this dialect, despite its prevalence. To me, this is unfortunate. It is also somewhat ironic, given the constant wailing and gnashing of teeth about the need to preserve a proud culture.

It is fair to ask the question of how far we should go in teaching non-standard varieties of language. I recognize the difficulty, but I can see that where I live the inaccessibility of the local dialect is a factor in the strains between two cultures. And those strains have significant impacts on the lives of all who live here.

[Just a side note: Even though I embrace the teaching of standard varieties of language as useful and good, the importance of the need for standardization tends to get blown out of proportion. The truth is, if all these things were so doggone important, the United Kingdom would have disintegrated into ash aeons ago. Who can understand the Scots? As far as I know, nobody has asked them to straighten up their act? And that makes me think about them Aussies. They can be pretty tough to understand. Should we ask them to change?]

2:56 AM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

LOL@the "tranq" comment; that's hilarious on so many levels, it's almost not funny...any time i post a "mellow tone" comment online, i'm either stoned or tired after a ten hour shift...

i'm not sure how the comment re: the french pulling out of NATO relates...and, on that note, i don't have nearly enough information regarding the situation; however, considering the intent and motives of the american policy during world war II, i wouldn't blame any country for being leary of our most, apparently, "virtuous" motives...going back to operation names and someone (ibadairon???unsure) bringing up Operation Overlord; the american actions and involvement in overlord rendered the whole thing practically useless and, in the meantime, cost russia a large number of soldiers and god knows how many civilians; we put of overlord and put it off for that specific reason, to weaken the russian forces so that the left wouldn't have political control over various parts of europe post-war; it was a political ploy meant only as a power grab and totally disregarded optimal stategy as well as human life...so, though i cannot make a judgment on the reasonableness of the french pulling out of nato due to a desire to avoid american influence and military control, i also cannot blame them...

make no mistake, i pledge no allegiance to any nation...

as far as my tone and my need for tranquilizers...lol...i'll not disagree...i'm far from a perfect human, and, luckily for all of us, am a fan of self-reflection and improvement; i'm very aware of my character flaws and work on them daily...yes, i'm fully aware of the fact that my approach in the blogosphere (and sometimes still in life) only hurts my cause; oh well, for now, until my life is a little more stable, blogging is an outlet for rage, plain and simple...

why do i have this rage? it's a matter of random chance and social influence...if i had been born in the netherlands instead of the USA...not only would i be a better being today; i'd be in finishing up grad school this year and doing research in psychology within a few...instead, my parents happened to fuck in Wisconsin, in the States where authoritarian fascism rules and democracy, as well as the intent of the constitution, has been lost along the way...

So, my rage will subside when one of two things happens:

1. We remove laws governing individual choices; aka "victimless crimes," an oxymoron if I've ever heard one...OR,
2. i meditate and reflect enough to forgive a society that oppresses and retards my progress daily

more likely than not, what we'll see happen first is a change in my approach and style simply because i'm fuckin' kewl like 'dat...lol...sorry; i can't resist...i'm tired and think i'm funny..

oh...re: the academie...so, because we, in America, have the FCC and government organizations which censor textbooks, we should assume that Americans are fascists brainwashing our children?

of course we should!

now I know you weren't intending to label all french as haters or whatever...i was completely ignorant of the academie and, quite frankly, find it rather disturbing to find out that is the case...that fuckin' sux...

but, my primary point in my posts, and the foundation of most of my philosophies regarding politics and psychology all start with the fundamental fact that each and every individual, all six billion on this planet, is different from the next; and, we have no right to PRE-judge anyone because of that fact...

and, if prejudice isn't something to get pissed about, i don't know what is...

i'll take that tranq now please...

; P



)))sean's quote of the day(((
(((not directed at anyone in particular, for the record)))

"If, when someone calls you a fascist, your reaction is to get angry or take offense, instead of laughing, then, you're probably a fascist."

3:57 AM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

For the record:

I know I'm an asshole.

Good nite,

and good luck,


; )

4:08 AM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

wow...why don't i think about this shit in the first post...

practical solutions re: inner city children...

how 'bout all you who are concerned try volunteering; i haven't tried big brothers/big sisters (i don't think they'd take me anymore due to my pot bust a few years back), but i think that'd help; especially considering children learn best when given a quality example to follow...for some reason, people tend to rebel against punishment and preaching, perhaps 'cuz they're, historically, so closely connected to oppression and injustice...

or, perhaps something like bridge to hope, a domestic abuse shelter/hotline org i worked with before i got booted out of school; that was a good one, and another good idea, give self-esteem back to the mother of a child who's daddy kicked the shit out of her til' her face bled (i actually grew up with that in my house too, considering i'm a non-violent wanna be hippie type and all the bullshit i've overcome, i don't think anyone has a right to tell me when to stop being pissed off, but, i respect your advice LG, and it lingers)

gawd, i have so much more patience for people who can't help their position its not even funny...i'll work on it, promise, in the process...

but, seriously here folks, you're all bright enough to have become aware of and care about such issues, why not invest that great self of yours in someone else if you're truly concerned?

the solution is as simple as using your energy, resources, and power, to get hands on, "down" to their level, as was suggested in the post re: the counter study (try this on people in regular social settings, it's amazing the different reactions you get when you position yourself below/equal/above someone; if you want to build instant rapport and trust with ANYONE bring yourself below them so that you have to look up to make eye contact/speak with them; wanna leave a bad first impression? while standing, introduce yourself to someone sitting down at a dinner table; their reaction may be subtle and they'll get over it if the two of you aren't closed minded schmucks; but, you get the picture...)


tangent thought(then i'm done):


you humble me LG



4:27 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

In regard to the standard language (there are many standards, actually, especially if one takes pronunciation into consideration) vs regional and ethnic/racial/other dialects there are three home truths.
1. The school system must in no way denigrate the dialect the kids come to school speaking and the teachers must fully understand how that dialect works if they are to teach the kids the standard dialect (or they will lose many kids who will see such denigration as disrespecting them and their family, friends, etc.
2. One must teach kids to read and write the standard language. There is no sensible person who would argue against this.
3. One must not waste time trying to change how kids speak. Spend the time on math, science, and other important topics. If it becomes important for the kids to learn to speak the standard dialect they will learn to do so, as happens all the time on college campuses when inner city kids and rural kids come to campus.

8:18 AM

Blogger Copernicus Now said...

Those seem like very sensible guidelines, L_G.

Hmmm. I wonder if people are confusing the notion of "non-standard" with "lack of standards".

The first is a variety of language--the second, an educational problem. But the first, does not imply the second.

8:38 AM

Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

First just a few clarifications:

Copernicus Now: No, not at all; hearing (and eyesight :) both fine on this end. You were arguing against extremely prescriptive (and silly) grammatical rules, which I agreed with you on, and I was referring back to that statement of agreement to point out that I also do not support the opposite extreme. Sometimes my contortionist tendencies get the better of me!

Sean: Operation Overlord...what was that again? Wasn't me...I know pretty close to nuttin 'bout military history, other than the basics from U.S. and world history classes and what I've picked up about the sengoku-jidai and samurai living over here.

Now back to the topic:

LG, I remember hearing about school districts where subjects like math and science were taught in the local dialect and the standard dialect taught (as a subject) in "English" class. (We all had "English" classes, right? Usually meaning "English & American/Canadian Lit" and "Writing".) Do you know of any districts where this is being done now? Any in Ohio? (I think this was back around when "Ebonics" first made news.)

10:32 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I taught classes for my company to men that in some cases were barely or not literate at all. The subjects were very technical in nature and I found myself in a position of having to fail some of the students due to the nature of the subjects. I was called a racist for failing one person and I was called in the main office about it. My answers to the higher ups when they asked why I failed the student that made the complaint was; I do my very best to help those that have a hard time reading to understand the subject I am teaching. I am not qualified to teach reading but I am qualified to teach many technical subjects that deal with the safe movement and repairing of trains. If they insist on sending me people that cannot read then it is my obligation to do my best but if they cannot understand what I am teaching then it’s my duty to fail that person. There has been more than person to fail the classes I have taught and they have were not all minorities.

It matters little to me what the background of my students is. It does matter that they understand and are able to perform the duties. Imagine my predicament if I were to pass someone that I was teaching in airbrake class and a train got into a major wreck because it lost its brakes. Then later in the investigation it was found out that this person was not qualified to do their job. Not only could I be held responsible but I would not be able to live with that knowledge.

I rail quite a bit here and in other places about the state of the education system in this country. I have damn good reason to do so. I am not what may be referred to as an academic but I am a technical instructor. I have Blacks, Indian (east), Philippine, Russian, White and Hispanic students. They must be able to understand my limited and butchered use of the English language in order to learn what their responsibilities are as railroad equipment maintainers. I make allowances for the differing backgrounds and sometimes I have to spend extra time assure students have a complete understanding of what is being taught. I would and I do challenge anyone that would call me a racist for holding people to standards that they are paid to adhere to.

I have been away from teaching for a little over a year now but I’m planning to go back to instructions soon in order to get back on a daytime schedule. I like being an instructor for many reasons and I enjoy sleeping at night instead of the day.

11:19 AM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

Ibadairon--Operation Overlord, in early 1942, was the British/American plan to invade France, creating a second front for the Germans to fight; primarily, if i remember correctly, due to Russian requests for assistance...On the surface, all agreed that a second front was needed to deter the malicious German forces; and, as was the case, the Russians were taking on the grand majority of the German army on their own and suffering great losses because of it...Not only was Overlord a quality strategy that the British felt necessary in order to shorten the length of the war, it was necessary to lighten Russia's load...

For most of the War, Russia was taking on nearly 75% of Germany's army, and paid a dear price; while both America and Britain lost around 400,000 to the War, Russia's death count reached 20 MILLION people by the time the War was over...50 times their allies...

Overlord was delayed by the Americans as a political ploy, one which even Britain did not appreciate, for, if there was one thing the British interests had in common with American interests, it was that both wanted as much political and economical control over as much of europe as possible once the war was finished. Overlord did eventually happen, of course, but not until mid-1945, over three years following Roosevelt's promise to Stalin to commence the operation to "lighten Russia's load."

It was all mularky; it was a deliberate delay which the British reluctantly spoke out against because the delay prolonged the war, but, at the same time, went along with due to an underlying desire to ensure that the Russian "left" did not have control over the areas of Europe to be restructured post-conflict.

This is all somewhat hazy recollection from a book I've been reading, "The Politics of War," but, all things considered, I would think that the deliberate delay of an important operation, one that could have save millions of Russian lives, would be more than enough to leave a bad taste in the Russian governments mouth; and, perhaps even a bad enough taste to incite a cold war that altered the landscape of international politics for four decades...

Am I a communist? No. Do I think the fear of the "left" was overblown? Yes. Do I think each individual nation should suffer the consequences of their political system without external physical coercion? Yes, unequivocally, YES! I don't believe we should willingly sacrifice millions of human lives to prevent the development of ideas; the ideas will do enough damage to the people who think them on their own...I'll never understand how any human comes to rationalize the "right" to punish someone who is already punishing themselves...It's sadistic and only perpetuates conflict and rebellion, and, in the end, only enables the "victim."
On a seperate note, re: JG's post regarding the grading of students who have difficulty understanding English; the same type of thinking applies...psychologically, it makes no sense to punish someone with a failing grade when they never had the proper tools and resources to pass in the first place; the "failing" student sees no justice in this, and, subsequently feels discriminated against, whether right or wrong...

A big part of our problem is our inability to overcome our desire to "punish" those who "fail" to rise up, our lack of desire to actually "raise" them up, and our willingness to let them "fail," as though it were their fault they were raised in a non-English speaking household...

Fortunately for us, there are plenty of people respected more than myself by society who have figured this out and have begun implementing systems based on these ideas which, go figure, have been wildly successful...

Best example I can think of is Evergreen College over in Washington State, a "liberal arts" college that runs on trimesters...During each trimester, the student chooses one subject area that contains several "sub-topics." Each course has, at least, two professors per class and, instead of the traditional "grading" system, a students "evaluation," consists of written evaluations. A student's transcript, instead of being composed of a bunch of letters that prove nothing, is composed of the students' own self-evaluation, peer evaluations, and, of course, the written evaluation of the course professors, adding depth and understanding, in an open and honest manner, to the student's flaws and strengths, without the unnecessary degradation that comes with the traditional grading scale...

It sounds so petty, but, Evergreen College has quickly become one of the nation's best public education institutions...the methodology is sound and built around one of psychology's most profound discoveries:

punishment induces rebellion. well, not all the time, actually, psychology has found, of course, that you can punish someone to the point where they become an obediently loyal dog unable to think for self. it just depends whether you want to create an adult human, or an adult robot...



12:57 PM

Blogger The MetaKong said...


/\/\/\For you curious monkeys/\/\/\

1:03 PM

Blogger Larry Kollar said...

As usual, good post and good discussion, even if the latter digresses sometimes. :-)

While I was reading, what came to mind was "London... Cockney... oh yes, My Fair Lady." Somebody said history doesn’t repeat itself, but it (ahem) rhymes. Both Cockney and Black English are hard to comprehend by the corresponding "mainstream" speaker, who would consider people using those dialects to be uneducated or even inferior.

Perhaps it's a measure of how far we've come that the trend is to figure out how to reach the "native speakers" of cultural dialects rather than to simply ignore them or blame the victim. It's also a measure of how far we have to go that we even have to have this discussion....

1:37 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The idea of passing or failing is to promote safety. People’s lives depend on the skill and knowledge of maintainers. If you cannot do the job or pass the tests to keep your qualifications then you will have to find another job. It does not matter what your background is, it does not matter where you came from. You either meet the standards or you don't people's lives and physical well being are not a social experiment. What is so hard about that?

Here's the scenario; Train #514 crashes into the bumper block at 30th street station. Two people are killed and 90 are injured. The Federal Railroad Administration shows up to download the event recorder to be examined for evidence. The event recorder shows that the brakes failed due a loss of main reservoir air pressure. The cause for this was the incorrect installation of the check valve that protects the #2 main reservoir that serves to supply air to the braking system. On the last service of this valve during its scheduled maintenance John Smith replaced that valve according to the record. John Smith is interviewed by the Federal authorities investigating this accident. It was revealed that John Smith installed the valve incorrectly because he could not read the directions for installing the valve. How could this be Jennifer Gallagher signed off on his qualification card that he satisfactorily completed his annual training?

The FRA pays a visit to Ms. Gallagher’s office to find out how John Smith passed his annual training and did not know how to read. Well fellas it’s like this; I thought that because John Smith was such a nice guy and he came from a poor family and had no chance of advancing himself anywhere that it wouldn’t hurt to say he could read the instructions. Oh by the way Ms. Gallagher you are now being held out of service pending a federal investigation of falsifying Federal Documents and training standards.You may be eligable for a stay at one of our nice vacation facilities but you might have sell everything you own to pay for the procedure. We'll get back to you in just a short while.

Why is that so hard to understand and why would I even have to illustrate that to someone? This is the root of the problem. No seems to talk much about common common sense anymore!

If the a person cannot read they should never be able to reach a seat in my classroom, that is some eles's responsibility and it's not as if I haven't gotten on the roof tops to make people aware of this problem.

1:54 PM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

Why is that so hard to understand and why would I even have to illustrate that to someone? This is the root of the problem. No seems to talk much about common common sense anymore!

If the a person cannot read they should never be able to reach a seat in my classroom, that is some eles's responsibility and it's not as if I haven't gotten on the roof tops to make people aware of this problem.
You didn't need to illustrate it to me; there is no problem, and I never once meant to imply that YOU were at fault for the use of a system that perpetuates the situations you describe...

for the record, you wasted your time on your last comment; i didn't need to read it more than a split second to understand exactly what it contained...now that i peruse it quickly, i also understand that i was 100% correct...

i apologize for NOT praising you for going to your superiors to request that literacy be a prerequisite for attending your classes...

JG rocks for showing initiative.


Regardless, doesn't invalidate the efficacy of the truth of the ideas posted previously...



5:19 PM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

funny how we so proudly promote a system that brings people to positions of authority when they don't consider things like literacy when making important employment decisions....fatal flaw, just as JG said...

5:21 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

S.R. Deardorff said;
Funny how we so proudly promote a system that brings people to positions of authority when they don't consider things like literacy when making important employment decisions....fatal flaw

That is precisely the point that is being made about using quotas when hiring, firing and admissions to institutions of higher education.

10:05 AM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

JG...you should see my post "Self Improvement and Prejudice," over at devilsshadow.blogspot.com; it's long, but, it helps us to understand just how prejudice all of us are...

i'm assuming you're talking about affirmative action in your last comment; and, as i've mentioned time and time again, i'm far more conservative than you've given me credit for, and damn sure more conservative than ANY republican I've ever met, hence the reason I hate most of them, they're not conservative, they're leftist hypocrites...

Generally, I'd say, "Let the chips fall where they may..." because I have confidence in my ability to not only succeed but to provide a quality example as a leader, in terms of how to treat other people (i'm by no means perfect, but, whatever)

Especially with the onset of the information age and how quickly one can gain knowledge; things like bigotry, racism, discrimination, etc will be disappearing under the heavy pressure of the oppressed now that Truth has an outlet called "the internet..."

it's only a matter of time; so long as our civilization doesn't destroy itself in a paranoid rush to war first, perfect progress is inevitable...

re: affirmative action

why am i against affirmative action?

well; let's pretend I'm the head of large business/corporation; it is OBVIOUSLY in my best interest to hire the most qualified candidates; and, the LAST thing I want to do as a fair and just employer is to OUTLAW my competitors choice to be a STUPID, PREJUDICE, schmuck; I want my competitor to focus on skin color instead of talent so that my business can eventually come out on top due to the fact that it's been staffed with the best talent around, regardless of race...

affirmative action is nothing but a wast of time and resources;

natural selection will ensure that
those who choose less than Truly Good ways fail, and things like Truth, Justice, Peace, and Honor all eventually reign supreme...

same logic w/ drugs/prostitution/victimless crime type shit:

if doing drugs is such a handicap, why give the user a second handicap through arbitrary authority?

natural selection will take care of it; and, in the mean time we wouldn't have systematic government oppression...



5:37 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

s.r. Deardoff said: why am i against affirmative action?

well; let's pretend I'm the head of large business/corporation; it is OBVIOUSLY in my best interest to hire the most qualified candidates; and, the LAST thing I want to do as a fair and just employer is to OUTLAW my competitors choice to be a STUPID, PREJUDICE, schmuck; I want my competitor to focus on skin color instead of talent so that my business can eventually come out on top due to the fact that it's been staffed with the best talent around, regardless of race...

Affirmative action is nothing but a waste of time and resources;

J_G asks; Suppose you are the CEO of that same huge company and you want bid on government contracts to sell product or provide services to the government. The government demands that all contractors use quotas as part of hiring and promotion in order to be qualified to bid on the contracts.

A) Do you not bid on the contracts because quotas are not part of your business model? The company that you head depends on expansion of sales and without government contracts you cannot expand your sales thereby decreasing the value of your stock and company. Your name will now be dragged through the mud with protestors like Jesse Jackson standing across the street of your main offices with signs and banners saying that your company is run by bigots and to boycott your product.

B) Do you have your company disqualify whites from applying for positions and only hire blacks or minorities to bring quotas up to par and in the process ignore qualifications in order to bring those numbers up quickly to be in line with government guidelines so you may bid on those government contracts?

C) Bid on the contracts and falsify your company records to show that you have exactly the number of minorities needed to fill quotas. You will have to pay off the government official that is in charge of contracts but that is only a small price to pay in order get things done.

D) Actually bar whites from applying for the positions needed because you know that no one is going to sue you for discrimination against whites or maybe things have changed
Jury rules against Yeadon in discrimination lawsuit
Discrimination is wrong no matter what name you give it.

8:34 AM


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