Sunday, March 26, 2006

Spelling and Spelling Bees

The Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee has begun weeding out spellers at the local level. The finals have become moderately compelling television viewing, especially at the end when the pressure is at its highest. Who doesn't remember the kid who slowly toppled over to his side while standing in front of the microphone. He may be the first person in history to fall sideways while fainting. I can't remember whether anyone caught him or not but my admittedly faulty memory says that after returning to an upright position, he spelled his word correctly. It was one of the funniest things I have ever seen, a response that can be admitted because the kid wasn't hurt. There is a great deal of pressure on these kids. That is okay with me so long as the pressure doesn't come from the parents but from the competition itself.

I come today not to celebrate this Bee but to debunk it as a largely anti-intellectual enterprise that celebrates form (the graphic composition of words) over content (meaning). Before defending this surely unpopular position, let me say that learning to spell at the level these kids have to does force them to understand English word morphology (that is, word composition) to some degree, to learn the linguistic origins of words, and to learn what dictionaries say the meanings of these words are. However, this isn't a sufficient payoff to justify the time and effort these kids put into learning to spell words they will never use again.

Those who are familiar with my blog Incomprehensible Language may recall my claim that it is possible to know the meanings of all of the words of a sentence and still not have a clue what the sentence means. My example was drawn from a physics doctoral thesis at Ohio State:
In practice, almost all reverberation mapping data has been insufficient to constrain the transfer function, and reverberation analysis has instead relied on cross-correlation techniques.
The problem I faced is that to understand that sentence you have to understand astrophysics at some level. I have had the same sort of experience when tuning in some born again preacher's radio show while on the road where some very odd things are said, things like "I am in the Lord" (I'm not sure this is a meaningful born again utterance but it illustrates the problem). If you don't understand the theology of particular born agains you are unlikely to understand some of what they say. That's assuming these things actually do mean something.

In many cases, words refer to observables and it is the job of parents and others to teach kids the names for various observables. Such words presuppose z theory of how to individuate objects and, more interestingly, how to individuate actions. Check out this Temple University web site on early child language development, where we find a characterization that illustrates what is involved in learning to individuate actions.
Action Categorization : To form a foundation for verb learning, children must first be able to parse an event to find an action, distinguish between actions, and form categories of actions.
It has been a long time since I studied epistemology but some sort of nontrivial theory of knowledge is presupposed to account for our learning to individuate objects and actions. I am thinking of Hume's challenging the notion of causation, saying it is not derivable from our sense perceptions but we don't want to get into that here.

So, we come now to the spelling bee and the sometimes very obscure words these kids have to spell to win. Take the word "florin." I suspect that the vast majority of you all could spell this word correctly on hearing it (you might want to put an "e" in for the "i," however) but have no idea what it means or even from what field of human knowledge it derives its meaning. I asked my wife, who is at the tail end of a course certifying her as a Master Gardener and she didn't know. The word list you can access through this blog's title link says it refers to "a genus of sweet-scented herbs with narrow tubular red, white, or yellow flowers." Knowing this, I guarantee you that I wouldn't be able to reliably identify one after surveying a large herb, flower, and weed garden. The kids are told what any word means since they have to deal with homonyms which have different spellings as in "sun" and "son."

I am a terrible speller. I learned this when I got my first word processor that did spelling checks. After learning this, I thanked the Linguistic Department's secretary for correcting all my mistakes when she typed my first book and my papers. If I forget to use the spell checker Blogger provides me, I can guarantee that there will be misspelled words that aren't just typos. This doesn't bother me a bit. English spelling is ridiculous and learning to do it properly is surely a good thing but it is a total waste of a child's time to force, encourage, or abet a child's trying to win spelling bees. This involves an enormous expenditure of time unless the kids have photographic memories. This is an anti-intellectual enterprise since it doesn't involve learning anything of any great importance. Their time would be better spent trying to learn some mathematics, physics, chemistry, and other worthwhile disciplines. Indeed, I would love to see Scripps-Howard trash its spelling bee and create Math Bees, Physics Bees, Chemistry Bees, or perhaps, a single Math and Science Bee, perhaps identifying a set of texts that would form the basis of the test questions. What this nation needs is more mathematicians, scientists, and engineers, not more spellers. [For the record, the Blogger spell checker identified about 15 problem words. Some words like "agains" as in "born agains" aren't really words so Blogger objected to it. Only three words were actual misspellings and all of these were typos. Unfortunately, if you have a typo involving a word you have capitalized which isn't normally capitalized, Blogger provides an uncapitalized version. Of course, if you can't spell pretty well even a spell checker won't save you. In adding this addendum, I originally spelled this word as "adendum." I can't honestly claim this was a typo. Double letters have always been my downfall.]

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Blogger concerned citizen said...

My spelling has always been awful. I've thought maybe it had to do w/how I was taught to read & spell. In the 1960's I was taught using the 'Ginn Basic Reader Enrichment Series'. I think this type of instruction was called 'word recognition'? meaning by reading & writting the same word over and over, you learned to recognize it.
On the other hand, my children's school curriculum stressed phonics skills, & they are better spellers then I am.
I've always thought this had something to do w/it.

I never use a spell check w/blogging. I have an old Stenograpers dictonary (no definitions) called 20,000 words that I look into constantly. or use the big dictionary for definitions. I do this because I think having to look a word up(work at it) might help it to stick in my mind.

Spelling bees have been around a long time. Prehaps it's more tradition then value.
I find them entertaining. Towards the end, esp. those kids are like odditys or freaks. You wonder what they do w/the rest of their time. :)

12:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you LG that Math and science bees would bee a much more useful way of expending so much energy.

I believe spelling the words correctly maintains the standard that is set for a language and that does make it an important part of the language.

I do admire the children that do become champion spellers because their contemporaries are learning to pass or catch a ball or shoot a ball through a hoop instead of learning spelling, math or science. I’m certain that if Math or Science bees were to be made popular that the same children that are champion spellers would be at the top or near the top of those quests too.

To me a child that has the initiative to want to learn should be supported in every way possible. If a child can stand up and spell the most difficult word in the English language then my hat is off to them and their parents for making it important.

I am the first in my family to graduate high school and learning was not emphasized even though my parents did care about my grades in school. They did not have the understanding that I have now about how important it is to encourage children to learn and to hold the schools to high standards so the children will learn important things.

I used to live just a few miles away from what used to be one of the most prominent engineering schools in the country, Villanova University. In recent years though, Villanova has reduced greatly its emphasis on its engineering program and now the funding and emphasis has been redirected to the law school. I think this is a great shame because as you say LG there is a shortage of Mathematicians and Engineers. In this area of the country there certainly is no shortage of lawyers, ever heard the expression “Philadelphia Lawyer”? That was coined because the Philadelphia area has more lawyers per square inch than any other place on earth except now Washington DC.

I can remember when I was growing up there used to be College debating or Question and Answer panel shows on TV where the major Colleges would have their best and brightest compete. I used to watch them but they no longer exist as far as I’m aware. I really liked them and tried to answer the questions and sometimes I was able to. Now when it comes to Colleges on TV the only thing that comes to mind is how their basketball or football team is doing. This is what it has come to and it’s up to the younger generations to change it if this country is to thrive and flourish as it has since I was born.

3:19 PM

Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

I thought Math & Science bees sound like a great idea, too, LG. And J_G touched on something I really enjoyed in high school: quiz bowls! The team I headed my senior year won our intramural competition; we didn't go up against any other schools that year, unfortunately...my feeling then was that they were becoming a thing of the past. Do schools still do them?

The national spelling bee there in the States usually gets mentioned in the news even over here (re the winners, as a curiosity); I seem to recall hearing once or twice about them being held for ESL students, but like crossword puzzles, they're not something likely to ever catch on over here in terms of the local lingo. (Since the language can be written in a phonetic syllabary, what would be the point? "Spell sashimi." "Sa-shi-mi." "That's right!" D'oh. And there's already a system of Kanji-Kentei certification tests for proficiency in "Chinese characters".)

By the way, is there a maximum age for bee participants? Over 12 and it seems to me like participants are being encouraged to focus too much on what is basically a mechanics issue. Application in reading and writing has to be more important. (Sorry to keep drawing on local analogies, but this reminds me a lot of the rote memorization that is still so highly valued over here in the entrance exam system. Sure, kids come out of high school knowing a lot of English words and grammar rules, but can they use them? In most cases, NO.)

I have to get moving down the road here and don't have time to warm to the topic properly but can't let pass the opportunity provided by J_G's mention of my favorite profession: Don't we have ENOUGH lawyers already?

(Let that be touchstone for troll enow.)

PS. I thought a florin was a type of foreign currency. : )

7:27 PM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

I won my county spelling bee in 8th grade (I come from a small county). I didn't do too well when I went to state, though. I still remember the "oohs" from the crowd when I correctly spelled "acquiescence." But, as you note, I didn't know what it meant.

But I never did study for it. I think there's something intuitive about spelling when you become familiar with a large number of words. I owe that familiarity to Beverly Cleary and, in 5th-8th grade, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman as well as Jack McKinney and the BattleTech series.

And I don't think that math and chemistry bees would attract the same students, so having those instead would not be a more efficient endeavor for the same students. While I did take trig and calc in high school, I can't remember anything from either of those classes. I've never been exceptional at math or science. My brother, on the other hand, would really tear it up in those kinds of competitions, although he couldn't spell to save his life.

So I think it's largely different brain chemistry, along with a focus in early life on either reading or other things. It's different kinds of talents, and it's great for the kids that get the recognition for their talents and their hard work. There should be more competitions like those that you propose in order to give recognition to other smart kids, though.

10:06 PM

Blogger Copernicus Now said...

Regarding your example from the physics doctoral thesis, I am reminded of one of my favorite books, "The Art of Plain Talk", by Rudolph Flesch. In a nutshell, it is about making writing readable.

His book made it clear to me that understanding is as much the responsibility of the writer as the reader. It's a pity our notions of literacy do not put more emphasis on the ability to write in a readable manner. If we did, a large number of university grads would be branded borderline illiterate. And rightfully so.

10:43 PM

Blogger Mrs. Geezerette said...

Yes, spelling bees are an education relic and no longer a big thing today.

Ever hear of Future Problem Solvers? Your schools probably have this program for their gifted students. My two oldest grandchildren are in it. The children learn to work as a group to solve problems society might possibly face in the future. This is accomplished through competitive and non-competitive instruction. The competition reaches an international level apparently as several countries are involved.

Correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation are still important though if you hope to be trusted as a writer who knows his stuff. My son is finishing up the illustrations for a series of children's books for an author. Rather than approach publishing houses and be rejected over and over, the new author who has the money to spend established his own publishing firm in order to get his children's books published.

When my son read the drafts and pointed out to the author the many mistakes in spelling, grammar, word usage, and punctuation, the author told him those things didn't matter and that it was the message that counted. Finally, the author broke down though and hired an editor to correct the errors. But the editor wasn't very careful in her proof reading and didn't catch even obvious errors. So, the books went to the printer (in China where they did a beautiful job) and 20,000 books were published with errors that just glare at you and take away from that all important message the author was trying to get across. Unfortunately, even the message minus the errors leaves something to be desired. The author hopes to market these books now. Their saving grace are my son's illustrations which are fantastic! But then I am speaking as a mother.

Personally, I would like a greater emphasis placed in education on reading the Classics.

11:04 PM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

I recall the statement of my 9th-grade English teacher, who said something along the lines that people who know/understand grammar and spelling flinch when they see an error. It just grates on them. It is important to spell and write correctly because it reduces the chance for confusion about your meaning, which, as LG says, is paramount. (I've now used the word "paramount" twice tonight . . . weird.)

11:41 PM

Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

Copernicus, I think you asked and answered your own question there. Changing the criteria would emphasize the crappy job educators (Who, me?! I'm way over here!) are doing. So the status quo is the way to go.

Kelly, I don't disagree with you on different talents (I'd say brain structures, though, since chemistry evokes dopamine and serotonin levels) but I think the point was that a spelling bee is essentially just regurgitating facts about orthography while a science or math bee adds the extra dimension of application of the memorized knowledge in solving a problem. I don't mean to belittle memory skills, only an excessive belief in them at the expense of other, arguably more useful, talents. (Given the availability of spelling checkers and online dictionaries, all that "hard work" seems a tad wasted.)

For a time wasn't there a "school of thought" in teaching writing which held that the act of expression and the message conveyed were more important than the correctness of the actual expression used. (OK, you can shoot me for that one alone.) I can't remember what it was called (because it seemed so daft the first time I heard about it that I never paid any further attention). Maybe Susieq's author was subjected to that sort of English education?

(Shouldn't have to bother by this point with my opinion on the Classics and Latin & Greek, eh? Or are Mediterranean types light enough to fall under the dreaded "Dead White Men" heading?)

12:00 AM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

I definitly agree that regurgitating facts is a silly thing that should be left to doctors. We law-types aren't interested in that.

(I enjoy poking fun at doctors, mostly because a lot of them are assholes. My mom works for a nice one though.)

What was the line in The Paper Chase? "I have a photographic memory." "That won't help you here." Something like that. My point was rather that spelling isn't entirely about regurgitating facts, or at least I don't think it is. There seem to be overarching patterns in spelling. Or maybe I subconsciously remember how to spell words that I see? I don't know.

12:21 AM

Blogger Laura said...

Spelling Bees may be a thing of the pass, but what about Vocabulary Bees? The vocab. of people (adults and children) are worsening everyday! People are making up words, using nouns as verbs and other horrors. Expanding vocabulary, or just using words correctly, would make my head twitch less. :D

As for my personal spelling.. I always inform my father that I received a degree in English Lit. and not in Spelling, thus he should look up his spelling question up in a dictionary.

On another note....Language Guy, have you given any thought to the American foreign policy in regards to USAID? Specifically to the HIV/AIDS policies or the birth control programs that are supported by USAID? I realize that this is quite off the cuff, but just one of those things that whirl around my head on a sunny Monday afternoon after lunch.

2:05 PM

Blogger qaminante said...

For what it's worth, a florin was, until replaced by the euro, the Dutch unit of currency and I still knew it as an old-fashioned name for a 2 shilling coin before decimalisation of currency in the UK in the 1970s.
The only cup I have ever won in my life was for spelling, in my early teens, BUT I would never have won an American-style spelling bee, because I gather participants have to spell words aloud, since I can only spell on paper! Or electronic equivalent, of course - anyway I have to see how a word looks written down, and would have trouble visualising a word in the air in order to spell it aloud.
This is not to say that other types of "bee" would not be a good idea, in fact I once attended a rather Victorian-style school (in India) which frequently called snap tests of foreign language vocabulary and other subjects. Of course, these tend to be based on rote-learning in the first place, which is no longer in fashion, but it does work for some things.

4:37 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My MS Office XP included "Word” with the dictionary option. I usually use an open word document to edit the spelling and proper word usage when writing posts on my own blog or posting comments at other blogs. Sometimes I leave words out or worse, leave words in that were supposed to have been deleted because I have changed my sentences. I hate when that happens. I do the best that I can with the tools that I have. My ideas are still the same but making them clear and to the point are still a challenge.

I am reminded of a recent Television advertising campaign that shows a young girl (animation) trying to sell her product of “lemanade” (as it is spelled on her sign to advertise her product) and then announcer asks the viewer “are you finding it difficult to get your message out…” and then goes on to explain how his company’s product will help in this instance. This advertising campaign isn’t very effective though, I can’t remember what the heck the company is selling or what their name is and I have seen and heard this commercial many times.

Kelly, I have to say that given the choice between a doctor and lawyer to help me in a dire situation, I am reminded of a joke that someone once told me. How do you tell a dead lawyer in the middle of the road from a dead snake in the middle of the road? A: there are skid marks before the snake. You knew that was going to happen sooner or later so it might as well have been me. I have a friend that is a lawyer and he even likes that one. My family lawyer is a woman but she is a lawyer nonetheless. There are good lawyers and bad ones as there are doctors. I have been fortunate to have many good doctors so please don’t classify all doctors in one category.

4:47 PM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

Going way off-topic here, I don't classify all doctors as jerks. I've just met a good number of them who are. I suspect it stems from some kind of "I went to medical school, the hardest education there is, so I'm better than you" mentality, as well as massive debt (leading to stress) in the early years of practice. My opinion may also be informed by the experiences of the several nurses I know and/or am married to, because often doctors aren't very nice to nurses. I wouldn't say that about all doctors though!

And a thing I've noticed about lawyer jokes is that in 9 out of 10 of them you could substitute anything for the word "lawyer," like perhaps "dentist" or "neo-Nazi extremist" or "rodeo clown."

4:54 PM

Blogger Mr K said...

I thought florin was a form of currency... also it's a nation in the Princess Bride.

I don't know about the US, but we certainly have nationwide mathematics competitions in the UK, although they are not, of course, televised, which include the maths olympiad (with some VERY hard questions at the highest level), and the maths challenge.

Also, I don't think we have spelling bees either, and the temptation to say something snobbish about the spelling of colour springs to mind here....

Ultimately, lawyer jokes are just one of various subsets of jokes. Most racial slurs, for example can be replaced with "three idiots are walking along", or, for the standard joke "an idiot, a moderately intelligent person, and a genius walk into a bar." (the fourth one ducked)

7:09 PM

Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

(Is anything ever really off-topic here? I just happen to have watched The Rainmaker last night, so two gems are fresh in mind: "How do you know if a lawyer is lying to you?" and "What's the difference between a lawyer and a prostitute?")

Feats of memory can be impressive (there was a news item last week about a kid who had pi down cold to several thousand places) and rote memorization has its place (multiplication tables, irregular Latin verb parts). I don't deny either of these. But I think an essay contest is always going to be a more worthwhile activity than a spelling bee (except maybe in the lower grades, to enhance motivation?). And I'll be damned if I can think of a practical application of the pi kid's accomplishment. (Maybe it's just sour grapes, since I can't do these things myself? I also have to see words written down, and I can't do more than simple math in my head.)

Despite the anachronisms (e.g., our friend gh), there are many regularities in the writing system (reflecting regularities in the structure of the linguistic entities it represents). Recognition of these, conscious or subconscious, is no doubt the basis of that "spelling intuition" Kelly mentions.

(Mr K, great call! "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.")

7:32 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I won't turn this into a discussion about the need for lawyers vs. the need for doctors because that would be counter productive. I have lived in and around Philadelphia for most of my life. “I once went to Philadelphia but it was closed” WC Fields.

I do think that any time children are encouraged to become involved in academic endeavors such as spelling bees, math bees or whatever bees it is a million times better than wasting time throwing a ball through a hoop. I have a lot of trouble when athletics overshadow academics and it is something that really grates on me. I am 100 percent for encouraging students to stay in shape and kept from becoming couch potatoes and playing games such as basketball, football etc… are fine. I just have a big problem when academics are put in the backseat for these “games”. The intellectual Bowls that both Ron and I spoke about are long gone and have been replaced by the “gladiators” trying to prove they are the manly men and the best team. Women sports are largely ignored because they lack the male competitiveness element for both men and women. Maybe I was wrong when I said to the substitute Pastor that “I believe that as a society we are different from the Romans” Substitute Pastor

5:15 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know, bad spellers really piss me off. So do people who can't talk properly. They'll say something like, "he catched the shrimp on his hat" instead of "caught". I think it really boils down to just paying attention to details. I have many errors and typos in my blog because I don't have time to proofread it or else I'd go back and correct everything. I never use spell-check. People who pay attention to details seem to do better work. I am a pretty good speller and I am detail-oriented to a degree. It wasn't hard to learn how to spell good. It's just paying attention in class. I admit though, for years I spelled tomorrow - "tomarrow". A few everyday words, like necessary, still get me a little confused, but what else pisses me off is compound words. The issue of when words are compound or not is even more confusing sometimes than actual spelling. We had a heated debate in my last job about the word "waterfeature". I say it's compound and I still do to this day. The boss insisted that it is two separate words and we should keep it that way. Now we have idiots in my job now that use "back flow" instead or "backflow", "street light" instead of "streetlight" and "bus stop" instead of "busstop". Sure, it's just semantics and it really doesn't matter either way, but it just irritates me because I feel like I'm right and they insist on their ignorant ways. What else irritates me is when to use certain words like "then or than", "accept or except", "a lot or alot", "their or there" and stuff like that.

6:15 PM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

PF: wierd that you're complaining about proper speaking when you say you "spell good." :) Just teasing. One that really bugs me is that the word "ensure" has pretty much disappeared from the English language, while many people (including I think all of the Supreme Court justices) have begun using "insure" to mean what "ensure" is supposed to mean.

JG: I agree with you that academics are more important than athletics, but the sad fact is that athletics are a huge source of donations and public interest in the schools, so they are beneficial. I think administrators tend to lose sight of their real goals in their focus on getting public support and donations. Also, athletics are very positive for kids who don't do well in their classes, and it helps them to feel better about themselves. In addition, as long as the rules are applied the way they're supposed to be most athletes are required to keep up their grades in order to participate.

6:25 PM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

Side note: The ensure/insure dichotomy is similar to something LG previously said on rebut/refute in this post.

6:28 PM

Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

I think their/there/they're is just that ole inattention to detail (I find my hands have a will of their own sometimes and mix the first two), but what's with then/than?! I've blogged on this one myself and was collecting examples for a while until it got to be too time-consuming. (Too many examples!)

Any insights, LG? Does anyone pronounce the two alike (in casual/normal speech)? In my dialect they're very distinct ([ðın] (careful [ðɛn]) versus [ðən] ([ðæn])), so I don't understand how they get confused.

(...as long as the rules are applied the way they're supposed to be most athletes are required to keep up their grades in order to participate. Right, wink wink, nudge nudge. And let's discuss this one with the people in Winthrop, Maine, while we're at it. Sure, state officials reported no connection, but the football team coach still has his own opinions (CNN interview again just yesterday morning). My point: that feel-good fuzziness doesn't always transfer to post-high school life.)

7:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as I know there are only a few schools that ensure that the athletes maintain certain grade point averages in meaningful courses. Joe Pa (Paterno) comes to mind at Penn State and there are a few others but they are the exceptions to the rule. Joe Pa has been very adamant about academics in order to maintain a position on his team and I have great respect and admiration for him. I believe he was supposed to retire this year.

One of these days my fingers will get used to spelling United States right the first time. I either misspell Untied or Sates and I always have to go back and correct it. I guess I will live in the Untied Sates of America until my fingers and my keyboard can synchronize.

9:54 PM

Blogger Mrs. Geezerette said...

Two words that give me trouble are "affect" and "effect."

I am not a sports enthusiast except when it comes to my grandchildren. You'll find me hooting and rooting at their ball games. I appreciate the value of sports. I see that sports teach children the importance of team work, self-discipline, and sportsmanship.

In my community our park district has an excellent sports program for elementary age children. Unlike a school's sports program in which only the best ones get to be on the team, any child can participate in the park district's sports program.

I do feel that we glorify our athletic heroes too much and afford them special privileges even when they have broken the law. The rape that allegedly took place at Duke University recently involving the Lacrosse team is a fine example.

11:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gosh Susie, speaking of travesties, the Quarterback for the Naval Academy was arrested and charged with raping a woman. I hope this isn’t something that’s going to bring shame on the Academy. I have a lot of respect for those that would go through the rigors of becoming a Naval Officer. Even though I teased and taunted the middies when they came out to get their on the job training with the fleet I knew that they would be the next generation of leaders for the Navy. For some sports punk to bring shame to that great institution is terribly offensive to me.

4:19 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

IbaDaiRon is right that confusions of there, their, and they're can result from inattention -- that's where typos come from. However, this is much more likely in the case of the first two, a very common confusion, than the latter. What the mechanism is that results in typos I don't know but it is probably the mind racing ahead of the fingers. The same holds with too, to, and two with, the first two commonly being confused. I think it is more likely that two be mistyped as one of the others than the reverse of this.

Confusions also occur in perception. I got involved in a case once where Nikon was suing Ikon for trademark infringement. It seems the court took the fact that a Nikon sounds like an Ikon as very important. This would arise when someone says I would like to see ..., with the two phrases filling in the blanks.

JG, you are behind the times on athletes and academics. There are new rules in place that examine not graduation rates, where the government rules for doing so were (predictably) rather stupid, to something more like "eligibility rates." Any time a player becomes ineligible, even if his or her sport is not being played that semester/quarter, it counts against the eligibility rate of the sport for that school. When a player leaves, if he or she leaves before graduating, that reduces the score a bit, but it reduces it much more if he or she leaves while ineligible. In addition to that, either the NCAA or individual conferences (not sure about the NCAA) imposes "progress towards a degree" requirements. I am pleased to say that the Big Ten has always had higher standards than any other conference and that Ohio State has higher standards than anyone else in the Big Ten. Right now, all of our major sports are in good standing I believe in regard to eligibility standards though I think one minor sport is in a spot of bother. The penalty for not reaching a certain eligibility standard is loss of scholarships. The Arizona U football program has just had something like a 4 scholarship reduction imposed on it.

8:03 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't comment too much on the way sports are handled now at colleges because as LG points out I am a bit behind the times. I do however see at least a couple of stories per month about the inappropriate behavior of athletes on the news. Whether it is college or professional athletes they are earning way too much attention for the activity involved.

I just saw last night that Villanova was ousted from the final whatever and it makes me glad for the people of Wayne, PA. This is where I used to live and where Villanova is located. The last time Villanova won the championship, Wayne, PA was turned into a riot area and that was in 1985 I believe.

During that time I was a conductor on one the first trains into the city of Philadelphia where the official riot was to be held. We had to hold out of the station in order to get the children off of the roof of the station so we could pull the train in to pick up the passengers. Without realizing the danger they had put themselves in by climbing onto the roof of the train station there were children standing less than five feet away from the 11, 500 volts ac catenary (overhead) wire that powers the train. Catenary voltage will arc three feet from the wire to get to a ground and those kids were so fortunate that they were spared. The rest of the day and into the night it was a nightmare for the citizens of Wayne, the crews of trains and the police in Philadelphia and all along the “Mainline”. There’s just too much emphasis on sports and its gotten worse since then. What town wants to have one of those kinds of celebrations?

2:13 PM

Blogger Ripple said...

I guess you got me on that one, Kelly.

I have to chime in about sports. I think that it stinks when the universities make millions on their football or basketball programs and the students get zilch for playing. I think the universities that make over a certain amount should have to donate to an education charity (like the United Negro College Fund) a certain percentage of their revenues that they make from these student athletes.

3:58 PM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

But aren't universities already a worthy charity? Why would a charity donate to another charity? I think a lot of the money from the popular sports ends up going to less popular sports, and isn't that a good thing? (I could be wrong here.)

4:20 PM

Blogger Lil said...

hmm... university's are businesses, not charities. In fact, there has been a recent push (recent is relative I suppose)for recruitment officers to be marketers. Most universities I've worked for have a foundation/fund raising department built into their administration, but universities are, in my opinion, businesses.

2:00 PM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

I'm not sure as to the legal distinction, exactly, but I believe the Internal Revenue Code treats most universities as charities. I would think as long as they don't give disbursements to shareholders or give anyone else money without them actually having to work for it then it would be a charity. I don't suppose all colleges are like that. I strongly suspect all the tech-oriented colleges that advertise on daytime TV of not being purely charitable.

2:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A "florin" is a antique coin.

11:03 AM


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