Friday, June 04, 2010

They're protesting the Bee?!

A fellow Romance Diva just posted the link to the article below. Go ahead and read it, then come back. I'll wait.

In DC, even the Spelling Bee draws protesters

Done? Okay, here is my opinion.

What irritates me most about this protest is that it's educators who are doing it. Instead of dumbing down the language (or standards in general), they should be encouraging people to follow the example set by these kids to excel. I have grandparents and great-grandparents who came to this country from Norway, Germany and France. They did not expect the people in this country to speak their language. They did not expect people to give them a break because they did not know the language. They immediately started to learn English, the predominate language spoken in this country, so that they could understand what was going on around them and fit in.

Also, the protester seems to completely miss the fact that the way words are spelled has much to do with country (language) of origin. The English language, more than any other, has always absorbed words from other languages. Unlike countries such as France, there is no language police here, deciding whether to accept or refuse a word from another culture, or whether to accept a word but alter its spelling so as to make it appear more "English".

It's no wonder the stereotype of the "dumb American" exists. It's appalling, really, how much the education system in this country has changed over the past several decades, and not for the better. Look at what our parents and grandparents were learning in school—and in what grades—compared to kids today. A prime example? One of my favorite Christmas movies is A Christmas Story. During the film, the 4th grade class is shown reading the book Silas Marner. That was in the 1940s. By 1980 you were lucky if kids could handle that book in the 9th grade, and not many schools teach it at all now. (It is, by the way, a good book.)

And have you ever read old newspapers from the 1950s or—even better—earlier? I love browsing old articles in the online archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society and the like. I love the vocabulary and the way they used language. It is not uncommon to see great four or five-syllable words. Why? Because they did not assume that 90% of their readers would not know what a word meant if it had more than two syllables. They assumed that if a person didn't know the word, they would look it up. Isn't that what most of us were taught from an early age, if you don't know something, look it up?

If anything we need TOUGHER educational standards in this country, not more lenient ones. Lengthening the school year would be a good start. The US already has one of the shortest school years in the world. The summer break is so long that kids forget half of what they learned by start of the next semester. Let's get back to the days when a fourth grader could actually read and understand a book like Silas Marner.

As for me, I believe I will protest the protesters by watching the Scripps National Spelling Bee on TV tonight and cheering these young spellers on. The Bee airs on ABC at 8PM/7C.


Alice Audrey said...

And yet I am struggling to keep up with my kid's math classes, as I end up tutoring them every year. They were doing statistical analysis in grade school. I dread having to explain calculus to them.

Heather said...

Statistics in grade school? Seriously?? I admit, that I cannot imagine. To be honest, I struggled to keep up with math classes as a HS student, I couldn't imagine trying to help kids (even at the grade school level) with it.

Alice Audrey said...

Yes. Seriously. This year The Girl (7th grade) was struggling with percentages - stuff I ran into a lot in my accounting classes. That was easier, but a few of her problems had me scratching my head.

Heather said...

Ah, percentages. I do remember learning those in 7th or 8th grade. I still struggle with them - unless, of course, I have a calculator.