Today is Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Heating it up for the New Year

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PS. Don’t picture the teachers’ lounge as anything comfortable, attractive, clean, convenient, or free from musty, moldy, stored and antique properties placed squarely in the traffic pattern where poorly shod teacher feet would pass. Only desperate people entered; that’s why lounges are heavily occupied all day. 

Well, before I get too steamed up, yeah, baby, like that’s not a constant, let’s visit the ONLINE DEPARTMENT. This one (Thanks, TP) fits the approaching New Year and its wistful hopefulness, longed for wisdom, and school of hard knocks reality like a glove. “Summary of Life” GREAT TRUTHS THAT LITTLE CHILDREN HAVE LEARNED: 1) No matter how hard you try, you can't baptize cats. 2) When your Mom is mad at your Dad, don't let her brush your hair. 3) If your sister hits you, don't hit her back. They always catch the second person. 4) Never ask your three year old brother to hold a tomato. 5) You can't trust dogs to watch your food. 6) Don't sneeze when someone is cutting your hair. 7) Never hold a Dust-Buster and a cat at the same time. 8) You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk. 9) Don't wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts. GREAT TRUTHS THAT ADULTS HAVE LEARNED: 1) Raising teenagers is like nailing jelly to a tree.  2) Wrinkles don't hurt. 3) Families are like fudge, mostly sweet with a few nuts.  4) Today's mighty oak is just yesterday's nut that held its ground. 5) Laughing is good exercise. It's like jogging on the inside. 6) Middle age is when you choose your cereal for the fiber, not the toy. GREAT TRUTHS ABOUT GROWING OLD 1) Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. 2) Forget the health food. You need all the preservatives you can get. 3) When you fall down, you wonder what else you can do while you're down there.  4) You're getting old when you get the same sensation from a rocking chair that you once got from a roller coaster. 5) It's frustrating when you know all the answers but nobody bothers to ask you the questions. 6) Time may be a great healer, but it's a lousy beautician. 

Now, let’s get out all our knives, hatchets, scalpels, axes, saws, and razors. We’ll dissect, maybe operate. What has happened, is happening to our language? Why are its practitioners often so wooly-headed and sloppy-tongued? Why can so few Americans use the apostrophe correctly? (Are contractions and the possessive case at the death rattle stage? For that matter is punctuation a jumble of dots and squiggles one blindly selects?) Are there only a dozen people per city and fewer in small towns who can correctly conjugate the verb to be?  Is distinguishing between the correct use of the nominative case and the correct use of the objective case something to be done only in graduate school? Are we, in fact, terminally “dumbed down” as our many television channels seem to assure us?

Well, we are in troubled times here. The concern with accurate, careful language (with a promise of soaring later) should manifest itself early in home and school. Parents should feel some insecurity about their poor language habits, not pride. Insecurity would motivate an interest in their children’s bettering themselves by learning to write and speak properly. Children need to understand that the door to a great future, one we want them to have, is opened by a command of language – reading, writing, and speaking. This must be regarded as top priority. And let’s throw in widespread respect for these skills.Teachers need to be educated far more thoroughly in the rudiments of English – its structure and its quirks. Teachers need to care deeply that their students grasp correct usage, spelling, punctuation, pronunciation. Teachers must lead their students to an affection for masters of language as they read great literature from all over the world, all over history.  Teachers have been forced “to teach to the test,” that standardized (huh!) measurement of humanity, that yardstick blighted by unworthy goals -- not to produce good, happy (pursuit of happiness, remember?), productive, communicating citizens, but generations of cynics. No richness, no pleasure, no satisfaction in a job well done – just relief until the process starts again.

The blame here rests with government, elected, appointed, or hired (“demeaning” themselves again?) who have pressure heated the mess to boiling. And pulled out the underpinnings to education and with it, language. 

Oh, of course, the matter’s broader and deeper, tied to a materialistic culture busy chasing dollars. Television grew into a toxic monster (remember FCC Chairman Newton Minow’s “vast wasteland” comment in 1961?) promoting poorly put together, trite language and featuring “celebrities” with deranged verbs.

OK, I’ll calm down a bit in 2009. Maybe. A HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR TO YOU.

Do we need this word? scenario

Do we need this phrase? know what I mean

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