Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Interesting Interview for 9/11

An interesting interview from Shep Smith's show with Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit. He discusses the root causes for terrorism, and how continued denial of those causes continues to endanger us.

Seriously, why do people continue to believe that the terrorists "hate us for our freedoms?" Yes, there is a cultural clash, but no one is suicide bombing us because we eat double cheeseburgers. Only lunatics would do something like that, and there are tens of thousands of Al Qaeda fighters, not a handful of serial killers.

The hatred stems from political and foreign policy. If you want to believe the policy is a correct one, and that the consequences of it are better than what would happen with a different policy, then you have formed a logical, valid opinion. But, to deny the link between policy and consequence, instead choosing to blame "America's Freedom" for the rise of Al Qaeda, is just naive, stupid, and very, very dangerous.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Junie B. Jones - unemployed gas station attendant

I'm taking a break from my regularly scheduled Ron Paul plug to focus on my core task of crusading against stupidity.

Today's topic is Junie B. Jones. For those of you that don't know, Junie B. Jones is the main character for a wildly successful series of books by Barbara Park, aimed at kids in the 5-8 age range to read by themselves.

Junie B. is pretty much a bratty kid with bad manners, terrible grammar, and who is 5 or 6 years old, depending on the book. She writes about her adventures and misadventures in a journal she keeps, the books are generally pretty humorous, and kids seem to like them.

However, I have a serious issue with these books. Kaitlyn has now read two of them, and this most recent will be the last. The grammar in the books is beyond atrocious, and any benefit she's getting from reading is being destroyed by the learning--or at least confusion over--the bad English.

Here's an example:

"He clapped his loud hands together... All of us got relief on our faces. And we hurried to the auditorium as fast as we could go. And we quick put on our costumes... I tapped Sheldon very giggly."
That's just part of one page... a page I opened at random just now for purposes of this blog. This page (page 74 of "Shipwrecked") has nine sentence fragments in it, and nine other grammatical errors by my count. There are a total of 16 sentences on the page, including the fragments.

You read that right: 18 errors in 16 sentences. There are two complete sentences that are error-free.

As you might expect, using these books in school has caused a bit of controversy. Some people want them banned, others think they are fine. I think both groups are full of idiots.

First, just because a book is a piece of trash is no reason to make it's use or ownership illegal. Second, to think that having kids who are just learning grammar read books that contain almost no grammatically correct sentences is plain dumb.

From what I've read online, the controversy has been boiled down to some debate between teaching phonics and teaching "whole language." This is also complete garbage.

"Whole language," as we've been exposed to it, has consisted of letting Kaitlyn write stories and such without over-correcting spelling and grammar. This clearly makes sense: why spend 10 minutes trying to spell a word when it's the process of converting thoughts into text that the real skill you want to teach, and where the real learning takes place.

So that's fine. HOWEVER - that does not mean that you should expose the kid to all kinds of bad grammar which they will then, in turn, copy. Every person reading this blog knows someone that can't write worth a crap, because when they do, it's all grammatical garbage. You don't have to wonder why, because the person who has the bad grammar when they write, it the same person that has the bad grammar when they speak.

People write like they talk. People speak like what they hear (other people, TV, radio, music), and what they read. If your parents use incorrect grammar, chances are you do to.

Saying that kids shouldn't be overexposed to this kind of incorrect English is to advocate phonics vs. whole language is also dumb. Phonics has nothing to do with it. First, for the reasons I just listed, and second, because no one really reads using phonics anyway--you only sound out new words using phonics until you memorize the word. You want proof?

Engilsh is a pretty scrweed up langauge.

I'm sure you had no trouble reading that, despite the fact that most of it is grossly misspelled. That's because it's been proven that people only really look at the beginning and ending of a word, and scan the middle for the correct letters. If the letters in the middle are ok, even in the wrong order, and the word starts and ends correctly, then people will read it as though it were spelled correctly, often without even noticing.

So my problem with Junie B. Jones is not her desire to teach using whole language, or that I secretly have a love affair with Hooked on Phonics. My problem is that you learn proper grammar by being exposed to proper grammar, and you will emulate the language structure of your environment.

For all the millions of books out there kids could read, there is absolutely no reason for these books to be read, unless of course they were being used to discuss bad grammar.

If the books only used the bad grammar in the journal parts (where Junie B is writing herself), then I think it would be fine. The kid reading the book could easily compare that to the rest of the correct grammar used in the story. Unfortunately, the grammar is deliberately destroyed throughout, and gives no point of reference to the 6 year old kid who's trying to decipher it.

Junie B. Jones is well on her way to becoming an unemployed gas station attendant who is begging for a shot to appear on the Jerry Springer show. More power to her, but that's not who I want my kids emulating.

Hasta la vista, Junie. I hoping that you'll get a very goodly life when you do.

PS - if my English is incorrect, I blame the fact that I just had to read a whole chapter of this claptrap to Kaitlyn. The last sentence is supposed to be messed up, as, of coursely, you could most plain to tell.