A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Sunday, November 12, 2006


New Zealand's national education officials have added their litle bit in the collapse of actual standards in the onslaught of popular "culture:"
New Zealand's high school students will be able to use "text-speak" -- the mobile phone text message language beloved of teenagers -- in national exams this year, officials said.

Text-speak, a second language for thousands of teens, uses abbreviated words and phrases such as "txt" for "text", "lol" for "laughing out loud" or "lots of love," and "CU" for "see you."

The move has already divided students and educators who fear it could damage the English language.

There's more to read in the whole thing, because later it is suggested that perhaps the abbreviations would be penalized on the English exams.

It all boils down to what final product is desired. Are we merely being elitist to expect an academic paper to adhere to certain standards? I hardly think anyone would claim that the expectation to communicate clearly is too rigorous. Oooh- or is this perhaps a diabolical plot to kill text-speak by making it profoundly uncool? THAT might make this a good bargain!

I've told my students that text-speak is unacceptable in written work. I will also correct the first misspellings of unusual words, such as "laissez-faire," but I take points off for misspelling common words such as cities, because, or soldier. Attention to detail is a discipline which I believe is sadly lacking in American society, and I believe that students can meet this expectation. I refuse to give up on kids and believe that they can't learn to write and think clearly. A compromise on standards nearly always results in a further slide down the slope of unacceptable behavior.


At 11/12/06, 6:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I certainly hope the US doesn't go this way. My students (K-6) are lazy enough as it is, give them the opportunity to abbriviate and they will never learn.

With your "laissez-faire" example, if another teacher allowed them to spell it wrong every time, when they came to the word in college they aren't going to know it.

Of course, if we make them work and have normal expectations for them, we are probably direspecting them. We aren't letting them be their own person.

At 11/12/06, 11:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first reaction?

*me falling down on the floor, Planet-of-the-Apes-Charleton Heston-style*


At 11/13/06, 9:20 AM, Blogger fillyjonk said...

What about the poor folks (most of them "classically" trained teachers - that is, people for whom text-speak is NOT necessarily something that comes easy) who have to read these tests?

I'd really bitch about it if that happened here; it gives me a headache to try to decipher text-speak.

Which I guess proves your point: it's not sufficiently good communication. At least for those of us over 30.

At 11/13/06, 12:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the "ebonics" debate several years ago. It's a shame that we are allowing our kids to dictate how to test them, rather than standard English. They will not be able to get jobs if they cannot communicate in English.

At 11/14/06, 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is just wrong, plain wrong.

I teach math, not English, and I make a huge deal about this. Any word written this way will be not read, and if the explanation becomes unintelligible you earned a zero, darling.

It is not elitism. It is respect to make your writing understandable to everybody. Unfortunately I find myself already fighting this tendency with adults on their thirties.

Please, Ms Cornelius, tell me that you will fix it and that we are not doom.

At 11/14/06, 4:54 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

I'm afraid this is beyond my power to fix, grasshopper. But if I could I WOULD.

This all goes back to a basic rejection of intellectualism that, apparently, is not just confined to this country. After all, the land of Voltaire loved Jerry Lewis, yes?

And I think an excellent poiny is made about many people as ancient as I am not understanding text-speak. This undermines the goal of writing clearly in an academic setting.

At 11/27/06, 10:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not only is texting less precise, it is inefficient. Check out the Morse Code vs. mobile texting contest at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-2-1571664,00.html ! Now if the kids wanted to write in Morse. . .
A classically trained teacher with degrees in biology and German

At 10/29/08, 3:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't suppose you know of any research that says this is detremental or beneficial to children do you? i'm really struggling to find some but am really interested in what has been said. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks, Laura


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