August 21, 2006

Is our children learning?

Via the ever erudite Steevil (well known rocketologist), this article from the Washington Post by journalism prof Michael Skube, in which he wonders if anyone is teaching basic English anymore.

Not enough, they aren't. I'm blessed with a pack of kids who are voracious readers and who manage to do quite well in their language classes, yet even then, they manage to come up with some real corkers when it comes to words. My biggest chore is trying to instill in them some sense of how to figure out meaning from context, and failing that, to GO LOOK IT UP.

I will take slight issue with the author on one thing--sometimes a dictionary by itself isn't quite as useful as he or I might think, because the information available online truly is amazing. IF you know where to look. I pretend to know a lot, but really I just know where to look, and one of the handiest online references is the OneLook dictionary. Another that I use even more is one that's actually part of a University of Chicago project about the French language, ARTFL--it's an online version of the 1913 Webster's Revised Unabridged dictionary. It's quick and simple and gives a much richer background, and has more obsolete words, than many newer dictionaries.

Anywho, make sure your kids can name some favorite authors.

(When I hit the gates of College U. back in the Long Ago, I think I remember my favorites being Twain, Thurber, P.J. O'Rourke, and Samuel Eliot Morrison. Not that anyone ever asked me, because they didn't.)

Posted by Terry Oglesby at August 21, 2006 11:07 AM

I liked a whole galaxy of science fiction authors, including, but not limited to the ABC of science fiction.

I regards to "is our children learning?" there is a reason that I like playing "School House Rock" when I tool around in the van. It's educational, entertaining and I just plain like the tunes.

Posted by: Sarah G. at August 21, 2006 12:06 PM

The problem goes way back. In the mid '70s, when she was a history grad assistant, there was a lot of whining from students about being graded on grammar and spelling (the class policy was that if the grader couldn't tell what you were trying to say, you lost points). One student admitted he'd gotten 4 years of high English credit for photography classes.

Posted by: steevil (Dr Weevil's bro Steve) at August 21, 2006 12:11 PM

It is fun--I wonder how many people my age learned more about adjectives and how bills become law from Schoolhouse Rock than in the classroom?

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at August 21, 2006 12:11 PM

Steevil, I wonder how common it was then, versus how common it is now? Although I know there have always been poor students, it seems that there's been a push the last 20 years or so to excuse the lack of basic skills.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at August 21, 2006 12:18 PM

I just looked at my comment and saw how illiterate it is. Of course I was talking about Miss Kathie as the history grad assistant, and the kid didn't get high credit (or maybe he did, it was the '70s after all), but high school credit.

Posted by: steevil (Dr Weevil's bro Steve) at August 21, 2006 07:23 PM