Pecan Pie

Social Anxiety from the South

Wat iz ur gramer lik?

*le sigh* Like a huge sigh.

The weekend of Hallowe’en, I had the opportunity to speak in front of my colleagues at the Georgia Sociological Association annual meeting.  In the midst of papers and presentations on a myriad of topics that are important or interesting to me, one specifically caught my attention.  I’d been considering writing an article about the loss of proper respect for the English language for a while and this presentation on student expectations convinced me it wasn’t just important, but necessary.

I read an article on the lack of understanding college students have about plagiarism and correct citation.  Because the internet has allowed us unlimited access to ideas and information, students are beginning to think that public domain goes for every idea, since there mustn’t be anything new under the sun by now.   As Stanley Fish points out, “Plagiarism is like that; it’s an insider’s obsession.  If you’re a professional journalist, or an academic historian, or a philosopher, or a social scientist or a scientist, the game you play for a living is underwritten by the assumed value of originality and failure properly to credit the work of others is a big and obvious no-no.  But if you’re a musician or a novelist, the boundary lines are less clear (although there certainly are some) and if you’re a politician it may not occur to you, as it did not at one time to Joe Biden, that you’re doing anything wrong when you appropriate the speech of a revered statesman. And if you’re a student, plagiarism will seem to be an annoying guild imposition without a persuasive rationale  (who cares?); for students, learning the rules of plagiarism is worse than learning the irregular conjugations of a foreign language. It takes years, and while a knowledge of irregular verbs might conceivably come in handy if you travel, knowledge of what is and is not plagiarism in this or that professional practice is not something that will be of very much use to you unless  you end up becoming a member of the profession yourself.

I differ with the author on that last point.  I do think the knowledge and ethics that go along with using the ideas of others is a skill one can use and should use forever…but maybe I’m a bit romantic about the writing goals of undergraduate students?

Even the simplest of things are unimportant to kids.  Txttlk has eliminated the need for vowels and replaced them with some horrific version of phonetic spelling that makes me want to smack the back of the head of the child attempting to speak to me in that manner…either via texting or on a Facebook exchange.

So, when I saw Dr. Paul Shapiro’s  (Georgia Southwestern State University) presentation on the huge discrepancy between incoming freshmen expectations and those of their professors…I knew the problem wasn’t just me playing the role of Elder More Experienced and Knowitall Generational Mouthpiece.  The gap between students and professors is alarming.  Students have a low grasp of proper spelling, grammar and English usage (which I can plainly see from day to day interactions with both young people and their parents every day on social networking media) and then expect, according to Shapiro’s findings, to be rewarded for just trying hard.

This brings me to two issues, parents who have a low grasp of all of these concepts and secondary teachers who refuse to enforce realistic expectations that will allow their students to succeed from the beginning once they reach the collegiate level.  When children do poorly, they expect extra credit or at bare minimum a passing grade just for showing up.

When I was a student, my parents never told me how to spell anything.  When I asked, their response was, “I don’t know, why don’t you go look it up?”  This meant, to me, that I needed to learn how to use the resources available to me in order to obtain the correct answer.  We diagrammed sentences in my English usage class and had a spelling test every week until the 6th grade.  I’m coming into contact more and more with children and their parents or other grown-ups who couldn’t care less about spelling properly and in turn being perceived as having a worthless opinion.
All people should have the right to be heard.  But, if I can’t understand a damn word you’re saying…or I expect it’s not even your own opinion in the first place can you really blame me for blowing you off as pointless?

You can’t.  And I may.  So, yanno, take a hint and crack that from time to time and learn how to correctly quote that someone that said that one thing that really put your thoughts into words for you that one time…so you can speak clearly and I can listen to you more discerningly.  Ya dig?

Are you more inclined to ignore someone’s opinion if they have excessive grammar/spellingfail?

Written by thelittlepecan

November 7, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Posted in atheism

12 Responses

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  1. As usual, you are dead on.

    This does remind me of the 90’s and the influx of Ebonics. People ranted and raved about the dangers it invoked. Fortunately, that was almost entirely a spoken language and you could rightfully disseminate that and proper English.

    In comparison, txttalk is frightful in that one’s spoken language and their written language are now separated. One can rightfully speculate that you can speak well, but can’t spell worth a damn.

    If the too don’t merge, as they should, I am afraid that one day advertisements to and from work will look like “O HAI GUYS! U shld buy r stuff. Kthanksbai!”

    Don Hill

    November 8, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    • The thing about “Ebonics” was that it had historical context (see the Gullah geechee language in the low country of South Carolina) but of course, most people didn’t know that or care to find out because it was easier to marginalize the Black minority more than they already were.

      Also, you make me laugh my pants off.


      November 8, 2010 at 5:53 pm

  2. There is a difference between a generation bonding through a common language which annoys their elders, and an entire generation, or two, or perhaps a majority of our society, embracing ignorance.

    I fear that more and more Americans have willfully chosen ignorance. And the children need to know that it is NOT acceptable to txttlk outside of txtng.

    And I really think that parents who wish to home school their children ought to be able to pass some at least a literacy test.


    November 8, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    • If me not raising my child to believe in god counts as abuse, I should be able to call DFCS on your stupid ass for not knowing how to string a proper sentence together and exercising your “right” to pass that on to your kids.

      The thing is, I’m a big supporter of home schooling…just not for the schooling of kids by idiot parents.


      November 8, 2010 at 12:14 pm

  3. Uhhh, I say askance. And askew, and eschew. And myriad other words that make people blink and ask if that is contagious.But I also agree text talk and the like has absolutely no place in the classroom with the exception of on-the-sly classroom texting, which has become the new black in note-passing.


    November 8, 2010 at 4:46 am

    • You say askance, but YOU are not currently kicking my ass unfairly at Scrabble like Jim here. LMAO!


      November 8, 2010 at 11:21 am

  4. I lurves you. You know, when I was still hooked on the crack section at cafemom, I saw it there all the time. People constantly defending their right to come across as stupid simply because "it's just the internet". And yes, this is America; of course they have the right to be stupid. But then I have the right to not take them at all seriously in regard to whatever drivel, er point, they are trying to convey. The worst thing? The number of these blithely, blissfully, woefully ignorant people asking questions about home-schooling their kids. Seriously? You cannot string five words together properly, much less manage to capitalize OR punctuate that wanna-be sentence, and you want to be that personally responsible for a child's entire education?Oh, no. Just no. Please, no.


    November 8, 2010 at 4:41 am

  5. Speaking and writing in pop culture are not the same as speaking and writing in the classroom. Your kid can't spell bread, what, or you not because it's part of texting but because they're too lazy to look up proper spelling.I don't mind certain evolution of language, but that is not what this is. This is the breakdown of language in a manner that makes us all look like fucking idiots to the outside world and makes our kids look like spoiled, pretentious, entitled brats to their new found professors (who I promise will not give one goddamn about which generation is doing what when it comes time to give grades.)You're focusing on the texting, I think and not on the overall problem of grammar atrociousness. Kid's in the 6th grade should have a good working knowledge on writing a proper report. If they don't, then they don't get an A. That's the damn coddling people are always talking about.I can't believe you of all people is defending this? I'm kind of appalled. As much as you read and write. Surely you value language at least as much as I think you do…are you defending the ridiculousness that is written on the grocery list? Or the fact that we both know an English teacher with the worst spelling ever?I think you may be fucking with me. Who the hell says askance?


    November 7, 2010 at 11:46 pm

  6. But that's not new. It's the same as it's ever been, just in a new milieu. This generation speaks differently from the last generation and they need to learn how to speak the old way to influence the older generation. Our job is to disapprove and protect the old ways. Their job is to look at us askance when we disapprove of their newspeak.


    November 7, 2010 at 11:16 pm

  7. Are you kidding me? I AM the texting generation. The 80's babies pioneered texting, chat and instant messaging.In any event, it isn't just annoying and the fact that it may be comforting to them is going to do them a huge disservice when they get into college. You cannot put wats 4 diner on the grocery list and expect mom or dad to respond to that or even know what the hell it means!But this isn't just about poor text and grammar. It's about those things coupled with the necessity of a good education. And being fine with having ridiculously low expectations of themselves and expecting those expectations to be okay with professors, teachers, parents and oh, yeah, the rest of the literate world!If it stayed in texting between friends, fine, but it doesn't. Txttlk is invading papers for a GRADE for crying out loud. And no one seems to care outside of academia. You know, not saying the fucking Pledge of Allegiance is a moral offense, but our kids can't spell correctly (at home or in class) and it gets excused as typical generation gap bullshit?Hell. No. Absolutely not. Kids who value their education do not do these things (or not with clueless abandon)kids who do these things wind up being parents who do these things and they work at jobs where literary intelligence or, hey, literacy at all, is secondary and post mindless drivel on the internet for the whole world to see…and then they wonder why no one makes an effort to LISTEN to them. Well, when I can't understand a damn word you say, hell no I don't want to hear you.


    November 8, 2010 at 12:53 am

  8. It's more than a difference in expectations. "Kids" make their typing language specifically different in order to differentiate. It's their slang. We're in the age of global entertainment and universal accents. The next generation has found a way to create their own idiom. And just like every generation before them, it is as intentionally irritating to 'outsiders' as it is comforting to them.


    November 8, 2010 at 12:21 am

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