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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by LetterRip:

The basic skill of reading and writing is enormously important, but most of english classes are fairly much wastes of time beyond the third grade or so and turn into - practice this spelling list; spend inordinate amounts of time on famous books of the past and discuss fairly unimportant concepts of english literature, memorize useless bits of shakespheare (memorizing Hamlets 'To Be or Not to Be' is ridiculously common) etc.

Those practices (which aren't all that common anymore) are the direct consequence of standardization of education. I'm astonished that you can cite them as poor method (which they are) and yet advocate that central authorities obliterate the last remnants of autonomy teachers have to abandon such nonsense. Do you honestly believe that the typical English teacher is going to be *more* likely to want to do rote memorization and stale rehashing of the canon, than will be dictated by whichever bureaucracy creates the standards?
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LetterRip
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Adam,

those practices had nothing to do with 'standardized education'. They are mostly about 'teaching what is easy to grade' and 'teaching what the teacher was taught was important'.

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by LetterRip:
Adam,

those practices had nothing to do with 'standardized education'. They are mostly about 'teaching what is easy to grade' and 'teaching what the teacher was taught was important'.

LR, I hate to have to ask this, but do you even KNOW what standardized education *means*?

My sister teaches first grade in her home town, a coastal Alaskan fishing village whose population is over 90% Y'upic. The community struggles with alcoholism and low employment, is slowly losing its traditional language, and is very remote; accessible only by boat or airplane.

I teach in two rural Maine elementary schools. We have some of the lowest teacher salaries in the nation, but a relatively low cost of living to offset that, and a strong faculty. Local employment opportunities are in decline, and have been for decades; indeed, one of the town I work in was nearly six times as large a century ago, the hub of a major commuter rail system for western Maine. Our community is massively ethnically homogeneous, and has some rather steep class divisions (our small district contains one of the wealthiest municipalities in the state, and two of the poorest).

My best friend from high school, now a social worker, spent two years in Teach for America, working in Louisiana. His school was massively underfunded and also very racially homogeneous (he had no white students his first year). Their community struggled with a host of social ills, from a high incarceration rate to large numbers of single-parent families. Classroom numbers often got as large as 40 students per room.

Standardization means that these three schools would be expected to have the same curriculum, and the same outcomes, not just for each class, but for each student. To whatever degree the system is standardized, that is the degree to which communities, parents and students have no say over what they learn, how they learn it, or where they go with it. Instead, those decisions are made, en masse, for everyone, (and through a process that is more political than it is educational, to boot)

What our schools should be providing most students with *in common* is basic literacy and civics. Those are the only things that are universally required to function in our society (and the civics part is more an ideal on my part than a practical necessity). Standardization of math and science is as absurd as standardizing playing the cello; its a relic of cold war militarism that accomplishes nothing. Even if we started allowing teachers to teach that subject in the context of how most people will use it (home finances, basic problem solving), we'd get a lot better results.

All subjects should be available, and students should without question be given rigorous and challenging courses of study. The only problem is the absurd notion that schools should be teaching the same thing to every student, beyond a mere fraction of necessary common knowledge. Heck, this has been true since we developed specialization of labor; isn't it time to concede the point?

Incidentally, I can name plenty of direct consequences of standardization happening in each of these schools, and they aren't even remotely positive. Y'upic will become a dead language very quickly if the standardization movement gets its way; with the difficulties those students face, there's no way they can meet federal standards in English without total school immersion. If you've never considered how standardization could be used as a tool for cultural genocide, you might want to speak to some of the millions of Americans who speak English as a second language. Students in my district have experienced ten years of vanishing curriculum alternatives; excellent programs that often served as the reason kids would bother to stay in school, because instruction time in the tested areas has to keep increasing to avoid the direct monetary penalties associated with not meeting benchmarks (which would mean program cuts anyway). My wife, who performed on Broadway in her youth and studied theatre at NYU, used to teach a drama program that was one of the most highly praised programs I've ever seen in our district, by students, parents and administrators. Now she teaches English 11, with one period every other day for drama.

The list goes on and on. I realize that this is a heated discussion, and I apologize for any personal offense I may be causing, but you are deeply, fundamentally wrong here. I have watched the ideas you are espousing needlessly hurting schools and students for a decade now, and teachers all across the country are almost unanimous on this point. Standardization is flawed at its core, and its application is a history of bad policies. The injustice of calling this a "reform" is maddening, especially considering how much good genuine reform could do.

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LetterRip
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Adam,

quote:
What our schools should be providing most students with *in common* is basic literacy and civics. Those are the only things that are universally required to function in our society (and the civics part is more an ideal on my part than a practical necessity).
Ok, fair enough. Although functional isn't the only goal. We want children to be provided with the skills necessary to take advantage of opportunities and to achieve something worthwhile.

quote:
Standardization of math and science is as absurd as standardizing playing the cello; its a relic of cold war militarism that accomplishes nothing.
Completely disagree, mathematics and science are the basis for almost all of our historical progress.

quote:
Even if we started allowing teachers to teach that subject in the context of how most people will use it (home finances, basic problem solving), we'd get a lot better results.
I really don't much care how it is taught. Although I've designed a method that I think will be enormously effective.

quote:
Incidentally, I can name plenty of direct consequences of standardization happening in each of these schools, and they aren't even remotely positive. Y'upic will become a dead language very quickly if the standardization movement gets its way;
In my view Y'upic has no actual value to them, the only reason to maintain it is romantic notions and sentimentality. It should certainly be allowed as an elective language just as we offer other non english languages such as spanish, french, greek, latin, or japanese.

quote:
With the difficulties those students face, there's no way they can meet federal standards in English without total school immersion. If you've never considered how standardization could be used as a tool for cultural genocide, you might want to speak to some of the millions of Americans who speak English as a second language.
Cultural genocide seems rather melodramatic. If the entire suddenly spoke a single language, there wouldn't be any real loss, and much benefit. Much of culture is fairly pointless - people think its important out of sentimentality. It shouldn't be a concern of the government to maintain it. If familys and cultures wish to maintain it, then they should encourage it outside the classroom, or in elective classes.

quote:
Students in my district have experienced ten years of vanishing curriculum alternatives; excellent programs that often served as the reason kids would bother to stay in school, because instruction time in the tested areas has to keep increasing to avoid the direct monetary penalties associated with not meeting benchmarks (which would mean program cuts anyway).
I would have done a carrot approach - anyone who doesn't score above x these tests will not be able to take electives but instead will require additional core curriculum classes. Make it clear to students that if they want to keep taking electives that are important to them, that they need to put in effort. Students can be rational.

quote:
The list goes on and on. I realize that this is a heated discussion, and I apologize for any personal offense I may be causing, but you are deeply, fundamentally wrong here.
Nothing to apologize for, but I think yu are 'deeply, fundamentally wrong' also [Smile]

quote:
I have watched the ideas you are espousing needlessly hurting schools and students for a decade now, and teachers all across the country are almost unanimous on this point.
My ideas haven't been implemented so I doubt they are hurting anyone [Smile]

quote:
Standardization is flawed at its core, and its application is a history of bad policies. The injustice of calling this a "reform" is maddening, especially considering how much good genuine reform could do.
Standardization as implemented is far from perfect. That doesn't mean it is a wrong goal.
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Pete at Home
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"Incidentally, I can name plenty of direct consequences of standardization happening in each of these schools, and they aren't even remotely positive. Y'upic will become a dead language very quickly if the standardization movement gets its way;

In my view Y'upic has no actual value to them, the only reason to maintain it is romantic notions and sentimentality."

Adam, the kids need to learn English. LR, the language is their cultural identity.

I don't understand why you both seem to assume that maintaining the Y'upic language would need to fall to public school system.

The parents can teach them Y'upic, as they have for generations. What exactly is the problem?

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I'd say history classes as currently taught are by far the least important classes - they teach memorization of famous people, locations, events, and famous dates.
Before we go on, I have to say that I find this fascinating. Because this is not how history classes are currently taught, but rather how history classes are generally tested.

I notice a strong correlation between disciplines that are more easily tracked with simple metrics and your perception of utility. This may artificially inflate the value of metrics in your opinion.

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by LetterRip:


quote:
Incidentally, I can name plenty of direct consequences of standardization happening in each of these schools, and they aren't even remotely positive. Y'upic will become a dead language very quickly if the standardization movement gets its way;
In my view Y'upic has no actual value to them, the only reason to maintain it is romantic notions and sentimentality.
quote:
With the difficulties those students face, there's no way they can meet federal standards in English without total school immersion. If you've never considered how standardization could be used as a tool for cultural genocide, you might want to speak to some of the millions of Americans who speak English as a second language.
Cultural genocide seems rather melodramatic. If the entire suddenly spoke a single language, there wouldn't be any real loss, and much benefit. Much of culture is fairly pointless - people think its important out of sentimentality. It shouldn't be a concern of the government to maintain it. If familys and cultures wish to maintain it, then they should encourage it outside the classroom, or in elective classes.

Well, you are certainly entitled to these views, but they are textbook authoritarianism, and to argue against them means stepping back and arguing against authoritarianism. I tend to assume thats a given, but if not, well, start by considering how well biological homogeneity does in competition versus biological diversity. Ten ask whether its likely that the opposite is true with cultural forms. Or just start with the classic "Would you support an authoritarian state if it wasn't run by you?"

@Pete
Its not the government's "job", but its a little disingenuous to suggest that removing the language from schools is simply "not supporting it." Education is the gateway to our economy on almost every level; its not really optional if people want to eat. Its also a massive driver of community norms, inescapably. By dictating the content of the school day, government is absolutely dictating to a large degree what people think, feel and value. That can't be hand-washed away.

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Pete at Home
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"@Pete
Its not the government's "job", but its a little disingenuous to suggest that removing the language from schools is simply "not supporting it." Education is the gateway to our economy on almost every level; its not really optional if people want to eat. Its also a massive driver of community norms, inescapably. By dictating the content of the school day, government is absolutely dictating to a large degree what people think, feel and value. That can't be hand-washed away."

Your highly annoying and inappropriate use of the word "disingenuous" does not wash away the fact that none of the statements that follow remotely connect with the bizarre assumption that I was questioning, i.e. that the government needs to teach children the language that their parents already taught them.

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LetterRip
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Pete,

I didn't make the assumption that it should be done by government, finish reading the whole thing. I said if it was desired by the local community/students it could be offered as an elective.

Regarding it being a cultural identity - I'm aware of that I just see no value in it. People regularly switch or lose cultural identity and there seems no particular detriment.

Adam,

Not having the government take an active role in maintaining a language or culture is not Authoritarianism.

Trying to equate biological monoculture to a reduced number of languages suggests a lack of understanding of biology and of language. Lack of biological diversity is of concern due to disease susceptibility, and other evolutionary pressures. The purpose of language is communication and thinking. If all the ideas in one language can readily and more easily be expressed in the other, then the first language is of no utility, indeed is of negative utility since it reduces the power of network effects. Ok there is one use - if aliens invade we could use them as code talkers.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
If all the ideas in one language can readily and more easily be expressed in the other
As with "if this model is designed properly," we're talking here about a heroically huge "if." Don't you think?

I mean, I'm reasonably fluent in three languages and know a smattering of a handful more, and I wouldn't say that any one of them is capable of expressing all ideas more easily and more readily than any of the others.

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by LetterRip:

Not having the government take an active role in maintaining a language or culture is not Authoritarianism.

Having the government dictate the content of education is authoritarian. Indeed, its essentially the Prussian model:

"The Prussian system instituted compulsory attendance, specific training for teachers, national testing for all students (used to classify children for potential job training), national curriculum set for each grade and mandatory kindergarten."

This model was a direct precursor to Fascist authoritarianism in Europe:

"Seeking to replace the controlling functions of the local aristocracy, the Prussian court attempted to instill social obedience in the citizens through indoctrination. Every individual had to become convinced, in the core of his being, that the King was just, his decisions always right, and the need for obedience paramount.[citation needed]
The schools imposed an official language, to the prejudice of ethnic groups living in Prussia. The purpose of the system was to instill loyalty to the Crown and to train young men for the military and the bureaucracy. As the German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, a key influence on the system, said, "If you want to influence [the student] at all, you must do more than merely talk to him; you must fashion him, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will." ( source)

quote:
Trying to equate biological monoculture to a reduced number of languages suggests a lack of understanding of biology and of language. Lack of biological diversity is of concern due to disease susceptibility, and other evolutionary pressures. The purpose of language is communication and thinking. If all the ideas in one language can readily and more easily be expressed in the other, then the first language is of no utility, indeed is of negative utility since it reduces the power of network effects. Ok there is one use - if aliens invade we could use them as code talkers.
You are minimizing the benefits of bio-diversity, which is basically the direct capacity of an ecosystem to adapt to change. Culture also serves this function, and you have likewise reduced it to an absrud degree. Irregardless, the fact remains that mandating the speaking of a national language in schools is authoritarian (with copious real world examples, hundreds alone in PRC China), and what you are proposing does in fact mandate the speaking of English in all community schools.

quote:
Your highly annoying and inappropriate use of the word "disingenuous" does not wash away the fact that none of the statements that follow remotely connect with the bizarre assumption that I was questioning, i.e. that the government needs to teach children the language that their parents already taught them.
"Disingenuous" was meant to refer to your reduction of an imposed language with simply "not teaching it". I assumed you were familiar with examples of States mandating the use of national language use in schools in minority areas as a form of oppression. I vaguely recall discussing this exact practice in Tibet with you, but I may be mistaken. If this is not the case, then I would replace that word with "misinformed".
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seekingprometheus
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quote:
I mean, I'm reasonably fluent in three languages and know a smattering of a handful more, and I wouldn't say that any one of them is capable of expressing all ideas more easily and more readily than any of the others.
Well, certain cultural constructs and values don't translate cross-culturally, and the languages reflect this. Humor is an easy example--sarcasm often doesn't translate well into spanish, for instance, but this is an artifact of culture rather than of language per se.

In any case, science and the humanities are both responsible for the progress of civilization--how did folks get stuck thinking one or the other was more important?

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LetterRip
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Adam,

X does y and is a z, r does y. It does not follow that r is a z. Almost every country has an official/national language and almost none are authoritarian. Similarly a centrally agreed on core curriculum would not be authoritarian. If those two are enough to merit authoritarian governments, than essentially almost all governments would meet that definition.

You switched to entirely different questions on your biology and language question. Language isn't a ne essary or sufficient as culture. So using a common language and dropping an obscure one doesn't eliminate a culture. The full diversity of culture and any benefits thereof can be maintained without the language.

TomD,

What ideas do you think can't be expressed adequately in English? Also English can adapt any word with usage, and any word is allowed to adapt additional meanings through usage. So any deficiency of expression is fairly readily remedied.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
What ideas do you think can't be expressed adequately in English?
There is a distinction between "adequately" and "well." Consider, for example, the reason we have cribbed "ennui" and "schadenfreude."
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seekingprometheus
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quote:
Consider, for example, the reason we have cribbed "ennui" and "schadenfreude."
There's no reason English terminology for these ideas couldn't have been coined, or other words adapted to encompass the meaning. The memes simply obtained verbal significance in other cultures first, and were exchanged by cosmopolitan English-speaking sophisticates enough that they stuck in the original languages.
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TomDavidson
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Certainly, there is no reason that we cannot simply coin a word, willy-nilly, when the need for a given word arises. But there's something to be said for connotation, idiom, and phonetic semiotics as well, don't you think?

And I ask that with a knowing wink, Mr. I'm-Going-To-Make-This-Into-A-Pun-Come-Hell-Or-High-Water. [Smile]

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Chael
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Here is a reasonably interesting link about the link between different languages and different conceptual frameworks.

Languages are not interchangeable, and it often isn't merely a matter of borrowing a word or two to make up the difference. That said, how much utility multiple languages provide is a question I imagine each person should answer for himself.

Edited to add: And yes, the puns! Oh, the marvelous puns one can employ by speaking multiple languages fluently! [Wink]

[ September 20, 2012, 12:18 AM: Message edited by: Chael ]

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seekingprometheus
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quote:
But there's something to be said for connotation, idiom, and phonetic semiotics as well, don't you think?
Oh, absolutely.

Moreover, the etymological associations that can be related to a given coining will shape the way that it is understood, as well.

And the specific language we use to organize and express our thoughts absolutely does modify the way we relate to those thoughts, too, as Chael's fascinating link indicates.

But none of this suggests that a meme can't be expressed just as well in a different language--it just means that the meme will be comprehended slightly differently based on on the new wrapping.

And my surname is actually pronounced: "I'm-Going-To-Make-This-Into-Fun-While-The-Dumb-Yell-And-Ply-Fodder," in my native tongue. Some of my language's consonants are pronounced slightly differently, which is why sometimes people think that I don't consonate correctly...

[Wink]

[ September 20, 2012, 01:31 AM: Message edited by: seekingprometheus ]

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Pete at Home
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Adam, to avoid, say, some analogy to conservatives characterizing gun control as bad because Hitler did it, which would offend the Godwin Nazis in the house, (no more Nazi references for you!), consider the plight of Winston when he stepped into the Prole bar to try to ask old dudes how things had changed, and ends up getting an earful about the horrible oppression of the metric system, and how a pint of beer really used to hit the spot. Setting aside the fact that bad people do it, what's particularly wrong with it?

Seems to me that it would make a difference how one taught the dominant language. Punishing kids for speaking their own language, as the US used to do with native Americans, would tend to support your point. And the fact that China allows teaching in Cantonese in some areas, but not Tibetan, would tend to support your oppression theory.

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seekingprometheus
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BTW, TD:

"I'm-Gon-Two-Make-This-In-Two-Fun-While-The-Dum-Yell-En-Ply-Fodder" is another fine translation, but I'm not sure if the term "yellenply," will cognate well enough to mean anything cross-culturally significant (or "nous-etically know-etic," for those fluent enough in un-deux-ing meme-creams to follow the paranthetical effloozence). And, of course, it needs to be understood that "fodder" is just food der, fo' de' rhyme theme that info'd der rhythemic scheme, if I really want to use my native accent to somehow Punnish English into Arhythmetic.

Which isn't to say that in education we should punish English for the sake of Arithmetic--everyone should agree that that would be derivative (whether or not it's effectively edeuxative, if you'll pardon my gaullingly greekified English). See, it isn't just in Punnish that things mean more than one thing--this is a pluriversal truth, so we're best served by practicing lots of ways of thinking about languages to help us in our math; after all, that's how we figure out all the whats and hows that we should count.

(What!? How's that?!?)

[Big Grin]

(And I've half a mind to ban myself from this thread for six weeks for subjecting the board to this much punnographic crap, but, then again, I'm might be able to get some leniency on the basis of arguing that my fanatical goad was got...)

[ September 20, 2012, 05:05 AM: Message edited by: seekingprometheus ]

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seekingprometheus
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Pete:

O God--you win! Why you got to get nazious everywhere?

[Wink]

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Pete at Home
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You like the Godwin Nazi? [Cool]

Try the Grammar Nazi

As for why, here's how I see it. Trivializing the holocaust, bad juju. Denying the holocaust, worse juju. Hence Godwin is more sinning than sinned against.

[ September 20, 2012, 05:11 AM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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philnotfil
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quote:
Originally posted by LetterRip:
I would have done a carrot approach - anyone who doesn't score above x these tests will not be able to take electives but instead will require additional core curriculum classes. Make it clear to students that if they want to keep taking electives that are important to them, that they need to put in effort. Students can be rational.

Can is not the same as will. The courts where I used to play basketball were dominated by kids who could have played high level DI ball, if they had been able to graduate from high school. That wasn't enough of a carrot for them. How much of a carrot do we need to be offering these kids?


I recognize many of the positions that you are arguing for. I held most of them as recently as my first year of teaching. Being in the classroom day in and day out over the course of several years dramatically changes my views on education and students and what the system needs. I would recommend trying it. If you have a degree you can get certified pretty easily. It may involve a pay cut, but you will never in your life have another opportunity to do so much good. (you will also likely never have another opportunity to see so much that causes you sorrow)

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by LetterRip:
Adam,

X does y and is a z, r does y. It does not follow that r is a z.

True. It doesn't mean that r is not a z either.

quote:
Almost every country has an official/national language and almost none are authoritarian.
Nations can have an official language without suppressing other languages. But that is actually rare. Many modern nation-states have engaged in authoritarian language-suppression, typically in modern history, when the rise of nationalism led to various oppressions of this type.

quote:
Similarly a centrally agreed on core curriculum would not be authoritarian.
It's a matter of degree, LR. In our system, we essentially subverted the Prussian model with our democratic ideals. The key principle that differentiates our system from authoritarianism is local control. Thanks to the work of people like John Dewey, we understood that *our* values of the sovereignty of the individual were not compatible with the Prussian model. So we changed the character of the system, and let individuals and communities determine the scope and course of their school's programs. If you read Democracy and Education, you will find a very articulate explanation of two key ideas; how education serves democracy by fostering self-governing citizens, and how democracy serves education by empowering the individual throughout the education process. Its absolutely essential reading to understand what makes our current system distinct from authoritarian educational systems. Its also a book that nearly every teacher in the country has probably read.

quote:
You switched to entirely different questions on your biology and language question. Language isn't a ne essary or sufficient as culture. So using a common language and dropping an obscure one doesn't eliminate a culture. The full diversity of culture and any benefits thereof can be maintained without the language.

You are demonstrating a marked lack of familiarity with these subjects. Basic anthropology would point out that the loss of language means the loss of oral history, as well as a large degree of cultural identity. There also happens to be an entire field of study, Ethnolinguistics, that has proven a thousand times over how false your last assertion here is. You may believe that culture is mostly useless, but the idea that language can be removed while leaving culture otherwise intact is a factual error (and a rather large one, too).
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LetterRip
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philnotfil,

quote:
It may involve a pay cut, but you will never in your life have another opportunity to do so much good.
Not so sure about 'never in your life have another opportunity to do so much good' (I know that is completely false in my specific case), but I actually have been thinking about doing teaching for awhile.

Adam,

quote:
Thanks to the work of people like John Dewey, we understood that *our* values of the sovereignty of the individual were not compatible with the Prussian model.
Which is of course nonsense. Local determination of some degree is useful (whether to offer Y'upik as an elective for instance; or possibly offering classes related to the local dominant industries - ie fishing or oil field related in alaska; animal husbandry and farming in Iowa), but in general offers no benefit over a centrally determined curriculum for core material (math, science, literacy, civics, history). The only effect of 'local determination' appears to have on core material an enormous amount of wasted money and time.

quote:
Basic anthropology would point out that the loss of language means the loss of oral history, as well as a large degree of cultural identity.
Actually you can translate oral history to a new language, so no loss is necessary. It is common to lose oral history during transition to a new language in that the younger generations usually switch to a new language due to the dominant culture and thus lose interest in the history of the non dominant culture.

quote:
You may believe that culture is mostly useless, but the idea that language can be removed while leaving culture otherwise intact is a factual error (and a rather large one, too).
A common case of confusing correlation with causation. Culture and language are generally lost at the same time, not due to any inherent tie between the two, but in that adoption of new language usually happens within the context of switching to a dominant culture. Yes there is a bit of cultural specifics in language but they are far from being significant aspects of the culture that would result in a loss of the culture from a switch to different language.
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LetterRip
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TomD,

a lot of words are cribbed from other languages because the word that has similar meaning in english has been overloaded with meaning. Thus creating a new word or borrowing an existing one from a different language, results in the new word having very narrow meaning again. This is why science has often borrowed from dead languages, to allow precision by addition of a new word.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
a lot of words are cribbed from other languages because the word that has similar meaning in english has been overloaded with meaning
Or vice versa, of course; I would argue that both words I provided are examples of the latter, and not the former.

But, yes, words can come to mean quite a lot beyond their literal denotation. I consider this an argument in favor of my point.

It occurs to me that in this, as with practically all your assertions in this thread, you are looking for a virtue in precision when precision is neither necessarily possible nor necessarily virtuous in some of the cases to which you're applying it. (We do not, for example, simply adopt words because they are more precise; we adopt them sometimes because they are less precise, but more evocative.)

[ September 20, 2012, 01:49 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by LetterRip:

quote:
You may believe that culture is mostly useless, but the idea that language can be removed while leaving culture otherwise intact is a factual error (and a rather large one, too).
A common case of confusing correlation with causation. Culture and language are generally lost at the same time, not due to any inherent tie between the two, but in that adoption of new language usually happens within the context of switching to a dominant culture. Yes there is a bit of cultural specifics in language but they are far from being significant aspects of the culture that would result in a loss of the culture from a switch to different language.
LR, you need to read the links; this is still a question of fact that you are getting wrong. This book intro talks about the relationship between language and culture (indeed, the entire book does), and reading just five pages in will give you dozens of examples of how cultural content is embedded in the very structure of language. Most anthropologists would call language the *most* significant aspect of culture, as it is both reflective in its structure of the subtle nuances of cultural values; and pervasive, in that every other aspect of culture is dealt with through language.

Do you have any basis from which to assert that there isn't an "inherent tie between the two"? Because there is far more consensus that there is; than there is for (for example) climate change (where we generally ask people who dismiss the broad consensus of researchers to back up their assertions in some way.)

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LetterRip
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Adam,

quote:
LR, you need to read the links; this is still a question of fact that you are getting wrong.
I've read the links.

For a rebuttal by a linguist see

quote:
What makes the potential death of a language all the more emotionally charged is the belief that if a language dies, a cultural worldview will die with it. But this idea is fragile. Certainly language is a key aspect of what distinguishes one group from another. However, a language itself does not correspond to the particulars of a culture but to a faceless process that creates new languages as the result of geographical separation.

[...]

Thus the oft-heard claim that the death of a language means the death of a culture puts the cart before the horse. When the culture dies, naturally the language dies along with it. The reverse, however, is not necessarily true. Groups do not find themselves in the bizarre circumstance of having all of their traditional cultural accoutrements in hand only to find themselves incapable of indigenous expression because they no longer speak the corresponding language. Native American groups would bristle at the idea that they are no longer meaningfully “Indian” simply because they no longer speak their ancestral tongue. Note also the obvious and vibrant black American culture in the United States, among people who speak not Yoruba but English.

The main loss when a language dies is not cultural but aesthetic. The click sounds in certain African languages are magnificent to hear. In many Amazonian languages, when you say something you have to specify, with a suffix, where you got the information. The Ket language of Siberia is so awesomely irregular as to seem a work of art.

But let’s remember that this aesthetic delight is mainly savored by the outside observer, often a professional savorer like myself. Professional linguists or anthropologists are part of a distinct human minority. Most people, in the West or anywhere else, find the fact that there are so many languages in the world no more interesting than I would find a list of all the makes of Toyota. So our case for preserving the world’s languages cannot be based on how fascinating their variegation appears to a few people in the world. The question is whether there is some urgent benefit to humanity from the fact that some people speak click languages, while others speak Ket or thousands of others, instead of everyone speaking in a universal tongue.

http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/cosmopolitan-tongue-universality-english

quote:
Do you have any basis from which to assert that there isn't an "inherent tie between the two"? Because there is far more consensus that there is
Consensus doesn't bear much weight with me, only quality of reasoning, and I suspect you don't know enough about the topic to know if there is actual consensus or whether the single viewpoint representing that view just happens to be what you are most exposed to (although I do agree that your view is the one that I've been most exposed to as well, so it might well be the 'consensus'). The above link briefly lays out the case why your view (and that held by your sources) is wrong. And answers your questions. He basically says the same things that I said, but more elaborated and is a linguist, so perhaps you will find more weight in his argument.

[ September 20, 2012, 03:33 PM: Message edited by: LetterRip ]

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D.W.
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quote:
What our schools should be providing most students with *in common* is basic literacy and civics. Those are the only things that are universally required to function in our society (and the civics part is more an ideal on my part than a practical necessity).
quote:
As the German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, a key influence on the system, said, "If you want to influence [the student] at all, you must do more than merely talk to him; you must fashion him, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will."
Adam, what falls under the umbrella of “civics” in your mind? I at least don’t feel science and math aren’t fashioning our will as much as “civics” could.

quote:
Irregardless, the fact remains that mandating the speaking of a national language in schools is authoritarian (with copious real world examples, hundreds alone in PRC China), and what you are proposing does in fact mandate the speaking of English in all community schools.
The teaching of additional languages is highly useful. Not mandating English as the primary language and that used for teaching is doing a disservice to the students. Mandate away. IMO it is ridiculous not to. What would be a concern would be to mandate no other language may be taught.

If an area is not fluent in English then additional time and resources should be used to change that fact, not to accommodate it.

I’ve always considered “standardized testing” to be the minimum required, not the goal of teaching. Our teachers should have free reign to supplement this minimum in whatever way they feel is appropriate. There should also be enough time in the day/week/semester/school year to provide additional help to weak areas of students to bring them up to the minimum.

While I think high scores on standardize testing does not tell the whole story on if kids are learning well or teachers are teaching well it is a decent way to answer the question of, “Is our school meeting the minimum standards our students need to succeed?” I believe the tests should continue to evolve and teachers should have a large say in what those tests should contain but they absolutely should be standardized across the country.

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by LetterRip:
Consensus doesn't bear much weight with me, only quality of reasoning, and I suspect you don't know enough about the topic to know if there is actual consensus or whether the single viewpoint representing that view just happens to be what you are most exposed to (although I do agree that your view is the one that I've been most exposed to as well, so it might well be the 'consensus'). The above link briefly lays out the case why your view (and that held by your sources) is wrong. And answers your questions. He basically says the same things that I said, but more elaborated and is a linguist, so perhaps you will find more weight in his argument.

Actually, his points are just as easy to rebut; they are contradicted by real world facts:

quote:
Groups do not find themselves in the bizarre circumstance of having all of their traditional cultural accoutrements in hand only to find themselves incapable of indigenous expression because they no longer speak the corresponding language.
Groups find themselves in *exactly* this situation all the time. Here is a Tibetan exile speaking about language suppression as a tool for cultural genocide:

"What one gets from the video is a sense of the power that language has in establishing identity, which in this case happily appears to invalidate very real differences between two antithetical religions. I don't know for how long the people of Baltistan will manage to keep their Tibetan ethnic and linguistic identity. It is possible that they might not be able to in the face of Islamic clerical and governmental pressure and coercion. Yet the fact that they have somehow managed to hang on to this heritage for over a thousand years is impressive and very moving. Clearly Tibetan is not one of those disappearing languages that experts say are becoming extinct at twice the rate of endangered mammals and four times the rate of endangered birds. Tibetan has, of course, the advantage of an old and practical (far more functional and efficient than Chinese) written script and a vast indigenous literature. It also has a calligraphic tradition that in terms of artistry and dynamism stand level with Arabic and Chinese.

Language is undoubtedly one the fundamental basis of Tibetan identity. Religion is important, of course, but has probably been overemphasized in the official Tibetan world because of the theocratic nature of the Tibetan government and its policy directions, which the Dalai Lama has clearly stated is the renunciation of political sovereignty in order to preserve the "Buddhist" culture of Tibet.

It is more than possible that the Communist Chinese authorities have now come around to seeing the Tibetan language as a dangerous challenge to their overall control of Tibet, in much the same way as they previously regarded the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism. Following the "success" of the Beijing Olympics and the world economic collapse there has also been a noticeable hardening in the overall leadership style of the Communist Party. Hence the pushing aside of Cantonese language program on Guangzhou TV this July in favor of Mandarin programming, which provoked a demonstration in that city and a small support rally in Hong Kong." Jamyang Norbu

And here is a Kurdish author talking about the cultural loss experienced due to Turkey's criminalization of the Kurdish language.

Is it even necessary to go on? This statement is buffoonish; people all over the world have been vocally lamenting the cultural impact of language loss for as long as governments have been suppressing it.

quote:
Native American groups would bristle at the idea that they are no longer meaningfully “Indian” simply because they no longer speak their ancestral tongue
Native American groups fight tooth and nail to hold on to their mother tongues, while articulating exactly how central it is to their culture. The National Alliance to Save Native Languages is one of numerous groups created for exactly this reason. Your source is ignorant of what I would have considered to be very well-publicized issues among Native Americans.

quote:
Note also the obvious and vibrant black American culture in the United States, among people who speak not Yoruba but English.
Non-sequitor. Do black Americans consider themselves members of the Yoruba culture? No, though it is notable that people like Alex Haley have famously *lamented* the loss of cultural traditions from Africa, that happened mainly due to the loss of language.

This isn't "quality of reasoning", its a poor source, with credentials, that happens to agree with your assumptions.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Native American groups would bristle at the idea that they are no longer meaningfully “Indian” simply because they no longer speak their ancestral tongue. Note also the obvious and vibrant black American culture in the United States, among people who speak not Yoruba but English.
*blink* What odd examples. I would say that Native American groups would bristle at the the idea, but that the idea is clearly valid; they are no longer meaningfully "Indian" at all, despite some serious efforts. And I would say that the obvious and vibrant black culture in this country is kept alive in part by the widespread use of dialect.
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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
*blink* What odd examples. I would say that Native American groups would bristle at the the idea, but that the idea is clearly valid; they are no longer meaningfully "Indian" at all, despite some serious efforts. And I would say that the obvious and vibrant black culture in this country is kept alive in part by the widespread use of dialect.

::double blink::

Are you saying that ebonics is the foundation of Black American culture? If an African-American does not speak ebonics, are they no longer "meaningfully" black? Are they "less black"?

I guess Bill Maher and Morgan Freeman were right. Bill Clinton was our first and only black President.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Are you saying that ebonics is the foundation of Black American culture? If an African-American does not speak ebonics, are they no longer "meaningfully" black? Are they "less black"?
I am saying that one of the factors that has kept "Black American" culture distinct and vibrant is the existence of a consistent and widely spoken dialect.
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LetterRip
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Adam,

you seem to be confusing attempts at forced suppression of a language and the resulting impact that has - with natural translation to different language.

You haven't really refuted anything.

quote:
Is it even necessary to go on? This statement is buffoonish; people all over the world have been vocally lamenting the cultural impact of language loss for as long as governments have been suppressing it.
People complain about all sorts of things all the time, that has nothing to do with the accuracy of their complaints. Keeping a unique language makes it easier to maintain a clear cultural divide. A unique language is a useful tool to maintain a unique culture because it prevents commonality and prevents transmission of culture. If I can't understand you, then adopting your customs is much less likely. Since culture tends to transfer from the dominant to the dominated group, having a language barrier slows the rate of adoption of the dominant cultures customs.
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Pete at Home
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Comparing the PRC's intentional cultural genocide with American erosion is kind of like referring to a consensual but clumsy and inspid lay as "rape."

"Following the "success" of the Beijing Olympics and the world economic collapse there has also been a noticeable hardening in the overall leadership style of the Communist Party. Hence the pushing aside of Cantonese language program on Guangzhou TV this July in favor of Mandarin programming, which provoked a demonstration in that city and a small support rally in Hong Kong."

That's very interesting! They are even suppressing Cantonese now? Damn.

"Most anthropologists would call language the *most* significant aspect of culture, as it is both reflective in its structure of the subtle nuances of cultural values; and pervasive, in that every other aspect of culture is dealt with through language."

I would strongly agree with Adam that language is a very meaningful, if not the most meaningful, element of culture. (Although I would say that it's not an *essential* element; it is possible to transmit culture across a language barrier).

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
Comparing the PRC's intentional cultural genocide with American erosion is kind of like referring to a consensual but clumsy and inspid lay as "rape."

The genocide against Native Americans, when viewed as a historical whole, is both *more* explicitly intentional, and more effective; than that practiced by the PRC. We have managed to mostly stop those policies here, and to reverse some of them, so looking at the situation *today* makes us look a lot better than China; but they have a ways to go to obliterate Tibetan culture (for example) to the degree that we obliterated Navajo culture.

The loss of German in the midwest is "erosion"; the loss of Arapaho most certainly isn't.

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:


I would strongly agree with Adam that language is a very meaningful, if not the most meaningful, element of culture. (Although I would say that it's not an *essential* element; it is possible to transmit culture across a language barrier).

Cultural *ideas*, sure. We transmit cultural ideas constantly (and its important to note that culture is fluid by nature). But to what degree? An entire culture? In order to practice meditation in my tradition, I've had to learn a great deal of Tibetan and Sanskrit. Not for liturgy, but because there are discussions using terms that just don't have English parallels. You get "attachment" as a translation for "shenpa", but they actually mean markedly different things, a distinction which is vital when you are practicing. So you have to learn the Tibetan terms, and what they mean (which can be accomplished through a combination of personal experience and discussions in English), so that learning new concepts can use those terms as stepping-stones. All this for what is essentially a kindergarten-level participation in a Tibetan Dharma lineage. I would call it absurd to think that one could understand Tibetan culture as a whole, even rudimentarily, without language fluency. Are other languages and cultures any different in this regard?
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Adam Masterman:
quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:


I would strongly agree with Adam that language is a very meaningful, if not the most meaningful, element of culture. (Although I would say that it's not an *essential* element; it is possible to transmit culture across a language barrier).

Cultural *ideas*, sure. We transmit cultural ideas constantly (and its important to note that culture is fluid by nature). But to what degree? An entire culture?
No "entire culture" is ever transmissible en toto from one generation to the next generation, even with without the interference of another language. Hence the term "generation gap."
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Adam Masterman:
quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
Comparing the PRC's intentional cultural genocide with American erosion is kind of like referring to a consensual but clumsy and inspid lay as "rape."

The genocide against Native Americans, when viewed as a historical whole, is both *more* explicitly intentional, and more effective; than that practiced by the PRC. We have managed to mostly stop those policies here, and to reverse some of them, so looking at the situation *today* makes us look a lot better than China; but they have a ways to go to obliterate Tibetan culture (for example) to the degree that we obliterated Navajo culture.

The loss of German in the midwest is "erosion"; the loss of Arapaho most certainly isn't.

Absolutely agreed! But the gradual loss of a remote Alaskan village language would be more like what happened to German, than what happened to Arapaho.

What America did to Navaho and Arapaho pre-dated the standardized testing scheme.

Incidentally, I support standardized testing the way that I had it implemented in the British O level system; I just don't think that Americans are culturally intelligent enough to implement such a system, because of our compulsive reduction of everything to cheap and easy assembly-line mechanisms.

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