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Students Failing Because of Poor Grammar 1343

Posted by timothy
from the end-thats-inn-kanada dept.
innocent_white_lamb writes "30% of freshman university students fail a 'simple English test' at Waterloo University (up from 25% a few years ago. Academic papers are riddled with 'cuz' (in place of 'because') and even include little emoticon faces. One professor says that students 'think commas are sort of like parmesan cheese that you sprinkle on your words.' At Simon Fraser University, 10% of students are not qualified to take the mandatory writing courses."
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Students Failing Because of Poor Grammar

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  • unpossible (Score:5, Funny)

    by MilkyTea (1038646) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:15AM (#30979798)
    Me fail English? That's unpossible.
    • Re:unpossible (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jo42 (227475) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:24AM (#30979894) Homepage

      Some say, that Idiocracy [imdb.com] was a documentary sent back from the future. And that The Man needs a dumbed-down populace to keep the likes of Walmart and the current political system in business. All we know is that popular culture emphasizes dumbness over intelligence. Welcome to 2010.

      • Re:unpossible (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Pojut (1027544) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:30AM (#30979970) Homepage

        Some say, that Idiocracy was a documentary sent back from the future

        Other than having electrolytes, you know what the scariest thing about Idiocracy is? Every year that passes since it's release, that future seems not only more possible, but more probable.

        My fiance thinks the future will be a combination of Wall-E and Idiocracy, but whatever...it's not looking good -_-;;

        • by Corporate Drone (316880) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:40AM (#30980092)

          Some say, that Idiocracy was a documentary sent back from the future

          Other than having electrolytes, you know what the scariest thing about Idiocracy is? Every year that passes since it's release, that future seems not only more possible, but more probable.

          My fiance thinks the future will be a combination of Wall-E and Idiocracy, but whatever...it's not looking good -_-;;

          What's really fun about these two comments is that each contain the sort of error that TFA references: "Some say, that Idiocracy" (parmesan comma) and "since it's release" ('its', the 3rd person singular possessive pronoun, does not require an apostrophe). (I'll overlook the emoticon, since this isn't a formal paper, so I would argue it's less inappropriate here.)

          • by Pojut (1027544) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:43AM (#30980156) Homepage

            AUGH! Man...normally I'm such a nazi about "its" and "it's"...I feel horribly stupid for screwing that one up :-(

            (oh noes! emoticon!)

            • Re:unpossible (Score:5, Interesting)

              by CountBrass (590228) on Monday February 01, 2010 @10:05AM (#30980430)
              I wouldn't feel bad. My personal theory is that when taking part in conversations like this it's the verbal part of our brain, not the usual writing part, that's used. Hence mistakes like writing "it's" when you mean "its" and vice-versa and "there" or "their" or "they're" because to your verbal brain they sound the same and therefore are. People's use of "cuz" and "lol" and "wtf" in sentences is also explained by my theory. I suspect they talk that way as well, they're just morons.
              • Re:unpossible (Score:5, Informative)

                by Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) on Monday February 01, 2010 @10:56AM (#30981106)
                That may be true. However, when you're writing a message calling out grammatical errors in something written by someone else, you should reread it before sending to avoid Muphry's Law [wikipedia.org]. And yes, I reread this post several times but that doesn't guarantee I avoided Muphry's Law myself.
              • Re:unpossible (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Moryath (553296) on Monday February 01, 2010 @11:17AM (#30981448)

                Remember one simple fact: the skill set required for someone to get a Ph.D in any given field has very little correlation with the skillsets required for such tasks as dressing oneself, attending to personal hygeine, or speaking in coherent sentences. The only "skills" required to get a Ph.D are (a) access to enough money to exist as a student for the requisite time, (b) the ability to regurgitate what your professors wish to hear, and (c) the ability to attach oneself to a previous Ph.D recipient long enough to have one's hand held through the process of writing a thesis.

                I know too many Ph.D's who cannot tell the difference between its/it's, there/they're/their, and other simple homonyms. These people also have absolutely no concept of the value of money and are more than willing to give a passing grade to papers and assignments that contain similar grammatical mistakes as mentioned by TFA and the parent post.

                As regards Idiocracy, while hyperbolic, it definitely does call attention to a growing concern for Western society. The lowest-intelligence portions of our society increasingly sit as dependent breeding stock, suckling at the teat of government social programs generationally whilst producing an overabundance of mentally deficient young who then perpetuate the cycle. Diseases perpetuated only by reckless or ignorant behavior that should have no foothold in a modern society are instead coming back in force, due to these idiots insisting that "well there will be a cure in the next 10 years so I don't have to worry" (actual quote from one of these morons who passed on HIV to one of her kids in the womb).

                Well-meaning idiots bemoan the "failure" of the education system while refusing to make the basic changes necessary to reform it. Enforcing classroom discipline and removing troubled and disruptive children have become impossible. Properly stratified classes that truly challenge and educate the best and brighest children, while placing the lesser intellects into properly focused remedial programs, are seen as "discriminatory" if a given district strays too far from the racial numbers that racial supremacist agitators want to see. In the name of "diversity", all children are instead randomly tossed into classrooms that move at the pace of the slowest idiot, causing the education of the truly intelligent to be stunted. In most cases, creativity and intelligence - two innate talents that should be encouraged at all costs - are instead actively stifled by jealous teachers who are themselves the dimmest bulbs of their own generation (remember, the average IQ of college students in Education-related degree programs is lower even than Communications or Physical Education programs). Entrenched, unqualified individuals (tenured teachers and teachers' unions) insist that an unregulated and unfocused "more money for Education", rather than properly spent money combined with the elimination of unqualified individuals and proven-ineffective teaching doctrines from the system, is the solution.

                And of course programs proven to nurture intelligence and leadership are then attacked as well. Scouting has been under attack for decades, a true shame since it encourages young men and women to go out and be active in their community and grow into thoughtful citizens, as well as teaching life skills such as planning schedules, reacting to emergencies and maintaining a budget. Programs like the Young Democrats and Young Republicans have all but vanished, a true shame since these programs did much to teach young men and women to engage in civil disagreement (as well as community engagement and good citizenship!) rather than the partisan hackery that is all young children learn today from television shows. Music and fine arts programs have been vanishing all over the country, victims to both the "more money for test scores" problem and the growth, overadulation and overfunding of "sports" (specifically, football and basketball) which rely more on the physical grotesqueness of one or two "team stars" than an ability on the part of players to react to different situations as a team.

                • Re:unpossible (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by AlamedaStone (114462) on Monday February 01, 2010 @11:47AM (#30981906)

                  Scouting has been under attack for decades, a true shame since it encourages young men and women to go out and be active in their community and grow into thoughtful citizens, as well as teaching life skills such as planning schedules, reacting to emergencies and maintaining a budget.

                  That's quite a screed you've got there. I agree with some of it, and find a lot of it a little shrill. This bit I quoted kinda stuck in my craw though. I agree that programs *like* boy & girl scouts of america are a good idea. The problem for me is when the scouts shot themselves in the foot by trying to defend anti-gay policies.

                  I know that isn't an attitude I want drilled into my kids. No thanks. We have enough of that from our fathers. The molesters you have to look out for are almost never the out gays. It's just more gay-bashing clothed in the appearance of thinking of the children.

                  Maybe you should get involved with the scout leadership and get the thing on track again. It sounds like a paramilitary christian training camp to most people, I think.

                • Re:unpossible (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by Interoperable (1651953) on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:04PM (#30983080)

                  the skill set required for someone to get a Ph.D in any given field has very little correlation with the skillsets required for such tasks as dressing oneself, attending to personal hygeine, or speaking in coherent sentences

                  That's utterly false. Only the most Mickey-Mouse universities would award a Ph.D to someone who couldn't effectively write a dissertation or academic paper. The ability to effectively communicate is critical for academics and they are, in general, very well-spoken individuals who can clearly express ideas both within and outside their area of expertise. Good scientific writing requires clear, concise and understandable grammar.

                  Gud luck gettn' funding w/ bad grammar ;-)

          • Re:unpossible (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 01, 2010 @10:26AM (#30980712)

            "Some say, that Idiocracy" (parmesan comma)

            These commas may be the result of the international adoption of English as the "lingua franca". In German (and possibly other languages), that comma would be correct. Many non-native English speaking and writing people learn from online conversations, which are often informal and written in an oral style. They learn from each other and so some of the rules in their native languages cross over into their English and into other people's English.

            'its', the 3rd person singular possessive pronoun, does not require an apostrophe

            That's an irregularity which can be real problem for non-native writers as well. The possessive form is normally created by appending apostrophe-s, so it's only natural to write "it's". The collision with the short form of "it is" is not apparent, especially when you use a formal writing style and avoid these short forms.

      • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Wrexs0ul (515885) <(mmeier) (at) (racknine.com)> on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:37AM (#30980064) Homepage

        This XKCD comic [xkcd.com] was made just for you.

        There's no global dumb-people-breeding conspiracy and every one of these kids has the ability for higher learning. The sad fact is there's a growing percentage that's never had to try in an education system where no-one fails.

        Why learn proper english when the alternative nets you the same result and more free time?

        -Matt

      • by rbochan (827946) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:55AM (#30980294) Homepage

        "When teachers are expected to be nannies rather than teachers, do u rly expect students 2 xl @ math, language, & science, & b able 2 sp34k in nything but txt sp35k? ZOMG LOL WTF!"

      • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday February 01, 2010 @10:15AM (#30980578) Homepage Journal

        Eye blame spill chuckers. Ewe dew knot half two no hoe too spill tease daze.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:24AM (#30979900)

      When I grow up, I'm going to Bovine University.

    • Re:unpossible (Score:5, Informative)

      by Potor (658520) <farker1.gmail@com> on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:32AM (#30979988) Journal

      The article fails basic orthography. It's the University of Waterloo, not Waterloo University ...

      The test mentioned in the article places students in one of a graduated series of writing courses (at least it did in 1987, when I went there).

      And now, a professor in Pennsylvania, I get papers riddled with "cuz", "u", and God knows what else.

    • by Kugrian (886993) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:54AM (#30980282) Homepage

      Is this why the signs on my lawn don't work?

    • by Zencyde (850968) <Zencyde@gmail.com> on Monday February 01, 2010 @10:33AM (#30980818)
      My sophomore year of high school I walked into my English class and started writing. My mind took over and, before I realized it, my I's were uncapitalized, my words were abbreviated, and many words were misspelled for the purpose of shortening. That summer I had spent more time on instant messenger programs than I had in past years. Without realizing it, my mind was setup to use Internet speak. The rules of grammar were still there, somewhere. They were hard to access, though. It was a struggle to get myself to start writing coherently. Since then, I've switched my style and have been trying to maintain proper grammar throughout all of my text conversations.

      This was 2003

      This is going to naturally happen in any situation in which people develop a shorthand language. I doubt teaching grammar in schools will help because most students will forget the rules before college. I question if there really is a solution to this outside of individuals taking notice and attempting to fix their mistakes.
  • Oh, no... (Score:5, Funny)

    by demonlapin (527802) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:16AM (#30979810) Homepage Journal
    I'm usually a grammar and spelling Nazi, but this thread invites the Nerdpocalypse. May God have mercy on our souls.
    • Re:Oh, no... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jackharrer (972403) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:36AM (#30980048)

      You know what is the most terrifying?
      I'm a foreigner in England and found that I know grammar and spelling better than most of my English friends. We're talking about people who passed through basic education system here, and at least half of them also through higher studies.
      If you ask them about grammar, apostrophe rules or spelling they will just say they never studied this. Nobody ever though them this. Then you wonder why all this is in total shambles.

      Problem is that all kids are prepared to pass those stupid tests and outside them they know jack shit. There are exceptions, but general population is similar to Idiocracy one.

      • Re:Oh, no... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Cederic (9623) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:53AM (#30980266) Journal

        People learning English as a foreign language get taught proper grammar and only learn the vernacular later.

        People in England learn the street language and never get taught the grammar.

        In online chat it's comical how often you can tell the 'Continental European speaking English' as opposed to the 'Native Brit or Irish person' purely from their superior grammar and spelling. That's particularly true for the younger age groups.

        Problem is that all kids are prepared to pass those stupid tests and outside them they know jack shit

        Hence the current Facebook protests that an exam asked questions that they hadn't been specifically taught the answers to. A comment quoted on national news was "that's 6 months of attending lessons wasted."

        This worries me. People shouldn't be taught the test answers, they should be taught the basics in the subject and how to learn. The whole UK education system appears to be increasingly broken, and that (even more than the Government putting us into record debt) threatens the viability of the nation for the next few decades.

        (Add it to the national debt and we're basically fucked.)

      • Re:Oh, no... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by causality (777677) on Monday February 01, 2010 @10:17AM (#30980606)

        You know what is the most terrifying? I'm a foreigner in England and found that I know grammar and spelling better than most of my English friends. We're talking about people who passed through basic education system here, and at least half of them also through higher studies. If you ask them about grammar, apostrophe rules or spelling they will just say they never studied this. Nobody ever though them this. Then you wonder why all this is in total shambles.

        Problem is that all kids are prepared to pass those stupid tests and outside them they know jack shit. There are exceptions, but general population is similar to Idiocracy one.

        That's the funny thing. Many of the dumber grammatical errors you see on Slashdot are made by people who are evidently native English speakers. They're things that should have been corrected in grade school, like problems with "your" and "you're", or "their", "there" and "they're". As they occur in trends like many other mindless activities, the latest one is "loose" vs. "lose".

        The tests and their failure to guarantee competence when passed is a natural result of the exaggerated and undue emphasis that schools place on memorization by rote. If you had a perfect photographic memory, you would breeze through most any modern school curriculum. That doesn't mean you'd actually understand what you have memorized or be able to adapt that knowledge to different situations.

        We have created something of a Catch-22 or self-fulfilling prophecy: the standardized test dictates what the students are taught, so according to that test the students have learned. Nowhere in this do you find a regard for whether they have any real mastery of that knowledge. They're just being taught to regurgitate information with no real understanding and I could teach a parrot to do that. Writing in particular is generally a creative process. It has mechanical elements but does not really lend itself to mechanized repetition; it's not like operating a machine. It's no surprise to me that this is where the incompetence is most evident.

  • by ACK!! (10229) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:17AM (#30979814) Journal
    Its a basement cat conspiracy I tell you!
  • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:17AM (#30979816)

    At this point, is our decline even reversible? I could draw some parallels with history (as I have in past posts) --- but what would be the point? We'll just have more people argue that education is worthless [slashdot.org], or say how it's all the fault of teachers' unions, or argue that we need more charter schools.

    So, we point fingers, scream, and ape talking points while our society crumbles around us. What's the point?

    We're already the laughingstock of the world; the next generation actually looks worse than the boomers do, and that's an accomplishment. Screw this: I'm getting out. There must be some place in the world that welcomes those Americans who manage to not be complete morons.

    • by alen (225700) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:23AM (#30979890)

      as long as i can remember, the next generation has always looked worse than the previous generation. mostly because they did thing differently. generation X was said to be lazy 15 years ago because they sat around with their computers all the time instead of working in a factory

      • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:58AM (#30980332) Journal
        Currently, younger generations have been texting and chatting on internet as soon as they began to be able to write phonetically. To their great joy, communication worked well between them even without this fancy 'grammar' grown-ups brag about. We were told that one should not write unless he writes correctly, because the writing skills we were given have the idea that you always write for some kind of "serious" publication. We never were taught to write for text messages.

        I am not sure whether this indicates a lowering of level or just a change in the way the world works. Latin got obsoleted in "serious" scientific publications. Could correct English become obsolete in the same way ? As long as the arguments themselves are well constructed, I see no qualms in that. As long as communication works, the preservation of language for the sake of it serves no purpose, IMHO (if you allow me to use such acronyms, lol).
        • by Pantero Blanco (792776) on Monday February 01, 2010 @11:48AM (#30981920)

          To their great joy, communication worked well between them even without this fancy 'grammar' grown-ups brag about.

          Plenty of flamewars get started due to miscommunication when someone either says something that they don't mean to say, or tries to compress an idea too much and winds up making a vague statement that can be interpreted in different, or even conflicting, ways. It's easy enough to do this with "correct" or formal writing.

          Poke around in the comments section of YouTube and you'll find that this new mode communication isn't really working well, even for the people who use it regularly. It would be more noticeable to the people using it if more of them actually were interested in understanding what other people are saying.

          As you imply in your last paragraph, if someone wants to simplify grammar, it needs to be done in such a way that functionality is not lost.

    • by russotto (537200) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:41AM (#30980114) Journal

      There must be some place in the world that welcomes those Americans who manage to not be complete morons.

      Try Australia; they'll welcome anyone who passes their entrance exam, which simply consists of subduing a crocodile with your bare hands.

    • by hey! (33014) on Monday February 01, 2010 @10:04AM (#30980418) Homepage Journal

      Err... Don't you think that's a bit, well, histrionic?

      First of all, let's look at baselines and samples and that sort of question. If we administered a test to college freshman in 1910 and compared the results to college freshman of 2010, we'd be mortified if we looked at the percentage that passed some benchmark. But suppose we ask the question "if we took the top N students from each era, what percentage would meet some arbitrary level of proficiency". Now take N to be the number of ALL college freshman in 1910. 2010 would kick 1910's butt, because there are VASTLY more people going to college today.

      That's clearly a test obviously slanted toward 2010. But comparing raw percentages is a test obviously slanted toward 1910, and has less rational justification.

      Now, let's look as sampling. Suppose we administered the test every year for five years to some institution, and nothing fundamental changes about the world. Would we expect to get 30%, 30%, 30%, 30%, 30%? Of course not. It'd go up and down a few percentage points. It might go something like 30%, 24%, 23%, 29%, 25%, even if nothing had changed.

      The fact that the test went from 30% to 25% over the course of several years immediately tells us that the numbers don't reflect a change in the overall population of students. The world does not change quickly enough to produce those kinds of dramatic swings in the population. The difference might well be statistical noise, but we shouldn't ignore *other* kinds of changes, ones not reflecting the state of the entire world. This could be a change at one institution.

      If Waterloo wanted to raise the score on its test, it could simply alter its admission standards. Colleges are constantly tweaking their admission standards. This year we want more students with athletics, or performing arts backgrounds. We're switching from formula A to formula B in scoring. We've changed admission committee chairman. All kinds of things happen. That's not counting the fact that Waterloo has *competition* that's trying to take the best students away.

      Even if we administered this test to all freshmen everywhere, and knew there was a systemic population decline in the ability to achieve a passing grade, that wouldn't necessarily mean the end is nigh. We'd have to administer a *battery* of tests covering a wide variety of skills. Maybe composing in standard grammar has been deemphasized (obviously a bad thing) and replaced with more education on critical reading (obviously a good thing). We could fix this if we wanted to by deemphasizing critical reading (obviously a bad thing) and emphasizing standard grammar more (obviously a good thing).

      What does the test measure anyway? The ability to compose according to one arbitrary standard of what English grammar ought to be. As useful as being able to conform to the standard dialect is for the individual, it's not the only useful skill there is, or even the most useful one to society. I'd be more concerned about declining math ability in the population, provided we could define that reasonably and measure it accurately.

  • Relevant (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:19AM (#30979830)

    I once had a freshman student write in a paper, "The bathroom smelled in a way that is not relevant to life."

  • Spell Checking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smitty777 (1612557) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:21AM (#30979850) Journal

    FTA:

    "But "spelling is getting better because of Spellcheck," says Margaret Proctor, University of Toronto writing support co-ordinator.

    . I'd like to see some hard evidence before I agree with this statement. In my experience, people tend to make spelling errors and go with the spell chedking results without actually investigating the error.

    • Re:Spell Checking (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Dunbal (464142) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:23AM (#30979884)

      True. I've even seen it in books, where an obviously out of context word was substituted. It may have passed the "spell check", but certainly that should be no excuse to avoid proof-reading. It's more than just looking for an absence of little red lines under your text.

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:38AM (#30980070)

      Speaking of uncritical spell checking, from the article:

      'Definitely' is always spelled with an 'a' -'definitely'. I don't know why

      Uh-huh.

    • Re:Spell Checking (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tim C (15259) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:39AM (#30980082)

      He says spelling is getting better, but grammar is getting worse. That would be perfectly consistent with using a spell checker and not realising that it's suggested a grammatically-incorrect but properly spelled word.

      I don't think he's implying that people are getting better at spelling, just that the number of spelling mistakes he sees is dropping.

  • by Jaktar (975138) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:23AM (#30979876)

    I can confurm, exactly what iz stated, here.

    A course I'm currently taking requires frequent posting in threads created by the other students. The grammar is truly a sight to see.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:24AM (#30979898)
    What part of speech is "eh?"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:26AM (#30979924)

    OMG Juliet was like, oh oh, OMG were is my bf Romeo and I was like, so GET OVER IT teh rediculus bitch.

  • by Strider- (39683) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:27AM (#30979936)

    To quote the book of the above title:

    A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

    'Why?' asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

    'Well, I'm a panda', he says, at the door. 'Look it up.'

    The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. 'Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.'

    I've actually noticed myself becoming extremely careful about punctuation. If you get your punctuation wrong when programming, all sorts of bad things happen. English is just a natural extension of this.

    • by nigel999 (883244) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:56AM (#30980306)
      Another example of a grammarian joke:

      An office manager has had a bad financial year, and has to make a decision to let someone go. The newest workers are Sandra and Jack. Both have performed very well, and the manager likes them both equally. He decides, on a whim, to fire the first person that visits the water cooler on Monday morning.

      Monday comes around, and the boss watches from his office. Sandra is the first to go up to the cooler. The manager goes over to her.

      "Sandra", he says, "I have a tough decision to make. I have to either lay you or Jack off."

      Sandra sighs as she's pouring her water. "Could you jack off?" she replies. "I feel like shit this morning."

  • It's the parents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anita Coney (648748) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:28AM (#30979950) Homepage

    My wife works in the public schools. I learned one thing from her. Parents claim they want schools with touch academics. However, they also wants their kids to get a 4.0, or very close to it and go apeshit when it doesn't happen. So when a school does crack down and start to grade accurately to touch academic standards, the parents go ballistic. These parents start harassing the teacher, the principal, the administrators, and the school board.

    So it's no shock that these kids, of which very little was ever demanded or expected of them, should suddenly find themselves failing college once the gloves come off.

    • by Junta (36770) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:44AM (#30980158)

      Parents claim they want schools with touch academics

      I thought teachers get in a lot of trouble over providing that sort of thing?

    • by vlm (69642) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:45AM (#30980178)

      So it's no shock that these kids, of which very little was ever demanded or expected of them, should suddenly find themselves failing college once the gloves come off.

      Well, there is a simple cure for that, dumb down college and inflate college grades! Err, wait, we're already doing that.

    • by twostix (1277166) on Monday February 01, 2010 @10:09AM (#30980504)

      So parents apply pressure to make schools do the very thing they (allegedly) exist to do. Upon doing so they find out that the school has been not teaching their children literacy and numeracy but instead hazing their childrens minds with this years "Social Indoctrination: Experiment #5165" and go ballistic when their children fail academic tests...

      What's the problem with the parents again? Oh let me guess your wife doesn't want to teach the boring stuff, like rote times table memorization, etc. Just the fun "social" stuff because she got into the job to "mold young minds" and not drill boring mathematical rules into them.

      If the school doesn't teach children enough to pass these so called tough academic tests, then what the hell do children sit in the bulding for 6 hours a day for? And how in any possible reality is that the parents fault (who are allegedly pushing for tougher standards for their kids).

      Teachers really do come up with some BS excuses - Parents pushing for tougher standards and demanding improvements in grades when their kids fail is apparently the problem with education. Not the school and teacher whose sole job it is to teach the children.

      Right.

      • Re:It's the parents (Score:5, Interesting)

        by outlander (140799) on Monday February 01, 2010 @02:12PM (#30984100)

        Um, not so much. I have taught students (college level) who failed to attend classes, handed in substandard work, and subsequently had parents call and yell at me that they were paying my salary, and consequently that their kid was entitled to pass my class.

        In *college.* At a name-brand Eastern school that did OK in basketball.

        At one point, I received a rather well-written communication from a parent regarding his child's grade (comp 101). I replied to his letter with a note asking him whether he considered the writing in the enclosures (copies of his child's work) acceptable.

        I received an apology and encouragement to fail his child if said child continued to perform work that wouldn't be acceptable in a job setting.

        It was far and away the most vindicating moment of my teaching career.

        Some parents have common sense and want their kids to be smart. Some want their kids credentialed. The latter drive me crazy, esp after I received an email explaining that their child has to "get his BS at any cause." (e.g., get his degree at any cost).

    • Re:It's the parents (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ihuntrocks (870257) <ihuntrocks@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday February 01, 2010 @10:55AM (#30981088)
      I am currently the instructor in a high school Chemistry course (at least for the day). From my experience observing the students of today across various subjects, I can say that the fault is with both the students and their parents. Our students have no work ethic, and no desire to learn. They idolize their own ignorance. The writing I see from our high school students is worse than that mentioned in the article. Even among students who score relatively well, I get the impression that I am reading a paper written by someone without native English fluency. This is, of course, when they can be made to work on any assignment to begin with. Presently, the majority of the students I am watching as I write this have elected not to open their book and participate. Instead they have chosen to engage themselves in useless, and frankly, inane and nonsensical conversation.

      Equally disturbing to me is the lack of command in spoken English. These students, with few exceptions, are native English speakers, but it would be difficult to tell this from observing them. I was raised in the same town as these students, and progressed through the same education system under most of the same teachers. The curriculum has changed in the intervening time, but not enough to account for the disparity in abilities. It is honestly as if I speak different language than these students when I speak English properly. As a matter of fact, English is an entirely differently language from what they speak, and that appalls me.

      Having working experience in the public education system, I can say that our problems are arising from our youth culture. The problems with our youth culture are largely due to a lack of interest or parenting ability on the part of our parents. Our students are held to no standards at home, or at least, very low standards. They have no desire to learn, and no desire to work. I try to inspire students when I have the opportunity, but results are highly limited. It is shocking and sickening when I consider that in short order these students will be adults, with responsibility in society. The difficulty with language is a symptom of the deeper problem: our students idolize willful ignorance and have chosen to be intellectually spayed. I feel that only the sobering reality we will face when we become dependent on this generation for their participation in society will shake us from our complacency and help us to insist upon higher standards for education. This effort should be maintained not only within the education system, but at home.
  • hai (Score:5, Funny)

    by msclrhd (1211086) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:32AM (#30979990)

    Hai, I can haz degree?

  • by djkitsch (576853) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:41AM (#30980108)

    I previously worked for about 8 years for a medium-sized marketing and design agency, as the lead web developer. On almost every project that passed across my desk, I seemed to be the only one spotting spelling errors, grammatical mistakes and punctuation problems before copy went to the web and to print. This was in a company of 30-ish young, university educated professionals in London.

    When the programmers are copy-editing your marketing material, that should be a sign you've got literacy problems!

    The weird thing was that when I sent the copy back, corrected, everyone told me I was being anal - apparently not bothered about bad copy to billboards and magazines nationwide.

    I agree with a commenter above, though - I think coding does encourage attention to detail when a stray semicolon becomes important.

  • by atomicxblue (1077017) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:48AM (#30980220)
    Is our children learning?
  • by dingen (958134) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:55AM (#30980292)

    The trend that youngsters are less and less able to write a coherent sentence seems to be a global thing. I'm not a native English speaker myself, so excuse me for any mistakes, but I'm often amazed at how incredibly bad my fellow Dutchmen write, especially on the internet.

    I wonder if the decline of the paper media have got anything to do with this. Sure, books, newspapers and magazines aren't perfect or even decent at a lot things, but at least they contain (mostly) correctly written texts. People reading these texts are likely to adopt the language used, which means that if the majority of the population use these media as a source of information, they're likely to write what they read. But as the paper media are rapidly losing ground, so is correctly spelled language. On the internet, nobody checks your texts for errors in spelling or grammar, because nobody seems to care. It's all about speed instead of correctness.

  • by aclarke (307017) <spam AT clarke DOT ca> on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:57AM (#30980310) Homepage
    I have a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Waterloo and I live in the region still. One of the reasons that UW has so many people failing the ELPE (English Language Proficiency Exam), and one of the reasons it requires the test in the first place, is because of the numbers of foreign students at the university.

    Waterloo has, I believe, the largest math and computer science programmes in the world. It also what is generally regarded as Canada's best engineering school. These hard science and engineering programmes attract a large number of far eastern students. When I was in school in the '90s, you'd have been more likely to hear Cantonese than English if you wandered around the Math building. I don't want to generalise, but many of these students probably come to Waterloo because they can get a great education in a programme that doesn't require them to speak perfect English, and where they have a large number of their peers.

    Probably one of the reasons that Waterloo students fail the ELPE in such high numbers is that many of them are foreigners for whom English is a second, third, or fourth language. I only wish I spoke multiple languages as well as many Waterloo students speak English.
  • As a father... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gybrwe666 (1007849) on Monday February 01, 2010 @10:14AM (#30980568)

    I have five kids, ranging from two college graduates to a kindergartner, and I am not at all surprised. At the risk of sounding like someone who sits on his front porch and reminisces about the good old days and walking uphill to school both ways, while waiting for kids to touch my property so I can yell at them, I firmly and insistently blame primary schools. Over the years, somehow, phonics has increased in teaching, encouraging kids to try and spell more complex words (which is fine), but does not in any way penalize them for misspelling or bad grammar. My 2nd grader routinely turns in papers with words that would be a challenge for a 6th grader, yet I don't see any red ink or corrections, telling them how to spell the word correctly. I can only attribute this three ways: 1) the teacher doesn't have the time to do it (WTF?!?!?) or 2) they don't want to actually make someone feel bad for messing up (WTF?!?!?) or 3) they just don't care. Probably a combination of all three. This is especially prevalent with my 8th grader, whose grammar is only corrected for English class, but anything else she turns in for any other class is remarkably devoid of red ink to correct spelling and grammar.

    With a lack of consistent reinforcement of the basics in every class and in every setting, is it any wonder that the kids can't spell when they get to college? I recall getting points marked down in all my classes (including science classes) for misspellings, and I am stunned by the fact that somehow proper spelling and grammar is not considered something that anyone other than an English teacher should be concerned about when grading.

    Recently, we allowed our teenager to get a Facebook account, with the proviso that we remain her friends and that we have access to the account. I reply to every post she makes abusively correcting her piss-poor grammar.

    Any way you cut it, a consistent use of proper red ink would likely solve this issue quickly, even for high-school aged children who have learned bad habits.

    Bill

  • by substance2003 (665358) on Monday February 01, 2010 @11:07AM (#30981282)
    "When I went to high school in the '70s I was never taught grammar in English. I learned grammar from Latin classes."
    Budra was taught to read and write using whole language rather than phonetics - not a good way to go in his books.


    I find this part interesting. In French canadian schools, we blamed the bad grammar back in the 80s for using phonetics instead of the more traditional methods. As I was told back then, they stopped using it in France because it didn't work while we here in Canada keeped using it for some 10 years and sacrificed an entire generation as far as grammar goes.
    Needless to say, we're no better off today then we were back then as the failure rates of students just keeps rising in French Canada.
    I feel that the problem is that we want to find a one size fits all approach and forget that no all kids absorb knowledge the same way or at the same speed.

    A quick search in the local french news turns up a fact that did not get pointed out in that article. The new and current test in French universities points to a failure of over 50% for the teachers. How can you educate when you don't know what your teaching?
    I suspect this failure would be pretty high in english schools as well.
    It's rather interesting that no one's bothered to point any fingers towards teachers. I wish we could stop this blame the students mentality for all failures. Teachers have they're part in this too and they need to acknowledge it.

    The Internet norm of ignoring punctuation and capitalization as well as using emoticons may be acceptable in an email to friends and family, but it can have a deadly effect on one's career if used at work.

    "It would say to me ... 'well, this person doesn't think very clearly, and they're not very good at analyzing complex subjects, and they're not very good at expressing themselves, or at worse, they can't spell, they can't punctuate,' " he says.

    "These folks are going to short-change themselves, and right or wrong, they're looked down upon in traditional corporations," notes Postman.


    The problem I see here is that as the language degrades, so will corporations' abilities to hire people with such skills and eventually it will end up in upper management.
  • by supercrisp (936036) on Monday February 01, 2010 @11:31AM (#30981646)
    Item One: I teach four classes a semester in English literature and composition at a major state university. I bring home 2,000/month. Anyone choosing such a career is an idiot. I'll confess: I'm an idiot. I have a doctorate degree, a nearly-complete book manuscript, published poems, published interviews with major poets, and a chapter in a forthcoming book of literary criticism. I can't get a better job. There are simply too many people with doctorates in English. We're all idiots. Item II: My dad was a HS teacher, and anyone who will take the sort of crap he did from parents for years and years is also an idiot. He worked very hard, grading, taking night classes for further certification. We were never able to live in a better neighborhood. People were shot in our back yard. Dad got death threats for failing a football player. Item C: my wife is getting an MS in instructional technology. A couple of women in one of her courses bragged about never having found it necessary to set foot in the university library. Item IV: during my first semester here at Big Football U., I had an honors student whose grammar was so bad that I could understand about one sentence in every three. Mind you, I also have training in English as a Second Language and how to recognize the signs of disability in writing, and this young woman was an intelligent native speaker, yet her writing was still like drunken Dada raving to me. I asked her what her about her family. Her dad is an English professor at Second Rate U. over in our state capitol. Awesome. Oh, P.S.: I was a National Merit Scholar and went to university on a full-ride academic scholarship and graduated cum laude. I have wasted my talent and potential trying to teach others. I am an idiot.
  • by flogger (524072) <non@nonegiven> on Monday February 01, 2010 @12:42PM (#30982746) Journal
    Here is a simple exercise. Answer the following prompt? Can you do it? I'll post the answer in a reply.

    Punctuate the following letter. You cannot remove words or letters, not can you add words or letters. The order of the words must remain the same. You can only add punctuation and capitalization when required due to punctuation. Go ahead and copy/paste this into notepad/emacs/vi. Good Luck.

    ================
    Dear John

    I want a man who knows what love is all about you are generous kind
    thoughtful people who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior
    you have ruined me for other men I yearn for you I have no feelings
    whatsoever when we’re apart I can be forever happy will you let me be
    yours

    Gloria
    • Answer: (Score:5, Interesting)

      by flogger (524072) <non@nonegiven> on Monday February 01, 2010 @12:50PM (#30982852) Journal
      The answer is really two fold with a lesson.
      Answer one:

      Dear John,

      I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind,
      thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior.
      You have ruined me for other men! I yearn for you. I have no feelings
      whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy. Will you let me be
      yours?

      Gloria


      Answer two:

      Dear John:

      I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind,
      thoughtful people who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior!
      You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings
      whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
      Yours,

      Gloria


      Lesson: You think Punctuation is unimportant? You are wrong. Punctuation carried the Entire meaning of what we write. We do not have voice inflection, hand gestures or eye contact as we do when we communicate vocally. In the first letter, John is going to get laid. In the second letter, John is going to get a restraining order against him. Wouldn't it be nice for John to know what he is getting into?

It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. - W. K. Clifford, British philosopher, circa 1876

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