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Sci Tech

What Happened to Speling, Grammer and Geografie?

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In my youth (or what my kids refer to as medieval times), when I was a smartass kid attending a small-town New York elementary school, my class was required to take a geography course. I suppose our school board perceived that it would be a swell idea if the kids knew that our town wasn't located in Brazil.

So each day, our teacher, would hand out maps on which only the countries or states had been outlined. We were instructed to identify each country, and fill in the rivers, mountain ranges, and major cities with colored pencils. If it was a map of Africa, you drew in countries which you knew would be named something else by tomorrow.

It wasn't easy, but we learned a lot, except maybe for Howard Hinkleman, who could never figure out which end of the pencil one was supposed to use for writing. In any case, the rest of us came away knowing that Katmandu is not in Michigan.

I live in California now, and Geography is no longer taught in my kids' school district....nbsp;(Our school board decided that basic subjects would interfere with a child's "creativity.") As a result kids with excellent grades have no clue where anything is, except for the local Burger King.

Ask them about Madagascar's location and you get a blank look. Or maybe they'll think you said "NASCAR," but they won't know where that's held either. The kicker is that many of these geographically-challenged kids, are accepted at prestigious colleges. Of course, they all need a GPS to find their colleges because they can't read maps.

Unfortunately, geography isn't the only subject that's been eliminated. In my day, we were required to parse sentences, until we understood the correct usage of subjects, predicates, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, pronouns and so on.

For reasons that mystify me, basic grammar has also vanished. It drives me batty when I hear kids - even college students -- uttering sentences such as, "her and I went to the movies," or"you are so not cool," or "it was trafficky." The nonexistent word "anyways" also seems to have crept into the language and the word "picture" is now universally pronounced "pitcher," so you never know if you're about to look at a photo or be asked to throw a ball. I find myself grimacing a lot in public.

Nowadays, most kids don't know when to use the word "less" as opposed to "fewer," or "who" as opposed to "whom," or "its" as opposed to "it's." The placement of apostrophes, commas or quotation marks is also a mystery to them, although there seems to be a wild over-usage of exclamation points. Kids today think a dangling participle is something hanging out of your nose, and a gerund is a type of hamster.

I am also appalled by some parents - most of them educated - who have now dumbed down to their kids' level in a futile attempt, I suppose, to feel young and stupid again. I hear parents saying "anyways," or "he was like" instead of "he said," or "pitcher."

And forget about spelling. Spelling is now limited to spelling bees, where kids spell words that will never be used by anyone, except in spelling bees.

My kids' California high school was proclaimed a "Top 100 Distinguished School," no doubt by some illiterate who had to consult a dictionary six times to spell the word "distinguished." If that school was distinguished, I'm the Prince of Denmark.

And if itactually was a top 100 school, how come students with A's in AP World History class had no idea who Napoleon was? Maybe the teacher just had a beef about Napoleon and refused to acknowledge his existence. Fifty years from now will subsequent generations remember Alexander the Great? Hemingway? Brahms? George Patton? Chico Marx?

Presidents keep telling us about the need to improve science and math scores. Granted, those are both important subjects for our kids to master, but I shudder to think of future scientists who think that New Delhi is in Nebraska.

Frankly, I'm concerned about the fate of civilization. Language is important. It has taken centuries of gibberish for us to get here. Not speaking properly may cause us to devolve into Visigoths. From there, it's a hop, skip and a jump back to Neanderthal. Then, we'll all be livving in cav dwilings, although we won't know, where any of, them are actualie locayted!!!


John Blumenthal has been a professional comedy writer for 25 years. A former associate editor and columnist at Playboy Magazine (following a short stint at Esquire), he's written 8 books and 2 produced movies. His films include "Short Time," (major (more...)

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Thinking is accomplished through the use of langua... by B York on Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010 at 9:38:45 AM
I had to call the federal irs for a tax id number,... by karmacounselor on Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010 at 9:46:25 AM
People who have no idea when to use "your"or "you'... by Chris Mihal on Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010 at 11:06:44 AM
Since I teach English to college students who can'... by Debbie Scally on Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010 at 10:57:49 PM
Appending "you know?" or "know what I'm saying?" t... by Chris Mihal on Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 2:02:57 AM
Eye Wis eye new!Maybe "Whole Language" teaching me... by Phronein on Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 8:33:30 AM