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Sci Tech    H4'ed 1/12/10

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.

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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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