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#3452 - 08/07/00 01:35 PM Re: language and communication
Brandon Offline

Registered: 03/16/00
Posts: 218
Loc: Mountain West, USA

>>>a good knowledge of the language is just a useful tool to communicate, but it is not enough.

I face this problem daily. I work as an interpreter and consistently see people who know both languages severely stumble their way through attempts at interpreting. In my arena, language proficiency does not immediately lend itself to interpreting. But so many people think that because one knows both languages, one naturally can interpret.

Ever try the Babelfish AltaVista translation service (http://babelfish.altavista.com/translate.dyn)? Imagine that kind of translation going on in a doctor's office when it is your kidney in question.

#3453 - 08/31/00 03:53 PM Re: Declining standards in US education
apples + oranges Offline

Registered: 08/30/00
Posts: 46
Loc: Canada
Wow! I never knew the US was having problems with education. I live in Canada and last year 1999 the government of Ontario came up with higher education standards. My generation was the first to start with the new highschool reform. I started grade 9 that year. Part of the reform was province-wide testing that ensured that children were not falling behind. I have to complete a literacy test this year. The courses are supposedly tougher since there will be no OAC year and everything must be learned in 4 instead of 5 years.

#3454 - 12/22/00 06:58 AM Re: Declining standards in US education
belligerentyouth Offline
old hand

Registered: 12/20/00
Posts: 1055
Loc: Berlin
I attended an international school in Munich with a dynamic student body. American 'honour' students plucked from the state AND private schools in the US, found themselves failing courses in which they had never averaged lower than an A-. In addition the education at the international school was, on the whole, mediocre. I'm no genius and 12th grade was a bludge! Friends of mine from 'developing' countries snickered at the level of required maths and science.
A friend of mine was recently in LA and met a well educated high-school teacher, who ran into problems when he failed practically his entire class in English. He was packing his bags anyway.
Do the words regession and deterioration ring a bell! It's the most backward 'developed' nation I've ever heard of.

Grueße an euch alle!

#3455 - 12/25/00 11:05 AM Re: US education, then and now
wow Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 11/25/00
Posts: 3439
Loc: New England, USA
Goodness me oh my! So many good points in previous posts I want to lift quotes from nearly every one but since I cannot, let me ramble for a moment and try to cover some of them.
Communication as the reason to learn is valid, no doubt. Let me ask this : if people are making up the "rules" for themselves, how is another to understand?
Surely there has to be some attention paid to keeping all who want to learn a language on the same page, so to speak.
As to the demands of today's world : I think every generation has been under pressure. It is just different, not better or worse.
In my high school days (Autumn 1944 through June 1949) this is what I had :
History - four years starting with Ancient and moving up through the centuries to finally American History in senior year.
Math - two years algebra, one chemistry, one geometry.
Language - two years Latin, two years French (some students opted for Spanish instead of French.)
Arts- four years of art classes water color, oils, pastels, painting on fabric, etc. etc.
Music - we all had at least two hours of music a week in class. Additionally I had music lessons 45 three days a week. We all participated in the school chorus.
There was a war on so we had no gym teachers (they all went into the Army -WACS- or Navy -WAVES- or flew planes - WASPS) but we were expected to take a walk during our luch hour and to participate in some sport that could be done on our own without equipment -- I chose to swim! That was summer so winter it was walks!
Additionally we had a minimum of two or three hours of homework a night.
Marks were given as numbers 65% was the lowest grade you could get and have a passing mark. One third was class work, one third written work, one third test marks. Teachers kept daily marks in a book and we were allowed to consult them to see how we were doing on class work.The marks were averages to give us a mid-term and then a year-end grade.
Every Friday we were given a ten minute quizz at the start of each class to see if we'd gotten the gist of what had been taught that week. As an aside, those quizzes helped us overcome "test fears."
And on top of that we were expected to do special projects to increase our grades in a given subject.
I was in an all-female private school. However I had friends in the city's public high school and aside from classes in embroidery (which we were given) the public high school carrried a similar subject load.
That was a pretty fair amount of pressure. Oh, and because I went to private school, I had a 45 minute bus ride morning and afternoon.
Just so you do not think we were drudges, we also had an active social life, played with friends, went to movies, helped Mother around the house, read books, listened to Don Winslow and Jack Armstrong on the radio, read news of the war in newspapers and wrote to our uncles, brothers, fathers in the Armed Forces and prayed they would come home safe.
Now, I was an average student, generally got marks in the low 80s. The exceptions were English and History were I generally scored higher - 85 to 90 %. So, by most standards I should have opted for a typing course and gone into office work. Instead, because I had been gifted with a very good singing voice I went to college ... and there, because I could take courses that interested me, even though they were more demanding I got straight As and graduated with honors.
A friend of mine who has a Master's degree in Business is now teaching a class in Business English. She has found that her pupils (already earning a living in business)generally are eager and willing to learn but in every class there are a few who confuse spell check with grammar check. And they complain and often her marks are overturned by a higher up ... the school is afraid of losing students and the tuition they bring in.
On the other hand my neighbor's daughter attended our local high school, which is your average high school, and she attained marks that gained her a scholarship to college She is studying in the field of science and genetics. She was also in the Latin Club with my godson and they sometimes chat in Latin. He just got a four year scholaship to Boston University! Good heavens! The parents in both cases encouraged their children but are not slave drivers. And some other teens in the same classes are barely passing! Perfectly normal, no-drug type kids and they cannot put a compound sentance together.
I don't know what the point of all this is. Perhaps someone could figure it out and let me know, too.


#3456 - 12/25/00 11:16 PM Re: US education, then and now
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10523
Loc: this too shall pass
>I don't know what the point of all this is.

well mom, you surely said (at least) one true thing: things don't get better or worse, only different.

#3457 - 12/26/00 04:32 AM Ahhh.... school days
shanks Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/16/00
Posts: 1004
Loc: London, UK

The system in India is slightly different from the American High School one, retaining as it does vestiges of the ol' Brit 'O' Levels and 'A' Levels. So the equivalent of the American four-year High School period was split for me into two periods of two years each - one for my '10th' or ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education) exams, and the next for my 12th or HSC (Higher Secondary Certificate) - before it was considered safe to let me loose on college proper.

For my 10th (the first big exam) we studied for two years to do 12 papers, which were then combined into marks on six subjects. The papers:

English Literature
English Language
Hindi Language
Hindi Literature
'Optionals' (Accounts, in my case)

The six subjects under which we received marks were therefore:

Social Studies

Then on to two years in the science stream for my HSC:

Basic French
Maths 1
Maths 2
Chem 1
Chem 2
Bio 1
Bio 2
Phy 1
Phy 2

again conflated to just six subjects in the end (oh my word - this was not that many years ago and I cannot remember the last 'subject' - eek).

For what it's worth, before 'high school' our curriculum included, along with English (yay) Hindi (boo) Marathi as well (for four years) and Gujarati (just one year when I was very young), Maths, History, Geography, and the three sciences - which we did for about 4 years as a full curriculum before that. Yes, I remember we also had art, music and PT (physical training).

I believe this intensive, exam-based system, is still used in India. It seems to work for some. But I'm sure there were just as many traumatised by its rote ruthlessness as we believe are 'let down' by the West's liberal-lax standards. I enjoyed it (except the homework), but that's just one opinion...


the sunshine warrior

ps. Aenigma prefers Matilda to Maths.

#3458 - 12/26/00 09:24 AM Re: Tests...PAUGH!
wow Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 11/25/00
Posts: 3439
Loc: New England, USA
I believe this intensive, exam-based system, is still used in India. It seems to work for some.

Hi Shanks !
Tests - Paugh! Massachusetts is currently in a turmoil about "M-CAST" test for all school children to test their knowledge. I'm not even going to touch that one.
I think when standardized tests are established teachers stop teaching subjects and start teaching the test.
If test must be given I think it should be prepared by teachers and be essay type.
Rant Rant Rant

#3459 - 12/27/00 04:12 AM Re: Tests...PAUGH!
shanks Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/16/00
Posts: 1004
Loc: London, UK
If test must be given I think it should be prepared by teachers and be essay type.

Oh we had those too. First Terminal exam, Second Terminal exam, Final exam - three times a year like clockwork, except in our tenth, when instead of the 'final', we had a preliminary (Prelims) and then the Board (ICSE, as referred to earlier), so had the treat of four sets of exams in that year.

After all this, I did (for a laugh) the American tests (my mother fondly hoped I might get off my arse for long enough to actually do uni in the States) - SAT, ACTs, GREs etc. I have to admit that I was an arrogant little merde of a teenager, but by the end of it all, I was so contemptuous of the standards of the American 'tests' that I didn't bother preparing for them in any way (unless you count getting drunk the night before as preparation).

Yes, I think you miss out a lot with standardised, multiple choice tests. But you would, presumably, miss out a lot with a non-standardised system where teachers have all the power - one bad apple, or one bad interaction witgh a vindictive teacher and that's your career down the tubes. The choices aren't perfect, no matter which direction you head in, IMO.


the sunshine warrior

#3460 - 12/27/00 02:52 PM Re: Teacher's pet or pest
wow Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 11/25/00
Posts: 3439
Loc: New England, USA
But you would, presumably, miss out a lot with a non-standardised system where teachers have all the power - one bad apple, or one bad interaction witgh a vindictive teacher and that's your career down the tubes. The choices aren't perfect,

Point VERY well taken.

#3461 - 12/27/00 04:53 PM Re: Teacher's pet or pest
of troy Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/17/00
Posts: 5400
Loc: rego park
Ah--well i have stayed away from this thread-- I am a good example of a bad education.
My early childhood education was from dedicated nuns, all educated themselves, but saddled with classes of 45 to 50, to at one point, in 4th grade, 84 unruly students,(in one class!) Sometime not even enough desks and seats, let alone books. (I remember 4th grade well, as I came back to school late that year, having missed the first two weeks-- and was seated on top of the big old cast iron radiators for the first month! )

My home had one bookcase about 3 feet wide, and three shelves high. Both my parents lacked an education. I did grow up in house that read, but i don't ever remember my mother reading anything but novels..

We didn't have a complete dictionary in the house. A large multi volume edition of the Funk and Wagnols had been offered as a promotion in a store, and we had most of the volumes.. and no other reference books till i was in High School. There is a federal program to assist poor schools purchase text books, but Dictionaries are not considered text books, so, while my school has some, there were not enough to available to have a dictionary for every student.
(I currently at home have a shelf of dictionaries-- and the OED became a line item in my divorce settlement-- with my ex getting it.)

Since both of my parents are immigrants, i also did not have a large or extended family, so there was no kind aunt or uncle who came in to bridge the gap.

I was often bored at school, since i had a strong innate ability to read and learn. I was reasonable well behaved, and so got very little personal attention from teachers, who where busy helping the student who they perceive needed their help-- But this lack of guidance had long term effects..

When still in elementary school, I discovered science, and started reading books like "The Microbe Hunters"-- my mother thought it was morbid-- and while almost nothing was strictly censored, non-fiction science reading was not considered normal, and was discouraged. She never banned anything outright, but to discourage, she would "helpfully" return the book to the library for you–whether or not you had finished reading them. I also read "Anne of Green Gables", that was okay– but wanting to read science was not going to be encouraged– and there was no one to defend my desire to learn.

as shanks points out-- (seconded by Wow,)one bad apple, or one bad interaction with a vindictive teacher and that's your career down the tubes. The choices aren't perfect..

That was sixth grade for me.. I spent most of the year seated out side the principle's office. My most serious offence was existing... If either of my parents had been involved with my education beyond dressing me and sending me off to school, they might have realized something was amiss.. (actually my mother became aware of how serious the issue was a week or so after Easter-- and then rationalize, that there were only about 8 week left to the school year, so i could just spend the rest of the term on steps out side the principles office. she didn't think that it had done me much harm, since in spite of not attending any lessons, i was still able to get 80's and 90's on most of the tests. ) She never questioned--why was i able to get 90's with out being in class, and what where the social effects of being banned from class..

Bel, you spoke warmly of holiday's, and wow, you too, seemed to have a happy childhood.. I envy you a bit-- less now than in the past, since i have come to see that a terrible childhood is a wonderful foundation for life.. if you survive it! And i did-- just!

most of my education came in the between spaces.. school exposed me to subjects, and as they interested me, i learned about them. Books, newspapers, museums, all these where between the spaces.. Wow-- i don't know what features your paper included, but i learned to read long stories by reading novels serialized in The (NY) Daily News.. And while I was picking up the newspaper, I learned the habit of reading it. I learned vocabulary from "It pays to Increase your Wordpower" in the Readers digest..

as stated elsewhere in this thread-- this is the first time in history, that we have the expectation that everyone is going to get any education.. There are students, enrolled in NYC "school" program, that are in "light coma's"--with resources going to teach them. (I personally know of 2) Their teacher is expected to prepare a evaluation of the educational goals, and what is being done to reach them-- and at the same time, class size in "regular" classes keeps creeping up, school building keep deteriorating.. schools are cutting arts programs...I don't know if it is that we don't have the resources to teach every one– or that we, as a society are just not willing to allocate the resources (this is definitely an issue in US, I don't know about else where)

Like Mark Twain, i learned the best way to get an education is to read, read, read, and hang around with people smarter than yourself.. in HS, I started to hang around the local university campus– Fordham– and used to pass myself off as a student I hang out here too, ( thank you all! ) and lest you feel shock or sympathy for my somewhat Dickensian childhood--, the fact is, i was in many ways, very lucky.. I had a excellent library at my disposal, and for $0.30 round trip--(or less if i jumped the turnstile) i could be off to a collections of world class museums.. Both the Bronx Zoo and the Bronx Botanical gardens were within walking distance. and frequently visited...

Education, and the treatment of children in general is one way to measure a society. As we have become a more urban society, and children are more of an expense (rather than an asset) I think we have failed in how we treat them. In some ways, they are more "valuable"-- and far more protected than ever before-- but in other ways, much less is expected of children. In NYC over 1 million student take school buses to school, since any child who is more than .5 miles from school entitle to a school bus.. Since walking more than a half mile is considered "too far". Social promotions is the norm too, (but changing-- NY too has standardized test for 4th grade, 8th grade and graduation) since it too difficult for a child to be left back--(i look back at my own childhood, and while i would not wish it on a dog–) it hard not to think that there are no challenges available to these children. They sometimes seem wrapped in cotton wool. And at the same time, there is the movement to "Zero" tolerance– I learned as much from my mistakes as I did from any book– if we have a policy of "zero" tolerance– no mistakes allowed.. No child in their right mind will ever see the value in taking risks...

A comment from Jazz, again if you could-- Since you seem to have (or your parent to some degree) achieved a measure of success. Is it innate ability? your parents willingness to let you take risks, so you learned your own strengths and weaknesses? Good teachers? a rich environment? (by rich, i mean not things, but ideas) growing up in middle class environment, with ready access to books, and culture, not just in the public sphere, but at home?

Is there a defination of what is wrong? and if not, how can we formulate a plan to resolve and make right?-- and even if we can define what is wrong-- can we make right?

my other obsession

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