Re: An Eat Your Vegetables Education

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Kids need to hate school less, and be able to experience the fun of learning by studying topics that pique their interest. If History of Rock And Roll can do that, it has a place.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:08 AM
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Get off my lawn!


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:14 AM
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The bigger problem is that, when school tries to teach culture, it either has awful curatorial taste. Either you're studying dreck, or the good stuff looks worse by being taught in the same class as "The Eagles' later period works".


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:15 AM
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This seems like a mildy irritating luxury of the upper class. Sure, at your high school where nearly all the kids are breezing through the standardized testing, go ahead and stimulate their curiosity. It would be great in a vacuum, but given how much other schools are struggling, it just seems to heighten the disparity.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:15 AM
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ugh, eliminate first "either"


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:15 AM
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I don't know, there should be scope in most schools for an hour or two a week of silly/trivial/interesting stuff.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:17 AM
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But if your kid is going to get into Yale anyway, it's not as if they really need the drudgery of algebra and composition while in high school.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:19 AM
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Does anybody under 18 listen to Rock and Roll anymore? I'd have though this would excite them about as much as a course on the history of the 2nd Viennese School. Also, Becks is right (so is Heebie, but that goes without saying).


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:20 AM
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TBH, though, school is so crap a bit of variety might be fun.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:20 AM
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Jon Totillo teaching an elective SAT math class at Pelham Memorial High. The school spent $125,000 to add 17 courses to its catalog this year.

It is particularly obnoxious that one of the electives is an SAT prep course.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:20 AM
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Generally, the best stuff teens do is the result of personal enthusiasm, not assignments. Gimmicky classes like those in the article aren't likely to intersect with that, and they obviously shouldn't overshadow the fundamentals, but I don't see that they're a step in the wrong directions.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:22 AM
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re: 9

Exactly.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:24 AM
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My 2nd high school had electives. I took a comaprative lingusitsics course that was better than the one I had in college. I did take all the minimum courses that you describe.

Even if you get rid of electives, as that school did in a Back to Basics push, you still end up arguing over what should be taught in the history and government courses. The Republicans who took over the regional high school board, based in the town just south of KR's PDBS, fell out over that.

I did take a life skills classes: Outdoors Survival. I never want to build an individual shelter (and stay in it for 3 days) in the NH winter again. Plus, there's damned little food to gather then.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:25 AM
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My school had 2 hours a week that were dedicated to non-academic courses. They varied a lot. Some were arts and crafts, some were sports things that didn't fit into the normal PE class structure, some were taster courses for languages [I did Russian], one even involved learning to ride a motorbike round the school. Some of them were quite interesting, and some were very silly.

Kids on the top end of the academic stream had to drop one of those two hours in order to fit in their 8 'O' levels.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:27 AM
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When I was student-teaching in an underfunded and in some ways rather ill-advised program for kids who'd failed out of most other things, the only good paper I got from my favorite student was one on marijuana legalization. It was a dumb topic, and one we were supposed to forbid (on grounds of cliche if not on grounds of school policy). But the kid sat down and wrote a fairly well-reasoned paper way ahead of anything else he'd done. I was able to say he'd done a good job and mean it. He was really thrilled, actually.

In my own case (and I've had an appalling amount of education given the good I've gotten from it) even through the first couple of years of college I was always doing school work so that I could get it out of the way and do my real projects. I learned very little in school. What little I retain I retain either because it was important to me already (9th grade Global Studies and its emphasis on environmentalism and anti-nuclear activism; hooray for Mr. Jarvis!) or because later reading reinforced it (good enough, Mr. Sears and junior year government!) or because I hated it passionately (I'm taking about A Member of the Wedding, Ms. Jackson, also about The Return of the Native).

So it's difficult for me to see that letting kids study what they like would do any harm. If I'd studied punk rock, science fiction and generalized skepticism, I would probably retain a few fragments of musical, literary and philosophical theory--at least if those subjects had been taught in an intelligent manner.

Unfoggers, how much do you retain from high school? And why those things? Is it just that I have a memory like a sieve?


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:35 AM
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I generally agree with the post.

But, the difficulty is getting kids interested in learning. If they are not interested, they are not going to learn anything.

My recollection of school was we started with the old, boring stuff and then got to the more interesting stuff later.

The problem was the I didnt care about the old stuff bc I didnt see much relevance to it. (sorry oudemia)

However, once we got to stuff that interested me (barth, flannery, nabokov, faulkner, nathaniel west), then I wanted to go back and read the books that influenced them.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:36 AM
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Hmmm.

What you describe in the post as a good high school curriculum would have left plenty of time to fit in a jewelry making or history of rock in roll class. (If your mean parents didn't make you take triple science.)

And the instructor in me wants to see syllabuses before having fits over course titles.

But I kinda wanna break some windows over $125,000 on a SAT prep course and fun classes for the spoiled children of the landed gentry when I'd bet there's a high school within fifty miles that could have used the $21,000 from the local foundation to add a set of basic electives. Yeah, I get how education in this country is funded, and yeah, whatever, it's still ridiculous that at some high schools, we're hoping for textbooks and calc I, and at others, whether they like rock and roll, and still people think all high school education is equal (so those kids, and their bootstraps, so lazy, etc.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:36 AM
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If the courses are well designed, they might be academically useful. Any topic, no matter how silly, is something you can hang a writing class off, and there's not much that's academically more important than good clear writing at the high school level.

And I'm also not much of a believer in 'more class time means better results'. Certainly, school should have everything you say, but it's not clear to me that some silly classes are going to get in the way of that.

My high school had a whole lot of electives -- you got one or two in tenth grade, and then a whole lot in eleventh and twelfth, but they were mostly academic (the exceptions I remember were art classes). Shakespeare was an elective; while you had to take some science, you could choose between chem and physics, or take both and then go on to AP level of either, or AP bio (everyone took basic bio). Seemed to work okay.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:36 AM
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And everything Cala said.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:37 AM
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At my high school, we had calculus, but it was pretty bad and most of the students weren't good at it, so the teacher let the boys play chess.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:39 AM
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Which is to say, the course can be titled 'Calculus I' and still be a piece of ass.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:41 AM
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Well, obviously, there's two problems--one is the question of how people learn and the other of how to pay for it.

I'm really not down for making kids sit through boring classes at all, especially on the premise that if we bore the rich somehow the money saved will find its way to the poor. You can expropriate and do class redesigns at the same time.

And the idea that a class has to be expensive to be interesting...my Global Studies class had kids from all academic tracks, nothing more expensive than a VCR and a few rented videotapes and we were pretty much the most engaged bunch of kids ever.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:44 AM
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20: While the girls primped? Was chess forbidden to the laydeez? I don't understand.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:46 AM
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Four years of foreign language?

I don't see any problem with electives. Anything that engages students who wouldn't otherwise be engaged is a good thing. Yes, there are massive problems in education but I don't see The History of Rock & Roll as one of them. I would argue, actually, that one of the problems in education is the idea that fundamentals must be visited and revisited and revisited. Students who aren't performing well hear the same material year after year and become even less interested in it. I'd much rather see tutoring done when they're failing a fundamental the first time than see them forced to repeat it next year.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:48 AM
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I saw a piece within the past two weeks arguing that NCLB and its forerunner state programs, by eliminating local autonomy of education, obviated the grounds by which the Supreme Court denied equal education funding as a right in the early 70's. Found it interesting, though only likely after 16 years of Supreme Court appointments by Democrats at least. Can't find the link, though - a little help?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:48 AM
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What Frowner and LB said.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:50 AM
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The way HS is taught, anything less than four years of HS foreign language is the same as no foreign language at all. I really see no purpose in teaching enough foreign language to pass a test and then dropping it. Nothing will remain.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:52 AM
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23: Girls weren't going to be as good as chess, and there were only two or three of us in the calc class anyway. Or something. I still don't get chess, which annoys me.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:52 AM
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Nothing will remain.

That's entirely plausible, but I only took 2 years in high school and did well enough to place into Spanish 3 in college at a college that required three semesters of foreign language. My personal experience was that getting to take Jazz Band my sophomore year and Algebra II a year early as a freshman was more valuable than another year of Spanish and I do well enough now that I can get the general gist of an Univision news broadcast. (Admittedly, the pictures help.)


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 8:57 AM
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I see a thousand-post thread on {{The Meaning of Education}} coming. What I'll be saying 20 times on that thread, as per usual, is that thinking about education is completely confused, and that there are so many agendas and so many fingers in the pie that the smart money is on nothing ever improving much.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:01 AM
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||
BLEG: If anyone can think of a context in which courts must consider the motives of all officers involved in a particular action (and not just of the guy "in charge"), it would do wonders for a brief I am trying to finish. Email address linked to my pseud...
|>


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:06 AM
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At least at the high school I attended, there was a lot of flexible space in the schedule that could have been replaced by something like this, after all the mandatory stuff like 4 years of english, 4 of math, etc. Some of the non-mandatory stuff I took: an "independent research" class which was mostly an excuse to wander around the neighboring university campus or sit in the library and read whatever I wanted; an orchestra class, when I was already on the verge of giving up the instrument I played; a computer programming class that taught Pascal. Any of those might have been profitably replaced by a "History of Rock and Roll" class; definitely I would have been better served by developing a better taste in music then, rather than learning a useless programming language.

For that matter, my school's required "humanities" class was mostly "listen to some aging hippy talk about his favorite art and music while stoned", so pretty much on the same footing as "History of Rock and Roll". Actually, I would have loved a class that did some serious music theory in high school.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:07 AM
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"20 years of schoolin and they put you on the dayshift."

I see little evidence that education liberalizes, except at the margins, those with predispositions, etc. Too many erudite fundy wingnuts outthere.

Sell the little buggers into apprenticeships at 12.

The hautes should be abused with Latin, Greek, lacrosse, ballroom dancing, etc.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:09 AM
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27: Yeah, I'd agree with dropping a foreign language requirement and making it an elective instead (perhaps adding an academic elective each term). I probably use nearly every other academic skill I picked up in high school on a frequent basis, but can barely put a sentence together in French anymore.

Like LB's school, mine was loaded with electives but they were almost all academic. By the senior year, both history/social science and english classes (one per semester) were electives from a range of 4-5 choices each semester. After finishing up calculus, all the remaining math courses were electives, and a number of students took math electives as extra courses. The first two years had required science courses, but you could test out of the biology year, and everything else was electives.

It's pretty sweet, but it requires some seriously good teachers who are actually interested in building their own academically-focused courses. It also helped having a group of kids selected to want to take all these electives. For a more typical school, it makes sense to have a more rigid curriculum, and I'd definitely like to see it include more math and science (but I would).


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:16 AM
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Unfoggers, how much do you retain from high school? And why those things?

I honestly can't recall much of anything specific that stuck from my high school education. The 5-paragraph essay format, maybe? I did very well in high school calculus -- and would now would struggle with all but the most basic of algebra without a substantial refresher. But I don't think high school is about teaching you Important Things You Will Remember Forever so much as providing the building blocks so that, when you get to college and start figuring out the direction you want to go in life, you will be have the tools to jump in. Had I decided to pursue math/physics 15+ years ago (which was once a fairly realistic possibility), I could have done it.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:17 AM
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I've retained enough of my high school Spanish that I can communicate with the recent immigrants here who haven't yet learned English. As long as they speak slowly and in the present tense.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:21 AM
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Unfoggers, how much do you retain from high school? And why those things?

I actually feel like I retained more from high school than from a lot of college, excepting classes in my major. I attribute this to having really good teachers, and a decently motivated and bright set of kids, because it was an IB program.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:25 AM
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The only way I could support an elective class like this is if it was modeled off of one of the Freshman Writing Intensive classes some colleges offer. Sure, you get to study rock and roll but only to learn how to crank out a 2000 word paper each week. If that would get more students to take what is essentially a composition class, that's OK.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:25 AM
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The first priority should be critical thinking. Everything else is secondary.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:26 AM
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My actual proposal would be for about six years of HS FL.

There's a lot to be said for year-long intensive language-only schools (on the military / state department model) for people who really need the language for practical reasons. However, I really don't think that anyone can do good work in philosophy, literature, or most of history without a strong FL background. (Of course, my definition of philosophy isn't the American one. But, for example, I think that Leiter's Nietzsche book would have been a better one of he'd been aware of the German and French scholarship, and that Leiter would be better all around if read French and read more extensively in German).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:26 AM
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I retain most of AP US History, especially the Documents-Based Question test format.


Posted by: Klug | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:26 AM
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I also think four years of English class is too much. This is not to say I'm against four years of developing Engish skills, but I don't think four years of sentence diagramming and writing compare and contrast essays about A Separate Peace does a whole lot of good.

LizardBreath had the right idea that any topic can be used as a base to hang a writing class off of. Under that scenario, there's no reason History of Rock and Roll wouldn't be a potentially great way to satisfy an otherwise boring English requirement.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:28 AM
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The first priority should be critical thinking. Everything else is secondary.

I think this over-estimates the Piaget stage a lot of high school kids are at.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:31 AM
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I'm cranky about this topic because my brothers both go to/went to a wealthy suburban high school with a lot of similar electives and got a crap education for it. They spent so much time taking classes like computer graphics and photography that they missed out on the fundamentals.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:33 AM
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Everything else is secondary.

Mmm, I think at this point in history, learning how to access and sort information is co-primary.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:34 AM
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This really isn't exactly on topic, but there's something really wrong with how lab science is taught. I'm a generally nerdy, science interested person, and I never had a lab that didn't feel like pointless busywork. Electives that involved more serious lab work would be cool.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:34 AM
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We had a lot of electives, but also every AP class. If you took fewer AP classes, you could take Auto Repair or Jewelry Making or whatever. Not many humanities electives, but there were even a few math electives, like Consumer Math, which was sort of like Econ for people who don't plan on going to college. There were electives on Environmental Science, on upper-level physics and psychology, and six year's worth of foreign languages, in case you tested out of a few years' worth and wanted more. I took an elective Repertory Theater class in which I directed plays for academic credit. Chambers Choir was probably my biggest time-suck, with all the traveling.

Electives made the required load bearable, even as they made it more stressful. I learned a lot more from taking darkroom photography than I did in freshman English. A couple of my high school English and Math teachers were great, but, and this is all my fault, I didn't learn shit about English or Math until college, despite the fact that I came in theoretically already having taken two years of calculus.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:35 AM
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the Piaget stage

Which reminds me: psychology was one of the best classes I took in high school, and I retain most of it. It was fascinating, because I really had no clue before taking the class that it was such an experiment-driven subject. I was expecting Freudian crap and touchy-feely "hierarchy of needs" stuff (which I had been subjected to in some other class), but I was pleasantly surprised.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:38 AM
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You could integrate a history-literature-philosophy class and develop writing skills as part of it. That's pretty much what Reed College does.

Reed is an intensive, elite school, but it assumes very little from entering students. There just aren't enough tough high schools to only admit students who have solid backgrounds. As a result, the first two years is sink-or-swim, like a boot camp. I sank.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:38 AM
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42: High school English sucks because (a) they don't have time enough or energy enough to actually grade the hundreds of real essays they'd have to assign to teach writing at that level, so they assign this 5-paragraph "compare and contrast" nonsense, which is BULLSHIT AND RUINS MY LIFE WHEN I GET THEM IN COLLEGE, YOU FUCKERS, and (b) they're not allowed to talk about shit or sex or God in any interesting way, so poetry doesn't make sense at all.

I regret saying this, because we had some amazing and brilliant high school English teachers, but, yeah, after four years, I'd learned bupkis.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:40 AM
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I'd emphasize music in any HS I was the Hitler of. I think that it's more character-building than anything, and it can be a lifelong hobby.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:41 AM
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Math: mostly forgotten past perhaps factoring polynomials.

Science: also gone, at least the coursework.

History / Government: knew enough beforehand that I didn't learn much to begin with.

English: actually improved a lot in sophistication and ability to analyze; I remember clearly the point in 10th grade when it hit me that the point of a 5-paragraph essay is to make an intellectual argument to the reader, not to lay out commentary based on a mechanical template.

Languages: Kept up in college, skipping a level.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:41 AM
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40: Yes, foreign language is definitely crucial for research in some fields, but I don't think it's a really handy all-around tool for understanding the world in the same way that math, most sciences, writing, literature, and history/sociology are. That's why I think it should be a fairly strongly-encouraged academic elective rather than a core requirement.

Any foreign language class that I can think of as universally helpful would be closer to a linguistics/anthropology class, examining a foreign language especially for the ways it differs from one's own, how those differences tie in with that other language's origins and cultural background, and identifying parallels in other major languages. That seems like a course that would actually encourage the appreciation of other cultures and perspectives that a lot of people attribute as a virtue of learning foreign languages but I found sorely lacking from my once-respectable knowledge of French.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:43 AM
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53: Is a class like that possible at all without first having some level of fluency in the language being examined? It sounds great, but also like something you'd need to leave until after successful completion of high school French or Spanish or whatever.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:44 AM
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43: I don't. It's not that I think that most students are going to become totally sophisticated by the time they graduate, but if the homeroom teacher subjects students to Channel One, s/he should lead a short discussion about how one decides whether a source can be trusted or whether the way information is presented (graphics, music, order of segments) affects students' reactions. That sort of thing.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:45 AM
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That kind of class sound pretty poppy, like you'd end up with all these neat Whorfian factoids that might not even be true.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:46 AM
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Isn't it significantly easier to pick up a foreign language when young? That would be a reason to at least get the basics down in middle school or high school.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:47 AM
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55: Those are useful conversations to have, but there's a whole lot of exposure to topics that needs to happen for those conversations to gain traction.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:48 AM
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We're sort of verging now on the good old practical schooling vs. cultural enrichment debate. And the science vs. humanities debate. And the elite vs. mass debate. And we're only in the fifties.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:49 AM
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I definitely believe that statistics should be taught to advanced math students instead of calculus, if the choice has to be made. I never used or needed the calculus I sort of used to have, but I often wish I had a better understanding of statistics.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:51 AM
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I'd put art and music in the core disciplines. Given my druthers it'd be set up as language, math, music and art in the core subjects, with various ways of accessing them so that everyone would be taking a core classes all the way through high school. You could take 3 years of English and 2 of Spanish (w/ a year of both); 4 of Math (either going into calculus at the high end or into an applied math course, perhaps programming or accounting); Band, a solo instrument, or music appreciation/history or dance, spread out over the 4 years; and art both applied, history, and appreciation spread out over the 4 years. There is so much synergy between these disciplines that the net effect is to make learning other things vastly simpler, and a lot of elective type subjects can be fitted into the basic framework. The essential thing is to maximize the number of ways the student can express and think about any given subject, and to maximize the number modes of interaction and connection between people.

Also students will be issued flying Unicorns for transportation.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:56 AM
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I definitely believe that statistics should be taught to advanced math students instead of calculus,

I'd get behind this.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:57 AM
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54: Eh, if you actually wanted students to have an appreciation for the subtleties of the structural differences, you'd probably need more than 4 years of high school training to take the class. You'd probably only be able to teach it to near-bilingual kids. But a fair number of structural differences can probably be explained somewhat clearly without needing to know the ins and outs of the language. Though admittedly the course I'm talking about wouldn't really be a foreign language course (except incidentally) so much as a cultural-immersion course that acknowledges language as fundamentally intertwined with culture. I just think that would probably ultimately be more useful for most people than learning conjugation tables that they'll forget within a couple years.

56: It would certainly be poppy, but I don't see any reason why it should be more so than any history or social science course. Any of those tends to be a series of facts with some intellectual models tieing them together, and the teacher's selection of facts and intellectual models can be very subjective, with a heavy influence on what the students ultimately take out of the course.

(Incidentally, that's why I'm pissed off with the crappy macroecon course I'm currently taking to fulfill my final requirement for the MBA. My current teacher is one of the few people actually at Chicago who you curse when you curse Chicago Economists. It's quite annoying the studies and statistics that he selectively presents to shore up the somewhat-useful but institution-ignoring econ 101 models. And on that note, thanks again for sending me that paper, PGD! It was a good read!)


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:58 AM
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Isn't it significantly easier to pick up a foreign language when young?

By what I've heard (though others doubtlessly are more aware of the literature on this) and what I've seen among my bilingual and first-generation immigrant friends, young means less than 10. And probably less than 5 for most people to learn the new set of phoneme for a proper accent. I'd probably support a foreign language as an elementary school course starting in kindergarten even if I don't think it should be a required high school course.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:03 AM
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I did my best college work in literature and cultural studies, but the stuff I learned in high school had to be beaten out of me with a stick. I remember liking a few books we read in English classes -- Wuthering Heights, Things Fall Apart -- but thinking I was much better equipped to write essays than I was. My first two college essays came back with "unacceptable" written on them. In one of them, I referenced "The Tao of Pooh" in order to explain Emerson's relationship to Eastern philosophy. In another I tried to be Dave Barry. Bad start. Compassionate teachers.

My two AP history classes -- European and American -- were much better, exposing me to actual theories of why things happened, which was enough to move forward once I got to college (though I ended up doing much more social theory and cultural studies than straightforward history).


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:08 AM
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Spanish and music were probably the things I took in high school that really stuck with me in college. I was able to enter an elective on postmodern Latin American fiction my first semester with no problem.

What I didn't realize was that, as I was getting kick-ass language instruction, other high schools were cutting language programs back to basic grammar, if that. And what I most particularly didn't realize was that this would lead to the eradication of literature study in several foreign languages in many colleges. Colleges may hire brilliant non-English literature profs, but only a precious few of them get to teach electives in literature. Even the awesome German profs at my college mostly taught Grammar I and Grammar II. This is approaching crisis-level for the MLA, on a structural level. But it's also becoming a crisis-level problem for a country that, like, really needs people who know Chinese, Arabic, and Russian.

I know most people don't care about the growing problem in foreign lit studies for academia's sake, but when the government can't even find Arabic translators (and the ones the military finds are kicked out for being, like, gay, or whatever), you'd think it would occur to someone that broad and deep language instruction in high school might be one of those things we should start actively funding again.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:16 AM
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60 was a marginal comment, at best.


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:23 AM
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...it's also becoming a crisis-level problem for a country that, like, really needs people who know Chinese, Arabic, and Russian.

Indeed. We're fucked if we don't become more internationally fluent, not just in language, but in culture also. The current position of the US as the preeminent world power allows us to indulge our worst parochial impulses, and that is precisely what will destroy our position in the world, reducing the US to the status of bitter old has-been. With nukes.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:25 AM
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I'll also agree with 60. Calculus shouldn't be the assumed class after high school math, but should instead be taught (at a high level and fast pace, FFS) for people who plan on going on to math, science, and engineering. But then, I also think probability should be a core part of our earliest math education on par with arithmatic.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:30 AM
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A couple of things; I agree with Emerson that everyone should get some stats into them. H.G. Wells said that in the future understanding statistics would be as important as literacy; well, we're there.

Also, I quit e like the idea of making some of the vocational (=trade and snob-despised) stuff compulsory. For one thing, it's useful; for another it's good to mix your hard science, high culture etc with something physical, and for yet a third thing it's the only way I can see that the goal of parity-of-esteem will ever be achieved. Theoretically a top-level vocational course in the UK is equivalent to 1.5 A-levels, but the snobbery attaching to it makes this meaningless.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:30 AM
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That would be an "eat your liver" education. I'm all for it!


Posted by: W. Kiernan | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:33 AM
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I haven't read the comments yet, but I want to note that at the university I attended they changed their graduation requirements from covering a range of subjects (e.g, [Math,Science],[History,Sociology],[Philosophy, Literature], etc . . .) to covering a ranger of academic approaches ([Historical Thinking],[Rhetorical Analysis], [Quantitative] , . . . .) with the plan that those would correlate with academic disciplines in some way, but not necessarily.

So a professor could propose an English course that was either historical, or focused on rhetoric, and those would satisfy separate requirements.

Part of the motivation for the change was the idea that "breadth" requirements for content didn't accomplish that much (how many students remember Hooke's Law after graduation even if you require them to sit in a class where it's mentioned) and that emphasizing method of thinking (and learning) would help focus both the instructor and the students on the type of breadth that was intended in the gen ed requirements.

I don't see any reason why a High School couldn't make the same choice. It's slightly more suspect in the case of a High School -- because it's easier to imagine that their's a core set of content that should be taught in High School but I would ultimately be inclined to believe that a focus on methodology if successful is more important than the content.

The "if successful" part in that last sentence may be assuming too much.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:38 AM
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Retained HS:

A pretty good/detailed framework of US History (Approved Version); no other history (scandalous)

Enough German that, 15 years later, I can generally participate in conversations with AB's relatives. If I had had any reinforcement in the first 10 years, I would probably do much better.

Surprisingly little from English, given that I had 2.5 good teachers in 4 years.

A decent chunk of Bio, Chem, and Physics.

Not one lick of calc. After getting a 5 on the B/C level AP exam. Grumble.

Mad square dancing skillz*.

Pretty solid drafting skillz.

Wood shop skills good enough to have earned me some $$ over the years.

I think that expecting HS students, as a whole, to develop critical thinking is very optimistic. Maybe you could explicitly teach it, using student-friendly topics like sports, culture, and weed, but I think that expecting them to absorb it implicitly at the same time they're learning basic info about 6 different topics is unrealistic. I was a smart, attentive, intellectually ambition kid, and I was still doing parrot-like work in HS. I was parroting some smart people, but still.

* Not really. I mean, I really took it, as part of gym, but I have no skillz.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:06 AM
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I took five years of French in my suburban middle-of-nowhere middle and high school, and I placed out of the language requirement through a written test. I took an advanced seminar my first semester at [Selective Private Liberal Arts College], and was deeply embarrassed by the difference between my crappy accent and all of the other students.

I still tell people that the experience scarred me for life. My boyfriend made fun of me because I wouldn't speak French in Montreal, even though I was translating all of the signs, and understood everyone who spoke to us.

I also went to college believing I had better writing skills than I did - probably the result of high test scores and advanced classes, etc. But I really didn't learn the basics of using evidence to make an argument until college.

I majored in history, so college classes just showed me that nearly everything I learned in high school was wrong. I can barely remember the basics of all the math and science classes I took.


Posted by: pasdquoi | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:07 AM
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I probably use nearly every other academic skill I picked up in high school on a frequent basis, but can barely put a sentence together in French anymore.

Well, that's because studying French as a first foreign language is dumb. That's not a slam on you, but rather on the stupid ideas about foreign language education in this country. First foreign language in the US: Spanish, two years mandatory for everyone.


As for a course that would actually encourage the appreciation of other cultures and perspectives--

This has little to do with comparative linguistics. Rather, it's about having the cultural and historical background to understand expressions in the target language (newspaper articles, interviews with native speakers, films, books, cultural phenomena in general). You can teach that even at the very beginning levels of language learning, but it requires that the textbook/teacher use real examples in the target language (not just example sentences and situations) and demand that the students put them in a cultural context. What is this, who is it for, what purpose is it serving? What relevant background is it drawing on that I don't have? (Unsurprisingly, these come down to some of the basic questions of critical analysis of any text. But with the added consciousness of the text as coming from some 'other' place I might have to do more work to understand.) Of course, teaching that way requires a great textbook and a wealth of supporting materials.

Teaching the mechanics of grammar for two or three years and then suddenly demanding that this sign system also be laden with cultural meaning just doesn't make any sense.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:09 AM
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I learned to drive. Unhook a bra one-handed. Fake having done the reading. Anticipate betrayal of the Kurds.

I was in calculus, but it didn't take.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:18 AM
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Unhook a bra one-handed.

That must have been one hell of an elective, Charley.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:22 AM
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I think that one reason why people don't remember calculus is that outside certain fields you never use it. Whereas if I'd gotten grounded in statistics, I'd be reading a lot of stuff that I just skip over now, and from time to time I'd be motivated to brush up or learn additional skills.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:22 AM
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While writing 73, I was thinking along the lines of what NickS describes in 72 - a curriculum focused not on fact-accumulating but on thinking skill-accumulating.

I think that you could, theoretically, make it work if your goals were modest enough.

Off the top of my head, 3 or 4 types of thinking:

Critical Thinking, esp. in the sense of logic and taking apart arguments. Teach kids that "objectivity" is nonsense. Obviously centered in history, lit, and a clever history of science class

Scientific Thinking. Less emphasis on teaching science facts, more on scientific approach. I know that my teachers would always talk about the Scientific Method, but I feel like it was overwhelmed by talk of phyla and electron orbits and frictionless surfaces. This might address LB's dissatisfaction with her lab courses. Maybe.

Mathematical Thinking. I don't know whether this is actually distinct from math courses as they're now taught, or really from Scientific Thinking. Maybe it's the same basic content, presented differently. I could definitely get on board for some stats in HS.

Linguistic Thinking. My JHS had no German, so I took French, despite a nascent francophobia. But that came in handy when I took German 2 years later, as I was able to recognize patterns and start to understand how language works. Based on nothing more than that (and a lot of reading that's given me a good sense of Greek & Latin roots), I'm really good at getting the sense of text in European languages I don't know. Seems to me a bit less rote memorization and a bit more of that would do the kids some good. Obviously, English classes can reinforce this. Also, this is more valuable if every kid comes into HS with 2 years of a language under her belt.

None of this is to eliminate non-core classes. Maybe you call them creative thinking and practical thinking.

One interesting thing about such an approach is that it addresses the modern situation, which is that all the info in the world is at our fingertips at all times, yet most people are incapable of sifting through it in any intelligent way. Shit, you could have an entire series of courses in evaluating stuff you read on the internet. 101: Why Youtube comments are all stupid; 201: Is it true just because it's on Wikipedia?; 301: What's the deal with blogs?; 312: RTFA; 401: Read all of a John Holbo post and explain it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:22 AM
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Isn't the problem that one is trying to teach teenagers? Who would rather be doing anything else than sit in school?

I'll bet that a course could be designed on sort of a blog structure, pulling or pushing in different directions as the interests came along. Of course, one would first need to have a clear picture of the finished product. Worker bees, with some going on to higher ed, good citizens, cannon fodder or what.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:24 AM
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Unhook a bra one-handed.

Hah. I learned how to do that in middle school. Behind my back, yet.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:25 AM
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77 -- Homework beyond the actual assignment, to be sure.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:26 AM
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I'll bet that a course could be designed on sort of a blog structure, pulling or pushing in different directions as the interests came along.

Given how often threads here devolve into cock jokes, and that we're mature adults, I'm not sure this is a good idea.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:27 AM
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81 -- While the mechanical aspects present non-trivial difficulty, the real skill is in the social component. When rather than how.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:28 AM
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81: okay, but I bet you had earlier exposure to the course materials.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:28 AM
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Why assume that "the history of rock and roll" is necessarily trivial or silly? I can think of a lot of things one could do in a course like that that would be extremely important, actually.

- the history of racism and race relations in America
- African-American influence on "mainstream" American culture
- music education
- the history of mid-20th century America: McCarthyism, the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War
- poetry, aka "lyrics"
- geography

And anyway, it really sucks when people don't realize that arts education *is*, in fact, important.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:30 AM
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Unfoggers, how much do you retain from high school? And why those things?

The h.s. class I'm most thankful for was typing. I'm not even kidding.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:31 AM
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It's the same problem with Americans and foreign languages. Except for Spanish, and French near Quebec, ordinary HS kids have trouble imagining that they'll need or use a foreign language. In many European countries (all but England, France, and Germany, I'd guess) at least one foreign language is needed to have a career, and a 300 mile trip usually crosses a linguistic border. Not here.

My commitment to foreign languages is humanistic and elitist. It really bothers me to read books from anywhere in the humanities which are researched only in English. And not just because I hate America.

My Mongol studies have required materials from three languages besides English, and even so I'm three languages short (Russian, Persian, and Mongol). Admittedly that's an extreme case. (The stars in the field have some knowledge of 15 languages or so, though not necessarily a fluent reading knowledge, much less a speaking knowledge).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:35 AM
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81: Really? I still need two hands, and am always impressed when boys can do it.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:35 AM
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First foreign language in the US: Spanish, two years mandatory for everyone.

But why's this so much better? Mandarin would have been a far far far (insert several more "fars" here) more useful language for me to learn. The number of times it would've been particularly helpful for me to know spanish beyond some ingredient names can be counted on one hand while I'm holding a beer in it. But I think that's just because it's nearly impossible to identify any one language that will be useful to people, since we've already got English covered here in our schools.

As for French, that was just the requirement at my middle school. Once I placed out of two years of high school French using it, there was no way in hell I was going to switch to another language and subject myself to taking foreign language classes for more years.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:38 AM
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Guys are more motivated than laydeez (except for LB). Back on the veldt, etc.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:38 AM
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Having spent more time playing for the other team (both as spouse of an HS teacher in the 80s and parent of high schoolers in the 00s) I have much lower expectations of schools than a great many UMC folks I meet. Want your kids to learn something: teach it to them. I'm not suggesting home schooling, exactly, because the social dimension of HS is worth doing. Still . . .

(Is Witt reading?)

I'm taking my son canvassing on an Indian reservation on Monday. He'll learn more doing that for one day than a lot of time in social studies classes. We're going to go to the Bear Paw battlefield too -- I hope in a driving rain, if not blizzard -- and I'll probably make him read Robert Penn Warren before hand. I'm always annoyed that the emphasis on attendance makes these things costly for my kids.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:44 AM
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90. My daughter's oh so posh girl's school just dropped French in favor of Mandarin. Much gnashing of teeth from la vieille garde, but looking to the future, etc. Helps that we are in the San Gabriel Valley, with more Chinese (from various spots) than San Francisco and New York combined.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:50 AM
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One interesting thing about such an approach is that it addresses the modern situation, which is that all the info in the world is at our fingertips at all times, yet most people are incapable of sifting through it in any intelligent way.

Reading this, I am struck by how much this is not a new concern. Specifically, I am reminded of something Heinlein wrote in 1950 (collected in Expanded Universe), which is apparently quoted relatively widely online:

The greatest crisis facing us is not Russia, not the Atom bomb, not corruption in government, not encroaching hunger, nor the morals of the young. It is a crisis in the organization and accessibility of human knowledge. We own an enormous "encyclopedia" -- which isn't even arranged alphabetically. Our "file cards" are spilled on the floor, nor were they ever in order. The answers we want may be buried somewhere in the heap,but it might take a lifetime to locate two already known facts, place them side by side, and derive a third fact, the one we urgently need.
Call it the crisis of the Librarian.

On preview B's list of the various "serious" topics that could be covered in a history of rock music is good. I have said that an appreciation for the history of pop music gives me a starting point for thinking about social history generally.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:51 AM
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I'm always annoyed that the emphasis on attendance makes these things costly for my kids.

Really good point. AFAIC, if the parent vouches that the kid was doing something enriching, it shouldn't go against any absence count. But of course you've got shitty parents, forging kids, etc.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:53 AM
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86 - this is why I think the arts should be core curriculum stuff. The arts are inextricably intertwined with history and culture, and more than that they provide a way for people to connect to each other. Education that focuses on job related skills is all well and good if we want a society of drones, but if we want a civil society with humane values we have to focus on things that connect people, and that means music, painting, drawing, sculpture, dance, and all the rest.

In my dream high school Junior and Senior years have dance as a requirement. Twice a week, ballroom dancing with occasional forays into various folk dances and the like.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:53 AM
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It would be theoretically possible to raise Spanish language kids bilingual and literate in two languages, but a lot of reasons make that unlikely.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:54 AM
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I think that HS sex ed is too theoretical and not hands-on enough. That's what I think.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:56 AM
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It would be theoretically possible to raise Spanish language kids bilingual and literate in two languages

Not actually that hard. I'm not saying my kids are native speakers of Spanish, but they're both above-grade-level literate at least, and can get through a conversation adequately. And that's with basically no support at home, other than my whining at them to help me with my trying to learn Spanish myself, and borrowing their children's books.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:57 AM
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98. Like they do in England!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTMlZSKEu-Y


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:59 AM
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86, 96: But but but but but.... should it be required? I mean, I had some fun making my shitty attempts at pottery on a throwing wheel, and learning how to develop black-and-white photography was pretty sweet, but I think mandatory dance, music, or art classes would have driven me into actually being one of those sullen, depressed, knee-jerk contrarian adolescents I hear so much about.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:00 PM
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101: Aversive conditioning would have brought you around.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:02 PM
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93 is pretty great to hear. If you're going to have a single mandatory language, at least make it an interesting one with potential use outside fancy restaurants and de rigueur high school trips to Europe to "broaden your education".


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:05 PM
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I sort of think the concept of this post is BS. I went to a wealthy suburban high school with funky electives and they were tremendously worthwhile. You miss out on the fundamentals if you want to miss the fundamentals, not because they're insufficiently drilled into you. Art, life skills, manual skills are all important and you sure as shot aren't going to learn them in college.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:05 PM
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I sort of think the concept of this post is BS.

I take this as indication that the rest of the comment should be read as sarcastic.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:07 PM
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93, 103: Isn't there a huge difficulty issue, though? No cognates, not the familiar alphabet... People don't successfully learn Romance and Germanic languages now in high school; while making Mandarin available is a great idea, making it the single required language seems as if it would result in a lot less successful language learning.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:09 PM
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If you're going to have a single mandatory language, at least make it an interesting one with potential use outside fancy restaurants and de rigueur high school trips to Europe to "broaden your education".

I guess all those French speakers in Africa and the Caribbean don't count.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:09 PM
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98 - this is subsumed in my 96. Start with line dancing, then square dancing, then waltz, then tango, then the horizontal mambo.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:16 PM
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107. Mandarin is not the only foreign language taught. They still have German and Spanish. I am willing to bet that there will be more Asians in the class than the white girls.

The demographics of the school are striking visually. Basically a student is either blonde or black haired. Add some red hair for spice, but you get the idea. I think the brunettes need some affirmative action.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:18 PM
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The first question is always: are you trying to teach skills or are you trying to teach content? I've learned the hard way that you better be clear about which of the two things is your first and primary objective.

Now, you need content to teach skills: a class that's nothing but skill-drilling is painful and disconnected from anything remotely real. You need skills to teach content, or it's just rote repetition. But you need to prioritize.

So, take history in high school: what's the goal here? That nationwide, students have a strong command over a fairly standardized body of knowledge about American and world history because we deem that important for some ultimate purpose? (heritage, patriotism, civic participation, understanding of contemporary issues, understanding of cause and effect in human societies, what have you?)

Or is history just a convenient vehicle for getting students to master analytic writing, use of evidence, research skills, reasoning and persuasion, and so on?

If it's the content which matters most, then yes, you really don't want electives cluttering things up. If it's the skills, it almost doesn't matter what the content framework is: you can teach analytic writing, use of evidence, etc., through a wide variety of subject matter, the more interesting to the students, the better.

I think a very good teacher can make the standardized body of content in a subject intensely relevant and exciting to students: there is nothing intrinsically boring about the Age of Jackson or a differential equation. I think a bad teacher can make the sexiest-sounding subject matter something that actively repels students and keeps them from accomplishing anything of worth.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:25 PM
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I think skills work way better in high school than content. College is so much more productive when a few of the skills are already in place, too.

Frex, I recall very vividly only one thing about my freshman high school Geography class. Our exams involved drawing maps of each continent on a blank piece of paper and identifying, in addition to country names, 40 cities, rivers, mountain ranges, deserts, or other landmarks, closed-book. The rest of the class was idiotic, and I hated the teacher, but the skill of having to recall those things from memory was incredibly valuable.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:30 PM
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(Of course, that required a lot of content-teaching, too, but it came secondary to the skill of representing geographical space accurately from memory.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:31 PM
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I had a "history of American music" class in high school that was incredibly interesting, even though it was about a bunch of music I didn't like. It petered out short of rock and roll, though.

I'm going to take a contrarian stance, and argue that statistics would not be helpful for the general person (as opposed to someone who goes into the social sciences or something like that). A statistics class would only make the average person be more credulous about statistics, which is not obviously the right outcome. The only useful things a statistics class would teach would be what pollsters mean when they say "within the margin of error" and enough conditional probability to understand why an accurate medical test for a rare disease will necessarily have a high false positive rate. What it won't teach is that any practical statistical procedure has an implied model, and that the outcome is only as good as the model. And what it _really_ won't teach is that models fail to be good for reasons you would never guess beforehand (this is why medical results are so frequently overturned).


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:38 PM
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(Is Witt reading?)

I am now; why?

I'm biased in favor of real-world experiences and hands-on activities such as described in 92.2. One of the most important things a young person needs is adult time and focused attention.

Hopefully that attention is directed toward developing their critical thinking and related analysis skills, as Sir K and Apo et al. have been saying. But even if not --- even if that time is devoted to taking apart cars or conjugating French verbs or what-have-you -- it's much less about the content, and much more about helping young people develop the skills to be engaged, thoughtful participants in the world.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:40 PM
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A statistics class would only make the average person be more credulous about statistics

I'm not sure I buy this.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:41 PM
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Skills-pwned by 111 and 112.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:42 PM
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116: I'd be curious to hear why. Did you take statistics, and think "this is bullshit"?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:43 PM
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Did you take statistics, and think "this is bullshit"?

No, but I took statistics and now think "this is bullshit" when media figures misuse statistics. As just one example.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:46 PM
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Walt, not to answer for Brock, but I think the problem here is what assumptions you're starting with about how numerate people are already. Given the number of journalists I've had to educate about concepts such as margin of error, I'd be thrilled if I could count on my fellow citizens at least having been exposed to some basic statistics terminology and ideas.

I have never even taken a stats class and don't fully understand what's in one. So when somebody says "Everyone should take a statistics class," my immediate reaction is Yeah! That'd be great! (assuming the course taught the kind of entry-entry level stuff I know and am teaching others).

If I thought "a stats class" meant "Everybody should be able to quiz a doctoral student about the ins and outs of his or her methodology," I'd be a lot less enthusiastic.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 12:48 PM
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I placed out of college language requirements after the 10th grade when I took an achievement test. It's true that I was in 4th year French at the time. Of course, it didn't matter since languages were my favorite subject.

I deeply regret not having taken statistics. I may take it yet, since there are a lot of jobs that interest me which require it.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 1:14 PM
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there is nothing intrinsically boring about... a differential equation

Oh yes there is. And I say that as a math major who uses techniques based upon diff. eq. pretty often. Basic differential equations are like basic accounting. No one actually likes them because they're boring and simple, but they're super useful and the language for entire interesting areas of study, so you learn them anyway and try to be quick about it.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 1:22 PM
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I went to the talented and gifted academy (that was what they called it) during middle school, and they worked pretty hard on analytical skills. I did not go to the TAG HS (because I did not wish to ride a bus forty miles each way every day - 20 miles was bad enough) so there was a painfully obvious downshift in analytical course content in HS. (Having later dealt with people younger than I am who were dealing with HS, I noticed that the course labels were much more impressive than anything I took, but the content seemed to be watered down.) I retain most of the history, most of the math, and the science background; mainly because I was always reading in and around those subjects anyways. Latin did not stick, excepting that I can puzzle out French in spite of only having taken a semester of that. Woodshop stuck.

I am amused that the article reports a military history class, but they aren't allowed to play games. I had one of those in 7th grade and we did play games, which was actually useful, analytically-speaking.

So, I mostly agree with Becks, but I particularly second Emerson (and Heebie) on languages and stat. Two years of algebra followed by switching into stat would probably work better. Following that up with either extra stat or switching back into something precalcish seems like it would be a better plan. Everyone is going to be doing it all over again in college anyways, so why waste time trying to look impressive?

max
['And I learned all about race relations!']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 1:23 PM
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I'm curious what kinds of misapprehensions you had to correct, Witt. The difference between mean and median? The fundamental innumeracy of journalists -- the inability to understand the difference between a million and a billion, or to check to see someone is not double counting -- is not something that a statistics class would correct. A statistics class wouldn't have saved journalists from falling for the 2000 Bush campaign's phony math. An accounting class would have.

Most people routinely get the idea of "margin of error" wrong, but do they get it wrong in a way that causes them to misinterpret the results?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 1:23 PM
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One of the early high-school math classes I took had us read (and do some work based on) How To Lie with Statistics, which is a great book and arguably the scepticism it creates is more valuable than an actual command of the material. You can always (especially these days) look something up, but the trick is to know when you ought to be suspicious enough to do so.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 1:31 PM
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A statistics class usually teaches, a) the basics of probability, including the binomial and normal distributions, b) conditional probability and Bayes rule, c) the Central Limit Theorem, c) how if you have a population that is normally distributed, how to estimate the mean and standard deviation, d) how to test if the mean of a normal random variable is secretly zero, and how to compute the confidence interval around a mean (that's "margin of error"). Honestly, statistics classes are pretty fucking boring.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 1:31 PM
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108: Well, true, my perspective is colored by never having gone to West Africa, though I guess one of my francophone friends in college was the daughter of diplomats(?) who'd grown up in Kinshasa, so it may still be widely spoken there. I think French was also marginally useful once in Vietnam when the wife of an extremely old faculty head was the one person at the dinner table who did not know English, but spoke some French. So ok, mildly useful. Still, orders of magnitude less so than Mandarin would have been in high school, college, and even today.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 1:36 PM
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127: It isn't just West Africa; French is still widely spoken all over North Africa, too. And if you take this page's word for it, French is the second-most influential language in the world (or was 10 years ago).


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 1:56 PM
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I guess what I mean is if a teacher who is teaching you differential equations is a compelling person in his or her own right, is focused on what kind of experience the students are having, and can compellingly sketch out for you what the uses and applications of those equations are, you'll find yourself swept along pretty readily with the common effort most of the time. An indifferent or unimaginative teacher could make a class on sex boring (cf that little sketch in Monty Python's Meaning of Life).


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:00 PM
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Re: 128. There are a lot of good reasons to study French (a specific interest in Francophone parts of the world, a specific interest in France or French history and culture, a specific interest in literature in French, a general interest in European languages of which French is a predominant example, or just 'what the heck, it's there'), but if I was going to rate languages on the "influential" meter, where knowing the language opened crucial opportunities that I could not possibly have access to without it, I think Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin and arguably Japanese trump French. If I were a high school principal having to prioritize, I'd probably choose Spanish and Mandarin first, Arabic and French/Japanese second.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:05 PM
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Walt, Nathan is getting at it with 125, I think. It's an innumeracy more than anything else. Trying to explain the differences between a percentage of something, and a percentage change; the "actual enumeration" of the Census versus a sample; the concepts of "random" "snowball" and how they are not in any way synonyms; the idea that if you start with a very small absolute number, a huge percentage increase may still be a very small number....

On another note, 127, 128 etc. are making me smile because this morning I sat in as a Malian used French to help a disoriented Ivorian understand what was going on, while a Midwesterner corrected her high-school-era French with the assistance of a young Guinean. Meanwhile, a Moroccan told me a story about the two African-American men he met while volunteering at a food bank, who were overjoyed to find that he is willing to teach them Arabic.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:08 PM
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"snowball"

I actually don't know this in context -- what does it mean that could be confused with 'random'?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:26 PM
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Still, orders of magnitude less so than Mandarin would have been in high school, college, and even today.

I'll just note that this may not be true for a lot of people. There are vast swathes of the country with essentially no Chinese population (even an urban area like Pittsburgh), removing it from any kind of daily consideration, and I kind of suspect that someone with 4 HS years of Mandarin is a lot farther from engaging with Chinese culture (ancient or modern) than someone with 4 years of a European language is (e.g., I could read the original Grimm's after 3 years of German, a highly edifying experience for someone in American culture, and one with renewed value as I have kids; I can't think of anything comparable I could do with 3 years of HS Mandarin - could I read Chinese kids' stories, and if I could, would it mean much?).

I'm not trying to say Mandarin's not worth learning, even in HS; I'm saying it's absurd to treat it as self-evidently "orders of magnitude" more useful than Spanish or French/German.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:27 PM
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I myself have spent quite a bit more time in France, Quebec, and the French Caribbean than I have any interest or likelihood in spending in China. Obviously, none of this was or could have been known 40 years ago when I took French and they didn't offer Chinese. Still, I don't doubt that my children will spend more time in Europe than in China.

Obviously, this will be different from a great many Americans. But it's pretty silly to announce, as if based on something empirical, that Chinese is more useful to today's HS students, wherever they may be, than French.

At the time, I urged (maybe insisted is the right word) that my daughter take Latin. Not because she's going to visit ancient Rome, but because it would improve her English.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:28 PM
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I'll agree with 130 as well. Part of this is my own quirky love of Chinese history and interest in the major East Asian cultures, but I'd say the two big points missed by the linked list are 1) economic status of the countries involved, which is where francophone areas perform particularly poorly because their former colonies are in such terrible shape and 2) overestimating the amount that French is used across borders. They probably give French points for being the language of diplomacy, even though it hasn't been such in anything but name for about a century. Even in the EU, they're quickly finding that nearly everything gets done in English these days with French and German playing distant second banana roles.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:32 PM
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arguably Japanese

Given universal Japanese familiarity (if not facility) with English, I can't see ranking it so highly. Even though actual Japanese ability to speak English is overrated, anyone you might actually meet is going to know at least as much English as you will from a few years in HS.

For the same reason, there's no reason for any English speaker to study Dutch, unless you have specific reason to.

Note that this is a totally separate objection from 133. I certainly think any good-sized school system should be offering Mandarin; I just don't think it's far and away the language everyone should study (I tend to agree with the suggestion up above of 2 years of mandatory Spanish, preferably in grade school).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:34 PM
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133: Sorry, I was only speaking for myself when I was talking about how much more useful Mandarin would be.

I was mostly pointing out the difficulty of choosing a language that people should learn. Everyone has a different language that, for whatever reason, would have been far more useful to them. Apparently for CharlieCarp, that would have been French. For me, it certainly would have been Mandarin. For many others, there's almost no such thing as a useful second language.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:34 PM
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Wait, I just reread the end of 130. How does Tim manage to list 5 languages in positions "first" and "second"?

Does this mean that every school should have Spanish and Mandarin, then they should strive for Arabic plus Japanese/French?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:36 PM
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For many others, there's almost no such thing as a useful second language.

And this is kind of where you (as imaginary Dictator Of All Schools) have to pick between imagined economic/cultural usefulness and student affinity. Even hick towns in the Midwest have some latinos nowadays, and so even those hicks would benefit from being able to string together a sentence or two. Yet, if you want the students to be engaged, ethnic affinity is a better bet (I was certainly more engaged by German than by French, for almost entirely parochial reasons).

So the practical Dictator says, "Spanish or one of these other economically valuable languages." The inspiring Dictator says, "Choose the language study that speaks to your heart."

Maybe we should just ship all 7-y.o.s off to a foreign country for immersion learning, destination to be determined by lottery.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:42 PM
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Sorry, I was only speaking for myself when I was talking about how much more useful Mandarin would be.

Fair enough. Thought that might be the case, but it was written more broadly, so I decided to address the meaning that would be more fruitful for a rant. SOP ATM.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:43 PM
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132: Random sample means roughly that you chose the people you were surveying (or whatever) at random. Pulling names out of a hat, a phone book,* whatever. Snowball sample means roughly that you interview Person #1, then ask if s/he has any friends you can interview on this topic, interview those people and ask for referrals to their friends, etc. Imagine a snowball rolling downhill, gathering more snowflakes as it goes.

The trouble is when a researcher conducts a study using a snowball methodology, and a credulous reporter wants to write it up as if it were random. Noooooooo!


*Yes, yes, bias against people without landlines. It's an illustrative example.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:44 PM
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The trouble is when a researcher conducts a study using a snowball methodology, and a credulous reporter wants to write it up as if it were random. Noooooooo!

Fixed.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:47 PM
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125: I recently saw the WSJ using one of the exact techniques described in that book.

||

This was a principle so firmly entrenched in me that I never even thought or articulated it, but: if you're not old enough to walk, you really aren't old enough to trick-or-treat. (There was a gaggle of short people passing through just now for my office building's Halloween event; one in a stroller, one being carried.)

|>


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:48 PM
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Even hick towns in the Midwest have some latinos nowadays, and so even those hicks would benefit from being able to string together a sentence or two.

Not true. Latinos are concentrated in places where they've been recruited for certain industries. If a town has, say, seven Latinos, they are going to have to become quite assimilated in order to communicate with the locals, or else they'll move somewhere with a Latino community. And that latter place is the only place where the "hicks" would find Spanish useful (say, if there's an actual store there to cater to the critical mass of Latinos).

I don't think I ever had a conversation with someone from Latin America until college. Maybe not until graduate school. (except when ordering food at an entirely-anglo-clientele Mexican restaurant, I guess)


Posted by: Cryptec Nid | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:49 PM
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Maybe we should just ship all 7-y.o.s off to a foreign country for immersion learning, destination to be determined by lottery.

Make it a two-year program, from ages 5-7, and kids go through kindergarten and 1st grade in the other country. That's probably one of the most awesome pedagogical hypotheticals I've heard. Get all the incredibly boring basic competency stuff out of the way early, with minimal effort, by dunking the kids into it. Then language classes could actually focus on the fun stuff like literature, writing, and culture.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:50 PM
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but if I was going to rate languages on the "influential" meter, where knowing the language opened crucial opportunities that I could not possibly have access to without it, I think Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin and arguably Japanese trump French

Yeah, I'd agree with that, and I certainly don't fully endorse the conclusions my link comes to. (If nothing else, it's 10 years out of date, and I think those 10 years have been critical to the relative importance of Mandarin and Arabic.)

Mostly I wanted to make the point that French is more widely spoken than PMP was giving it credit for.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 2:58 PM
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I don't think I ever had a conversation with someone from Latin America until college.

You're right that I was exaggerating, but don't underestimate how fast things are changing - the reason for the immigration backlash is (partly) that Latinos are showing up in previously lily-white places, and it's freaking the normals.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't an anti-immigrant law in Hazleton during your youth have made as much sense as an anti-Martian law?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 3:00 PM
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If we really want kids to learn foreign languages, we need to weed out all the ones with irregular verbs. Any recommendations for what's left?

[Actually, IIRC, Japanese is syntactically very simple, but I don't know if it's that simple. Plus all that insane who-you're-talking-to stuff]


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 3:02 PM
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No, Latin. First priority is native functionality. German is the foreign language I use the most as an adult, and Arabic (of which I know only 15 words) is temporarily second.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 3:06 PM
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don't underestimate how fast things are changing

To wit:

More immigrants are bypassing traditional gateway communities such as Chicago, New York, and San Francisco in favor of settling in rural areas--and their impact is acutely felt in these small communities.
A new report from The Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire finds that employment opportunities in food processing, textiles, and small manufacturing are drawing Hispanic immigrants to rural communities, sometimes increasing small-town populations more than tenfold. Because rural populations are small to begin with, even a small number of immigrants can have a big impact both demographically and socially. The new residents can strain community resources, creating tensions, but they also can reinvigorate dying communities.

Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 3:06 PM
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148: Mandarin, for one.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 3:08 PM
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148: It's simple (in that there's little memorization except for kanji) but you have to get used to some twisted grammatical concepts first, like future=present, wa/ga, lack of pronouns, etc.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 3:33 PM
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Japanese is syntactically very simple, but I don't know if it's that simple

It is, and the levels of politeness that you need to know for everyday conversation are likewise simple to grasp. Spoken Japanese was easier than French for me (granted, I learned it in Japan); Japanese pronunciation is much easier than French, there's no gender or articles or plural (with very few exceptions), and the grammar is so regular that once you have a basic grasp, you just plug in the words. Even the writing isn't exactly difficult, it just requires a lot of time to memorize.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 3:33 PM
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Damnit, Minivet.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 3:35 PM
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The considerations which have governed the specification of languages to be taught by the professor of modern languages were, that the French is the language of general intercourse among nations, and as a depository of human science, is unsurpassed by any other language, living or dead; that the Spanish is highly interesting to us, as the language spoken by so great a portion of the inhabitants of our continents, with whom we shall probably have great intercourse ere long, and is that also in which is written the greater part of the earlier history of America. The Italian abounds with works of very superior order, valuable for their matter, and still more distinguished as models of the finest taste in style and composition. And the German now stands in a line with that of the most learned nations in richness of erudition and advance in the sciences. It is too of common descent with the language of our own country, a branch of the same original Gothic stock, and furnishes valuable illustrations for us.


Posted by: t jefferson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 3:38 PM
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But in this point of view, the Anglo-Saxon is of peculiar value. We have placed it among the modern languages, because it is in fact that which we speak, in the earliest form in which we have knowledge of it. It has been undergoing, with time, those gradual changes which all languages, ancient and modern, have experienced; and even now needs only to be printed in the modern character and orthography to be intelligible, in a considerable degree, to an English reader. It has this value, too, above the Greek and Latin, that while it gives the radix of the mass of our language, they explain its innovations only. Obvious proofs of this have been presented to the modern reader in the disquisitions of Horn Tooke; and Fortescue Aland has well explained the great instruction which may be derived from it to a full understanding of our ancient common law, on which, as a stock, our whole system of law is engrafted. It will form the first link in the chain of an historical review of our language through all its successive changes to the present day, will constitute the foundation of that critical instruction in it which ought to be found in a seminary of general learning, and thus reward amply the few weeks of attention which would alone be requisite for its attainment; a language already fraught with all the eminent science of our parent country, the future vehicle of whatever we may ourselves achieve, and destined to occupy so much space on the globe, claims distinguished attention in American education.


Posted by: t jefferson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 3:39 PM
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re: 152

English mostly uses the present tense for future events, too.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 4:10 PM
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Mongol is useful for youtube music video comprehension.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 4:13 PM
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What stuck from high school?

Linear algebra and trigonometry.

Some biology.

Some poetry.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 4:22 PM
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153 is pretty much what AB has said; I just wasn't sure about any irregularities.

I can't recall - were you also JET?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 4:27 PM
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If we really want kids to learn foreign languages, we need to weed out all the ones with irregular verbs. Any recommendations for what's left?

Esperanto.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 4:35 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 4:41 PM
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Then language classes could actually focus on the fun stuff like literature, writing, and culture.

Are you trying to make my head explode?

Teaching language through a communicative approach is pretty much the accepted standard in foreign language pedagogy these days. (For modern, Indo-European languages, anyway.)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 4:56 PM
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English mostly uses the present tense for future events, too.

German too, in informal usage anyway.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 5:02 PM
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Further to 163:
That is to say, effective teaching of language can't separate out your "incredibly boring basic competency stuff" from your "fun stuff".


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 5:12 PM
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160: No, I went on my own and found a school and a job when I got there.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 5:23 PM
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re: 164

English doesn't even really have a future tense, for that matter.

I think the complexity* of English grammar gets masked by our familiarity with it.

* it's not super complex, but you know what I mean, it has freaky idiosyncratic stuff just like other languages do.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 5:25 PM
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163, 165: But stumbling around in a language where you have no vocabulary, a smattering of grammatical knowledge, and little guidance isn't any fun. Attaining that 5-year-old level of competence where you can finally express enough thoughts for a not-completely-artificial conversation is a really hard slog in one hour 3x a week classes, at least for those of us who aren't good at foreign languages. So what I'm talking about is jetting through that stuff to the point where you can actually read things of interest and write with some level of sophistication that doesn't feel like you're imitating your preschool cousin.

Being surrounded by a foreign language 24/7 and learning it the way we learned English is impossible to do in high school or even middle school (though yes, our teachers tried the immersion deal with us), but it would be the only way to get a steep enough learning curve and good enough incentive for someone like me to properly learn a language to the point where I'd see it as useful for something interesting.

I acknowledge this is very different for other people. People such as yourself who are so interested and good at foreign languages that you teach it at a top university. I'm not saying it shouldn't be taught, I'm just saying that I don't see it being so useful to a large enough portion of the population that it deserves to be a requirement. I'll admit this may also stem from the pain that language class caused me during the tender years of 10 to 15.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 5:36 PM
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Well no, immersion won't work unless you're in it all the time. Which is why communicative language teaching has to be so carefully designed. We're not talking about just reading a book or watching a film first thing! But with guidance (pre-discussion, some vocab, and questions for directed listening) students can get things out of a carefully chosen film clip less than a month into a college course. So say, three months into a high school course.

The "completely artificial" conversation you mention is exactly what the communicative approach tries to get rid of. Grammar points, once introduced, have to be put into action for the exchange of information immediately. This doesn't mean there are no drills, but rather that drills are designed to employ information gaps, so that you're always communicating something.

But I do realize this is a far cry from the kind of language teaching that goes on in most high schools. I guess I'm just saying that there are ways to make language learning a lot more effective and a lot more relevant at an earlier stage in the learning process. Even for people who don't think they are good at foreign languages.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 5:49 PM
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157: But you usually need a time element in such sentences, no? I.e., "we fly at dawn tomorrow."


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 6:17 PM
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Learning a foreign language helps you understand better how your own functions. It also teaches you the valuable lesson that the way people do things wherever you happen to live is not the way all people do things, in the most visceral way I know - and that is an extremely extremely important lesson. It is also the only - only - way to seriously engage with another culture. Given all this, everybody needs to learn a foreign language.

People in America especially.

Because it is such a personal thing, and affects your life later so much (if you actually learn it), you should be able to choose which one.


Posted by: murphy | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:51 PM
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this thread is making my head explode. Everybody should go reread Blume's comments before they say anything else - she is so very right!


Posted by: murphy | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:52 PM
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I don't think it's impossible to do real language instruction at the high school level. I'm not saying I was fluent in Spanish at the end of high school, but I was close, in that I could watch a movie in Spanish and feel like I saw and understood it. But this is probably the product of extraordinary leniency in my education; we had a special class set up for native speakers and a few of us who wanted to speak like SFL speakers, and we did speak to one another in Spanish outside the classroom. We often met for our "class" in the teacher's lounge, and had our own texts given to us, but remember this is still public high school, in Kansas, and it wasn't very out-of-the-way for our teacher.

Spanish, of course, is easier than a lot of the most important languages these days (Chinese, Arabic, Russian), so maybe that can't happen at the high school level, but it seems like private schools, at least, should be able to achieve it.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 9:58 PM
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Spanish is a gateway language. It gets you used to the idiosyncrasies of learning a foreign language while still being relatively straightforward. That one can use it to speak to a large subset of Americans is just gravy.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:05 PM
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The other nice thing about Spanish is that it has a shitload of tenses, which English speakers are not good at. German is another nice gateway because it has clear syntax and cases.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:07 PM
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Yes, and German plurals are extremely systematic, sensible and easy to learn. Four cases, a bunch of categories of exceptions, and another bunch of individual exceptions.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:12 PM
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"Four declensions", I think. I like the cases.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:12 PM
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Spanish gets a bad reputation, I think, as being an "easy" language. One adviser of mine, when I told her I was tutoring advanced Spanish grammar, said, "Well, that can't be hard. It's quite a slovenly language, isn't it?" It's even better than German (her preferred language) as far as tenses are concerned. Sixteen, IIRC.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:15 PM
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Spanish is promiscuous and undiscriminating and drips her panties for pretty much anyone.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:20 PM
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Good lord, I once had a horrid argument with a friend (who helped me get up to speed enough to pass my German translation exam - translation of phil. texts): his sister was fluent in Spanish, he was decent in German, I was passable in Spanish ... and he insisted that German was easier for native English speakers. No way.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:25 PM
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I have a half-baked theory that Spanish might help salvage the subjunctive mood for English. I didn't really understand the origin of constructions such as "Be that as it may" until I was in HS Spanish IV.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:31 PM
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... and he insisted that German was easier for native English speakers. No way.

It idiomatic language is much more likely to translate directly from English than similar expressions in romance languages. The structure is more foreign, though.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:49 PM
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Everybody should go reread Blume's comments before they say anything else - she is so very right!

I'm basically paraphrasing stuff I just wrote for job applications, so I hope it sounds convincing...


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:51 PM
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It idiomatic language is much more likely to translate directly from English than similar expressions in romance languages

As any vulture kno.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:55 PM
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+s


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:57 PM
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I don't believe for an instant that Spanish has sixteen tenses. There has got to be some confusion of tense, aspect and mood going on there.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 10:58 PM
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You know what they should teach in high school? Numerical optimization. At least for years of it. How else can students expect to be prepared for all they'll be asked to do?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:02 PM
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"four". They say spelling is the first to go.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:02 PM
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Ah, I apologize; I hadn't been following the thread, so hadn't read Blume's preceding comments.

182: It idiomatic language is much more likely to translate directly from English than similar expressions in romance languages. The structure is more foreign, though.

I can see this. The argument I had with my friend was over structure; I was insisting that sentence structure was much more difficult for native English speakers, and that romance languages are more easily assimilable. But that would be only on a very basic level, it seems. Get the structure under your belt, as it were, and all else follows more easily. I can see this as well. I didn't get very far in Spanish, but German sort of fell into place at some point.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:04 PM
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I think HS kids should take Drama. I took Drama I and Drama II. In Drama II, during the rehearsal of a skit piece of theatre, an ex-girlfriend punched me after leaping over two rows of auditorium seats, netting me a black eye (true story I've probably told here before; in fairness, I was making fun of her friend). So I vote for Drama I only. That's enough drama.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:06 PM
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You know what they should teach in high school? Numerical optimization.

It's true! Numerical optimization teaches you the very valuable lesson that not all algorithms produce identical outcomes even if tuned to the same level of sensitivity, in the most visceral way I know - and that is an extremely important lesson. Also, it is the only - only - way to seriously engage with complex computational problems, since no one uses closed-form solutions in practice.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:08 PM
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in the most visceral way I know

That's a good word for it. I certainly feel like throwing up all over my computer at the moment.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:10 PM
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I bet French is sorta easy for English speakers to learn.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:13 PM
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By the time I was seven I had read all of Knuth.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:13 PM
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Right, so Po-Mo is a broken record at this point, and he would produce cyborgs if he could.

I advocate Music - required for at least one year. Engage in some triage: sort by singing, or rhythm, or theory (yes to whoever said upthread that they'd have loved a music theory course in h.s. -- I had that, so great!), or of course, performance. I guess you might want to sort the performance people between band and orchestra, that is, people working in ensemble format and people working solo. That gets a little messy.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:17 PM
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I bet French is sorta easy for English speakers to learn.

Sort of. To really get the pronunciations right, you've gotta make yourself a little more vulnerable than the average high school student in the average high school French class might be comfortable doing.

There was an article several years ago that speculated that one of the problems with students learning Chinese in the U.S. was that they perceived the kinds of sounds they needed to make in order to accurately pronounce Chinese as somehow insulting or racist. Their fear of speaking a parodic Chinese kept them from getting close to actually speaking Chinese well.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:18 PM
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192: That'll teach it to disobey you.

193: It kind of is. Still doesn't make it any more interesting or useful for a good number of us. I guess I really want a high school curriculum with more freedom than the current norm, but a certain minimal requirement of academically-oriented courses (i.e. no replacing trig with gym, though replacing trig with French would be fine).


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:18 PM
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194: Geez, ben, no wonder you had time for all that sex once you got to college!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:19 PM
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By the time I was seven I had also had almost all the sex I would have my entire life long.

The wikipedia article on spanish verbs is interesting. Language!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:22 PM
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191: It's true! Numerical optimization teaches you the very valuable lesson that not all algorithms produce identical outcomes even if tuned to the same level of sensitivity, in the most visceral way I know - and that is an extremely important lesson. Also, it is the only - only - way to seriously engage with complex computational problems, since no one uses closed-form solutions in practice.

I don't know the terminology here, but does this mean that you can't program things or people, or model processes? According to algorithmic formulae? I mean you can't predict things?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:24 PM
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200: no. It just means that you have to use numerical estimation, rather than exact formulæ, to predict things.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:29 PM
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Also, it is the only - only - way to seriously engage with complex computational problems, since no one uses closed-form solutions in practice.

Sweeping blanket statements FTW!

I know people who do amazing things with closed-form solutions and clever approximation schemes and never compute anything numerically, ever. (They do, occasionally, force grad students to do numerical calculations for them.)

I've spent the past two weeks (three? it's all sort of a blur) tracking down a numerical instability and I would kill for a closed-form solution. Kill. Like, grisly murder.

Numerically solving systems of differential equations is one skill I learned in high school that I use on a daily basis. OK, weekly basis.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:31 PM
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200: 191 is joking. That's why its structure exactly parallels murphy's exasperated comment about how everyone needs to learn a foreign language. There's no good reason why people should learn optimization techniques unless they're either interested in it or planning on going into jobs that require a lot of modeling and computation. The only math that I think every person really should learn for their own good would be the basics of probability, and arithmetic through basic algebra (since basic algebra is really just about how to recognize an unconventional arithmetic problem and put it in a form you can solve).

But to try and seriously answer your question, I'd say that a lot of numerical optimization techniques are used when you're solving mathematical problems that are just really tricky computations if you try to do them exactly. But if you're willing to settle for a very very good approximation, there are loads of simpler techniques for estimating those quantities to arbitrary precision. In some cases, like complex models, this can help you find solutions to mathematical problems that would be near impossible to solve in symbolic/equation form with all the x's and y's and derivatives and covariances and whatever else is thrown in.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:36 PM
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202: me too!


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:42 PM
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202: Aren't you the academic statistician? As far as I can tell, you guys are chosen and paid almost exclusively to be smart and masochistic enough to actually work out the closed forms of these solutions. But yeah, it's true, I was grossly overstating things for the joke.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:43 PM
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I advocate Music - required for at least one year

It'd be hard to determine a music requirement for HS students, because the music has been dropped from so many elementary school curricula. I wonder how many kids entering HS can even read music. So wrong. The Finns kick our asses several times over in this regard.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:46 PM
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Careful with that ligature, Sifu.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:47 PM
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203: 200: 191 is joking

Without having read the rest: oh, thank fucking god. Because I thought so. But I was speaking very, very carefully.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:47 PM
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205: No, I'm a physicist. And I hate hate hate doing numerics, but seem to spend a third of my time doing it. Or rather, debugging code because I'm so terrible at it.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:47 PM
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The Finns kick our asses several times over in this regard.

As in so many others.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:48 PM
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The Finns have a kick-ass language, for instance. (I admit to knowing next to nothing about it, but it looks kick-ass.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:49 PM
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What 191 really meant is that my life would be vastly easier at this exact moment if I had spent my high school years learning numerical optimization, instead of... well, whatever it was. How to make a really bitchin' van in Car Wars.

For the record with the particular algorithm I'm working with a closed form solution is apparently not achievable.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:51 PM
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207: tee hee!

209: I tend to blame all numerical methods on statistical physicists. Is that wrong?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:52 PM
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Once, in Finland, I saw a man play a trombone in the atrium of an elegant museum, while a woman trapeze artist did a routine on a rope (just a rope—no trapeze proper).


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:53 PM
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207: they say ligatures are the next to go, after spelling.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:53 PM
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Sweeping blanket statements FTW!

At least when I was at U of C, J/ack C/owan would come to neuroscience seminars and get a pretty testy whenever someone suggested that no one uses closed-form solutions for in practice.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:54 PM
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208: Glad I could ease your mind. As for the rest of 200, it's not worth it. Sifu and essear said the latter half of my comment better.

209: Oof, my apologies then. I can imagine that it really sucks if you end up being the dedicated programmer on a research team. I don't have to do the programming anywhere near that frequently, so it's still at the "handy and cool tool" stage rather than the "Bataan death march through crashing code" stage for me.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:56 PM
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Off-topic (because: insomnia!): I see from Facebook that a friend of mine just got gay-married in California, which I think he hadn't planned to do until next summer. Are the bigots really going to win on Prop 8? Are emergency gay weddings happening all over the state? Can news coverage of that help convince people that voting yes on 8 is a really awful thing to do?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:56 PM
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Aren't there some domains in which the closed-form solutions really are impracticable, though?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:58 PM
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I got an email today claiming that parties unknown had tried to hack the leading no-on-8 organization's website.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-30-08 11:59 PM
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212: Working tough, knotty problems is tough, it's true. Dammit. It's like trying to do a Heideggerian reading of Wittgenstein, you know what I mean?

Bleah, my friends! Meanwhile, Jesus thinks at 206:

It'd be hard to determine a music requirement for HS students, because the music has been dropped from so many elementary school curricula. I wonder how many kids entering HS can even read music. So wrong. The Finns kick our asses several times over in this regard.

Who's talking about a music requirement? Put the kids in a half-semester music reading course in freshman year of h.s. and then put them in the chorus for a school play calling for a large chorus. They have to sort-of read music for choral rehearsals, then they get to be in the play. Outstanding.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:00 AM
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Are the bigots really going to win on Prop 8?

Probably not, but I saw a bunch of "Yes on 8" fucks protesting right near my house earlier today. Boy did I ever want to yell something angry at them. Religious shitheads sure are pouring a lot of money into it.

219: yes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:01 AM
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219: Yes, quite a few. But there are also a lot more domains where we of lesser calculus proficiency decide to lazily plug in a few estimation methods and spit out range of numerical solutions rather than spend hours bashing our brains against the table until we can manipulate the symbols into the wrong closed-form equation (which we realize when it doesn't check out against the numerical estimation that someone else programmed while we were trying to work out the closed form).


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:02 AM
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220: they have indeed.

Doesn't surprise me; a lot of hackers are junior-high-style homophobes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:04 AM
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Oh, God. I just got a big glossy flyer from the Yes on 8 people today. It has a picture of "Robb and Robin Wirthlin," from Lexington Mass, who say that their kid was forced to learn about gay people in school because Massachusetts has gay marriage now. Anyway, I looked up Robb and Robin Wirthlin on Intelius and Zaba Search, and I'm pretty sure they actually live in San Pedro now. I have a phone number and address for them. Ethics of calling them up and asking them to stop sending me hate mail? I'm this close to doing it.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:21 AM
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Aristotle would probably be opposed, and he was super gay, so, you know.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:24 AM
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Who's talking about a music requirement?

You were, babe, in 195. Anyway, remedial courses could help the music-education-deprived, but it would be much better to establish a music curriculum beginning in early childhood. Most beneficial that way.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:26 AM
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You were, babe, in 195

Sweet words, but I just meant a music requirement in high school, and thought you were suggesting some prerequisite coming in to high school, as though kids coming in to h.s. without one couldn't get started. To which I say Nay, it's never too late.

That said, of course it would be better to have music (and art, for that matter) classes in elementary school. If we keep on this track, we'll be prescribing Waldorf schooling for all.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:36 AM
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||

It ain't gonna converge, is it, paw?

No son, no it ain't.

*BAWWWWWL*

|>


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:36 AM
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Aristotle would probably be opposed

Really? Why? Seriously, if it's actually a fucked up thing to do, I won't do it, but I can't gauge anymore. I was really pissed about getting this thing in the mail. I'm calmer now, but at the very least I'm going to mail it to their home address with a note.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:37 AM
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we'll be prescribing Waldorf schooling for all

Comity.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:43 AM
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at the very least I'm going to mail it to their home address with a note.

I would do this. It's called participatory democracy, after all. Asking them to explain themselves, or informing them of your response to their flyer, is completely fair. You'll be my new hero if you do this, actually. Though it may totally tank, and you just get no response from them.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:46 AM
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I totally wish I had received a better math education in HS. Up until college, I thought myself quite the mathematician, having excelled at the plug-and-chug, "figure out that the chain rule applies here and then use it"-type math classes I had in grade school and HS; once I got to college and they wanted us to do stuff somewhat rigorously, and, like, prove stuff from first principles and shit, I had quite a bit of trouble for awhile.

Learning to do math this way, to the extent that I ever did, was definitely one of the harder parts of the HS-to-college transition for me, and I often wondered whether I could have been better prepared for the things I was trying to do in college math. Then again, maybe my struggle was more a sign that I had run up against the limits of my abilities in the field than that I had simply received inadequate pre-college preparation.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:53 AM
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229: I'm afraid it's gonna be a long winter, son.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:55 AM
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I feel like a big portion of physics in college was doing Taylor expansions to linearize problems, and that the beginning of grad school physics was tracking down the next order term.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:57 AM
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we'll be prescribing Waldorf schoolingsalads for all


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 1:00 AM
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we'll be prescribing Waldorf schooling salads for all valium

max
['Reading those brokerage account forms would kill him otherwise.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 1:06 AM
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we'll be prescribing Waldorf schooling for all

Comity.

Mm. I'm a fan of the few adult children of Waldorf schooling I've known. I have a soft spot for it, and them. I lived with a woman for some time -- 4 years -- who was a Waldorf kindergarten teacher, and so participated in it to an extent. Lovely in a lot of ways, but she had some trouble with certain latent Steineresque principles. Chiefly the requirement that she present herself in skirts, so as to be fairey-like and ephemeral, archetypically female. That said, I tend to like the fairey-like and ephemeral myself, and think that we masculinize and toughen ourselves up too quickly.

That speaks only to early Waldorf education; as far as I know, Waldorf kids don't come out any less smart than others. And they might actually know how to bake bread.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 1:10 AM
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That said, of course it would be better to have music (and art, for that matter) classes in elementary school. If we keep on this track, we'll be prescribing Waldorf schooling for all.

We had music and art classes all through primary (elementary school) and then two years of both music and art at high school.* This in a standard state schooling system, nothing Waldorf about it.

I'm amazed that that's not how things are in the US?

* at the end of the 2nd year you choose your academic subjects. Obviously some people choose music and art as academic subjects, in which case they'll do a total of 5 or 6 years of them at high school. But everyone, no matter who, did 2 years of art and music. Ditto metalwork and woodwork (1 or 2 years), technical drawing (2 years), home economics/cooking (at least 1 year), french (2 years), german (1 year), etc.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 1:37 AM
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I'm amazed that that's not how things are in the US?

No, it's not, not in public schools these days, I don't think. Funding is too tight. Those things are not required, are extra-curricular. We're hurting here, educationally.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 1:54 AM
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The crazy thing is that US kids spend more time in school than we did, no? [We started about 8.45 and finished about 3.45)

Primary school music classes were only about 2 hours a week, mind. Secondary school, I think about 1-2 hours a week each for the first two years.

The basic high school curriculum in years 1 and 2:
arithmetic
maths
english
chemistry
biology
physics
history
geography
physical education
technical drawing
metalwork/woodwork
home economics
music
french
[plus, for some kids, german in the 2nd year]
classical studies

plus about 1.5 - 2 hours a week of 'minority time' [i.e. no academic elective stuff]

At least 1-1.5 hours of each but some subjects were more like 3-4 hours a week, iirc.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 2:01 AM
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Rudolf Steiner sure was a crazy sonofabitch.

I had music and art classes like ttaM did, but of course that was in an earlier era, in a town with generous property tax revenues.

Fuck a bunch of Howard Jarvis, I say. If you'd had your way, Jarvis, I'd never have learned about analog synths at the knee of the sister of that dude from Morphine, and by god I'd be poorer for it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 2:02 AM
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Steiner was weird, yeah; I don't think I'd be able to work in a Waldorf school if I had to endorse him, but only a few Waldorf teachers do endorse him, so.

Yes, the kind of curriculum ttaM describes is the privilege of higher-income people here, I think.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 2:18 AM
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Yes, the kind of curriculum ttaM describes is the privilege of higher-income people here, I think.

Not that this described my family but sure, right, more-or-less. Those privileged to live in high-income school districts, let's say.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 2:21 AM
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Those privileged to live in high-income school districts, let's say.

Right. I feel like I'd be one of those who fell through the cracks into a better school than my parents' property taxes would have funded, but it's moot, because there was only one high school in town. It was pretty good by my lights; this is a bit difficult to determine.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 2:50 AM
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High school is 14-18? So like GCSE and A Level years here? By which time music and art are no longer compulsory. But up until then, a fairly broad selection of subjects is mandatory. This is a good summary of the national curriculum for 11-16 year olds.

Our state school children have to have some religious education up to age 16, which annoys me. And lots of schools now don't even offer 3 separate sciences after 14 - fortunately my daughter's school does, which is one of the reasons I was happy for her to go there.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 5:05 AM
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Our state school children have to have some religious education up to age 16, which annoys me.

That doesn't really bother me, that much, and I'm as atheist as they come.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 6:02 AM
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It just takes up time that could be used for either something more useful, or something they want to do. It's not the indoctrination bit that irritates me, as they have to study several religions. If they want them to do some sort of multicultural studies, why not call it that and cover secular topics as well? I'd prefer that.

My eldest came home all mock-indignant the other day after she'd told her RS class she was a Pastafarian and the teacher told her that she didn't think that was a real religion. She also wants to start an Atheism club (they have about 6 million clubs there).


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 7:35 AM
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I'm amazed that that's not how things are in the US?


No, it's not, not in public schools these days, I don't think. Funding is too tight. Those things are not required, are extra-curricular. We're hurting here, educationally.

I just want to reƫmphasize this. Up into the 80s, the vast majority of public schools had broad curricula (even in poorer schools, it tended to be an issue of inadequate art supplies, rather than an absence of any art education at all). But a combination of shitty funding and an obsession with testing have virtually eliminated "frivolities" like art and music (and sometimes gym/recess) at many, if not most, schools.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 8:12 AM
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present herself in skirts, so as to be fairey-like and ephemeral, archetypically female.

First of all, I assume that's supposed to be ethereal - I think it would freak out the kids to think their teacher might vanish at any moment.

Second, it was explained to us as, yes, providing clear feminine symbolism, but also as evoking/encouraging the concept of the child burying itself in the mother's skirts for comfort/protection.

Still pretty bogus, but different from fairey-like.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 8:15 AM
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We're hurting here, educationally.

No joke at all.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 8:38 AM
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our curriculum looked like MMcG's but without metalwork/woodwork, home economics, music
french, classical studies, we had Russian and English, algebra, geometry were separate subjects, we had also economical geography, had to know what country produces what and what mineral wealth or agriculture it has etc, pretty interesting
plus the military training class, with a lot of walking in a fine line
all music, drawing and home classes which included knitting, sewing, macrame, salad making etc for girls and woodwork for boys were done before 8th grade, and music was something like choir singing, not instruments


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 9:15 AM
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249,

At this very moment I am preparing to serve on a committee that will give input on how best to make about $14M in cuts to our local school system. I have been asked to present justification for the 'arts.'

Obviously music is on the chopping block, and that sucks big time. Does anyone have any links to studies showing that music training actually affects brain development? I'm sure I have heard of such things.

Also, there is at least an urban legend that suggested that music training and programming skills go together. Of course now that all our programming is done in India I doubt that really matters for the US anymore, but still, maybe some old farts still think we need programmers and engineers here in the US.

So any help is appreciated.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 9:28 AM
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199.2: Seriously, Spanish verbs do not fuck around. One of the things I find hardest to teach my composition students is how to conjugate verbs consistently. We all do this, change tense randomly in the middle of a story while speaking, but I'm trying to get them to make active, interesting, consistent conjugation choices in their papers, but it's hard for them to tell the difference. And I keep wishing they all knew Spanish so I could be all "Look! It's like the pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo, which is obviously its own thing!"


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 9:28 AM
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253 - I think there is strong evidence that music training helps with mathematics. I will look around and see if I can find anything more detailed.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 9:37 AM
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253 - look here scroll down to The "Mozart Effect."


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 9:40 AM
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253: Jesus Christ, they're cutting music? They threatened to do that in my school district, as part of Kansas's ongoing initiative to try to turn the best public high schools in the country into the worst so that they can force everyone to homeschool or send their kids to Christian Private High.

I know there are scientific studies and stuff, but the nice thing about arts kids in HS is that they tend to be extremely eloquent about what it means to them. When this issue was raised in our district, many of us drafted speeches, just in case we were called upon to go to a Board meeting, about the discipline and mental flexibility we'd gotten from ear training and music theory. Might it be possible to talk to some students, and at least be able to quote them? They'll be very forceful and passionate, and probably quite informed, too.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 9:41 AM
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196: To really get the pronunciations right, you've gotta make yourself a little more vulnerable than the average high school student in the average high school French class might be comfortable doing.

The French "r" sound always makes people think of oral sex. Vulnerable indeed. The u-umlaut is very gay.

Most foreign languages sound lewd.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 9:48 AM
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I had one really bad Spanish teacher early in high school who seemed personally averse to attempting to speak Spanish as if she knew the language. She'd speak mostly in English, with a few Spanish-like words thrown in. "Get out your lee-brohz, clahss-say!" I think language instructors have a duty to create a safe space where students can really make an effort to speak the language all the time, even badly, but with an eye to actually trying to speak it without Anglicizing it.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 9:56 AM
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JMS, please do this and tell us what happens. Be polite, but firm.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:00 AM
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I had no problem sounding like the teacher in high school French class. The problem was my high school teacher's accent wasn't very good. When I got to the upper-level college class, filled with students who were bilingual, or had lived in France, or had better teachers than I had, this became glaringly apparent.


Posted by: pasdquoi | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:02 AM
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253: Geez. How deep are those cuts relative to the total budget? What are the realistic alternatives to music education?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:02 AM
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the grade,
i forgot Literature, ours and Russian, separate subjects also, the foreign Literature was the last chapters of the notebook and usually were taught in around May


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:04 AM
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In almost any scientific or technical field you'll find quite a few amateur musicians, including some who could have gone professional. I noticed that at the medical school I worked at, and my brother noticed it in geology.

Music has the advantage of being both precise detail work and also pure emotional expression. Pop and rock musicians are no different -- the gearheads are totally geeky. (Google Skunk Baxter).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:04 AM
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Most foreign languages sound lewd.

false


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:05 AM
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re: 265

I don't know. That can sort of work for me. But then I have different associations.

[My wife's voice is a damn sight nicer than the newsreader there, though]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:09 AM
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The American education philosophy is to let kids screw around until they're 18 and then motivate some of them to catch up. A good thing about it is that you get more second chances here than in countries with more rigorous and programmed tracked educational systems. The bad thing is that all but the best American students (self-educated or from the top 2% or so of schools) enter college 2 to 4 years behind.

I absolutely think that every kid who's able to take college classes should start taking them free at about 14 while still remaining registered in HS. Kids who do well for a year should be allowed to quit HS and just go to college.

Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate have somewhat that effect, but there's an unnecessary duplication of programs, since classes of the same quality are taught in college to kids only slightly older.

One of the advantages of this program would be to eliminate the normal HS experience for the sharpest kids. You'd end up with a group for whom all those silly teen movies are baffling and unintelligible.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:15 AM
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AWB,

You had Peggy Hill as your teacher? Awesome.

To be fair nothing has been decided yet. This was just a heads-up from the school board President who is a friend and an awesome lady and also a Mormon if that matters, which in this case I don't think it does.

One of my good friends is also the choir director and music teacher for Middle school who apparently has a reputation for handling discipline problems so they have dumped about 100 of the least disciplined students into two of his general music classes and he is having a mid-life crisis about why he should have to justify his salary, which believe me he earns three times over.

Fortunately (?) I have already been through the exact same thing here in programming land where somehow we all morphed from being the company's greatest assets to being incredible burdens who needed to justify why they should even bother to keep us on.

So anyway I know that real scientific literature helps in cases like this, or at least it may help keep my sacred cow from getting cut as much while someone else's gets cuts more, which is not fair and really sucks but that is about all I can do at this time.

One reason for my pseud here is I'm sorta involved locally and have been here long enough to know many of the real powers and who the good guys are and as you know, I might shoot my mouth off a little too much here. Sorry Cala. So I'd hate for my flaws to affect good works by good people.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:16 AM
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You need to have the person speaking Czech.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:17 AM
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261: Heh. My big problem was that my main college prof in Spanish was from Chile, as was my closest friend in Spanish class in high school, so I learned the language with a really thick Chilean accent. It's very difficult for me to understand Central American/Mexican speakers, and I feel paranoid that I've forgotten the language. Then, all of a sudden, I'll hear someone speaking Spanish and I understand every word, crystal-clear. It always, always turns out that this person is from Chile or Argentina.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:18 AM
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270: ¡Bacán!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:21 AM
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People from Argentina sound Italian. Or at least to me they do.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:22 AM
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re: 270

A basque/spanish flatmate of mine once told me that (to her) Argentinian accents were the sexiest.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:22 AM
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I love Wiki. a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulina_Porizkova">Paulina Porizkova was in the middle of an international incident before she was ten (not as a model) and was a destitute refugee during her childhood.

And then she would complain about how only bands like Warrant and all these '80s heavy metal bands are the only people who would write songs about her. And so she was really bummed out that nobody cool was writing songs about her now, so I wrote that song for her while we were at Electric Lady as an attempt to get her out of the '80s hair metal rut she was stuck in.

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:22 AM
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270: Uruguayans have an odd accent.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:23 AM
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Link


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:23 AM
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We had a funny Argentinian prof in the math department who once said to me on the elevator, "We have a saying in my country. We say that the apple does not fall far from the tree." I was like, "Yeah, we say that here too." But now I like to say it in a heavy Argentinian accent. The apple! It does not fall far from the tree!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:24 AM
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A basque/spanish flatmate of mine once told me that (to her) Argentinian accents were the sexiest.

I've always thought Russian accents were the sexiest.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:25 AM
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People from Argentina sound Italian.

A lot of Italians have moved to that part of the world in the last 200 years. Argentines will also openly comment that they see themselves as the Italians of South America: ciao, riding on a vespa, everyone's good-looking—a lot the same stereotypes.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:26 AM
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I had my lame Spanish corrected by an Argentinean once. It turned out that waht he said was true only for Argentina. The way I remember, he pronounced the "ll" sound with a thick "sh" and "j" almost as a "k": Vallejo --> Vasheko.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:26 AM
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re: 278

I mean as a Spanish-language accent.

Everyone knows the sexiest accent is Scottish, ffs, have you learned NOTHING?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:27 AM
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Make it a two-year program, from ages 5-7, and kids go through kindergarten and 1st grade in the other country. That's probably one of the most awesome pedagogical hypotheticals I've heard.

All you need to bring this into force is just one little amendment to the Selective Service Act. ("For 'eighteen years of age' read 'five years of age' throughout".) And in time of war, you have a mighty army of five million 5-7-year-olds ready to go.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:29 AM
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In Washington State, they allow high school kids to take community college classes. This is a popular option in small towns, like Aberdeen.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:32 AM
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I've always thought Russian accents were the sexiest.

Really?! They don't sound too harsh? Granted I can't recall hearing someone speak a Russian love poem, so I may be influenced too much by movie portrayals.

Speaking of misconceptions, middle-eastern accents when speaking melodically are very very nice. Very sexy actually.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:40 AM
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Yes, part of it was just working-class kid from middle-of-nowhere goes to elite private college and experiences massive culture shock.

Everyone knows the sexiest accent is Scottish, ffs, have you learned NOTHING?

This is so true. I went to Edinburgh for the first time in June with two female friends and my boyfriend. The three of us wanted to offer the waiter at our pub extra tip money to just stand by the table and talk about anything.

My boyfriend was a little offended. He asked if we thought maybe Scottish girls would think American accents were sexy. We told him probably not.


Posted by: pasdquoi | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 10:58 AM
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Phone sex is a major Scottish export product.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 11:01 AM
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DuckTales is like audio porn.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 11:02 AM
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He asked if we thought maybe Scottish girls would think American accents were sexy. We told him probably not.

Heheh.

re: 286

if the academic thing doesn't work out, that's my next plan.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 11:07 AM
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A girlfriend of mine in HS was a foreign-exchange student from Scotland, and she said after she went back that everyone made fun of her slightly Americanized accent. I.e., it was not sexy.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 11:10 AM
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I know there are scientific studies and stuff, but the nice thing about arts kids in HS is that they tend to be extremely eloquent about what it means to them.

This is key. If you have to justify teaching music by citing its benefits to math learning, say, rather than simply arguing for it on its own merits, then music gets tossed aside if the connection between music and math turns out to be more tenuous than previously thought. What's essential about music (and art generally) is mostly unquantifiable and untestable, so once you reduce it to test scores and other data, you've lost.

Speaking of music, I just heard a band featuring Emerson fils on the radio.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 11:13 AM
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re: 289

I think we find our own accent sexy. Sort of sickly incestuous that way.

Kelly Macdonald's accent totally does it for me [sounds like about half the people I've ever gone out with].

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=wnVe6VTkQ4c

[her US accent in the first 20 secs or so works too!]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 11:13 AM
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Which one, Jesus? Amelia?

He's in several now.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 11:16 AM
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Amelia. The OPB morning call-in show was playing excerpts from (D)early Departed, which sounds like an awesome idea for an album.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 11:25 AM
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285, 289: Yes, I can attest that people in the UK do not find American accents sexy. At all. Or pretty much anything else about us. American white dudes are quite possibly the least fetishized group out there (unless you start counting certain occupational subgroups; there are a lot of honkey firefighters out there).


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 11:51 AM
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re: 294

A lot of bourgeois white Americans (sorry) have whiny nasal sounding voices.

But I'd bet that some stereotypical 'southern' or 'black' sounding accents score as sexy.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 11:53 AM
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'black' sounding accents score as sexy

Not on a white guy, they don't.

I think a decent part of it is also the rarity factor. Bog-standard American accents aren't remotely exotic, no matter where you're from. Even the North Koreans get to watch our movies every now and again. Hard to think anything's sexy when it dominates the airwaves.

(denial, denial, rationalization, denial)


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:01 PM
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Everyone knows the sexiest accent is Scottish, ffs, have you learned NOTHING?

I dunno, does sexiness entail comprehensibility? I just watched A Fond Kiss. They subtitled everything! Not just the Urdu, but the Glaswegian English.

As far as the sexiness, it's a bit hard to separate that out from the general appeal of the stars, who are quite lovely.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:10 PM
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He asked if we thought maybe Scottish girls would think American accents were sexy.

Probably not. On the other hand, in the words of a Scottish business acquaintance to an American chet-type : "you're tall, tan, American, great teeth. we're all pasty and doughy." Girls would be swarming. They just wouldn't want you to talk.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:26 PM
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The Scottish accent (well, the Aberdonian one anyway) is the accent of my mum and especially my late grandparents. Though I am fond of it, there ain't nothing sexy about it. It's the accent for complaining about continence problems or about 'that folk' across the road who committed some perceived misdemeanour.


Posted by: Nakku | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:30 PM
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The Scottish accent (well, the Aberdonian one anyway)

Yes, these two things really aren't the same.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:33 PM
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My boyfriend does have great teeth and tans well. He's only a little taller than me, but I am tall. But the Scottish waiter was pretty cute, too.

A lot of bourgeois white Americans (sorry) have whiny nasal sounding voices

I had always heard that American accents were nasal, but it didn't really hit me until I went to the U.K. I almost felt sorry for Madonna and all of the flak she got over here for her adopted a British accent.


Posted by: pasdquoi | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:34 PM
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When I was in Egypt, I had women hitting on me constantly. After a couple of days, it became a little disturbing.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:35 PM
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Nobody really thinks of generically American accents as sexy. Part of that, at least, is due to the to effect in 296. Part of it is perhaps also due the the relatively monotone nature and dropped/slurred vowels of a lot of variants, which are neither particularly clear nor melodious.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:37 PM
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Walt, it probably wasn't your accent.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:38 PM
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Next time I'm in Egypt I'll affect a Scottish accent, and do the experiment.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:40 PM
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It's absolutely true that a lot of bourgeois white Americans really do have whiny nasal sounding voices, including me. I have no idea where this accent comes from, but I really started noticing this when I started working as a trial lawyer and had to listen to myself in videotapes or audio recordings from pre-trial work. Since then, I've been making a very conscious effort to sound less nasally and whiny. Oddly, the southern accent, which is very nasal, lacks the annoying tone of the bourgeois white whinyness, and black Americans seem to lack this problem altogether.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:44 PM
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260 -- Go jms. Get these bastards. BTW I read that they are Mormon activists and related by marriage to a Republican pollster.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:47 PM
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Do it, jms.

(260 refers to 225, for the curious.)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 12:52 PM
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Yeah, go jms! Unless jms is going to wack somebody. I don' t know what we're cheering for, but I'm too lazy to scroll back to find out.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 1:07 PM
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Let me take a contrarian view on that. First let me say I am voting no on 8. I take the Andrew Sullivan view that gay marriage will stabilize what is currently seen as a cruisin' environment by many straights.

That having been said, I do not for one second believe that gay marriage won't be taught in schools. It's a lie, and obvious on it's face to be a lie. The proper response is "So what?", not "We would never do that".


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 1:08 PM
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I do not for one second believe that gay marriage won't be taught in schools

Great. One more thing to compete with music for funding.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 1:10 PM
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When my niece's Canadian soccer team (one of whom is now their Olympic star) toured in Scotland, my brother was the chaperone protecting their little 15-year-old persons from the ravening Scotsmen. By the end of the tour he was bitterly hated by the lot of them, not least his own daughter. If any of you is ever in that situations, put condoms in a place where the girls can find them and go to bed early each night. It's not worth the grief.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 1:15 PM
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I do not for one second believe that gay marriage won't be taught in schools
Great. One more thing to compete with music for funding.

Field trip to the road show of "Mama Mia". Two birds, as it were.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 1:16 PM
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I do not for one second believe that gay marriage won't be taught in schools

Wait. How would marriage, of either stripe, be "taught" in schools?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 1:21 PM
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That's a serious question. I don't understand what "teaching marriage" even means in practical terms. You mean acknowledging that it exists?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 1:22 PM
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C'mere, Apo. You can be my lab partner.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 1:24 PM
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314 -- Seriously, what are you talking about? California has no requirement to teach anything about marriage at all, unless there's a sex education class (which, sadly aren't offered at most public schools), and there's no requirement that this discussion involve gay marriage at all. Plus, if you're bigoted enough, California lets you opt your children out of any discussion you consider too controversial, so you can make the awesomely enlightened choice to not to have your kid not read "Heather has two mommies" or whatever. This whole argument is a non-issue.

This whole mess seems to have started when a charter school in San Francisco took a field trip WITH PARENTAL PERMISSION to see ONE OF THEIR OWN teachers get married by Gavin Newsom.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 1:30 PM
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315 -- There's some statutory requirement (put in, I'm sure, to appease social conservatives) that IF schools in California provide sex education classes, which they can do at their option, they must include in that education some discussion of marriage

Presumably what's taught is that, if you really want to avoid having sex, you should get married.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 1:32 PM
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You mean acknowledging that it exists?

This. I don't see it as controversial. I'm not imagining a recruiting drive for cryin' out loud.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 1:34 PM
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This is way past, but up at 250:

First of all, I assume that's supposed to be ethereal - I think it would freak out the kids to think their teacher might vanish at any moment.

Second, it was explained to us as, yes, providing clear feminine symbolism, but also as evoking/encouraging the concept of the child burying itself in the mother's skirts for comfort/protection.

Of course; sorry. I'm not sure why I went for ephemeral, except that my roommate's (the Waldorf kindergarten teacher's) complaint went beyond the fact that male teachers could wear trousers, and had something to do with her perception that her individual self was supposed to disappear in favor of emphasis on her universal feminine nature. It was .. maddening.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 1:53 PM
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A lot of bourgeois white Americans (sorry) have whiny nasal sounding voices.

A Irish friend of mine used to do a parody-American accent that, in retrospect, sounded a lot like Sarah Palin. I don't think I sound all that whiny, but when I hear recordings of myself I think I sound drunk, or half asleep. I went to an Obama calling party last night and one of the people said she found listening to my calm, slow voice very relaxing--and I thought I was yammering away. Maybe I'd be more successful if I could just talk faster.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 2:11 PM
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321: +n.
Getting my articles straight might help too.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 2:12 PM
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Let's face it -- PC or no PC, women are ephemeral, like all things bound to the earth and the moon. They are fickle with no constant nature. Leave Parsi alone!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 2:12 PM
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This "Scottish accent" you discuss intrigues me. Can you take classes?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 2:15 PM
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I think you just watch Trainspotting repeatedly until you feel an overpowering urge to thump someone.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 2:20 PM
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black Americans seem to lack this problem altogether

Dave Chappelle's interview with Terry Gross is pretty funny on this topic. She asks him how he does the "white accent," and he is totally deadpan: "Well, first I take all the melody out of my voice."

(Terry embarrasses herself by talking about how she had never realized before that white people have accents, but that's a different issue.)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 2:36 PM
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Walt,

This "Scottish accent" you discuss intrigues me. Can you take classes?

Yes. They sell dialect tapes (or CDs nowadays) to practice with. And there are classes as well.

And I am glad to hear that the nameless one up above is actually trying to improve his/her speaking voice. This is one of my pet peeves, actually. People spend good money on hair products and all sorts of things to improve their appearance and hardly anyone thinks about improving his/her voice.

I blame the fact that no corporation can make muchmoney off it. But seriously, the voice is trainable without a whole lot of work and none of us really needs to simply stick with what we have.

Obviously I'll never sing soprano or even low bass for that matter so there are limits but I think most people could improve their voices quite a bit. I'm fairly audibly attuned along with my preference for visuals and think much less verbally than some people so I tend to notice such things.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 2:39 PM
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nasal sounding
the other week, i had a very painful small ulcer on the tip of my tongue, so can't eat or move my tongue freely
surprisingly, people were understanding what i'm saying more clearly and i thought that should talk with a lot of stress or like pressure in the frontal portion of the mouth to speak English with clearer pronounciation maybe


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 2:41 PM
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couldn't


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 2:41 PM
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read,

Perhaps the lack of eating caused you to speak with more urgency?

Seriously, though, I'd have to hear your voice to know what is going on. Many native US English speakers more or less skip the consonants so words can tend to slur together. I've never really heard that people should speak English more from the back of the mouth. Down from the nose more to the mouth, sure, but not the back of the mouth.

But what do I know?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 2:46 PM
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327 -- Nameless one was me. I totally agree -- voice improvement is totally do-able.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 2:48 PM
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well, whatever it was. How to make a really bitchin' van in Car Wars.

Eh not my favorite. Vans could pack lots of firepower, but you couldn't really armor them effectively.

</unnecessary geekery>


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 3:18 PM
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321: when I hear recordings of myself I think I sound drunk, or half asleep. I went to an Obama calling party last night and one of the people said she found listening to my calm, slow voice very relaxing--and I thought I was yammering away. Maybe I'd be more successful if I could just talk faster.

Interestingly in this context, when I did telemarketing long ago (for a solar energy company!), part of the training included the instruction to speak much more slowly. It was observed that we would sound to our own ears downright ponderously slow, but that the listener would register this as normally-paced speech, and would perhaps also find it calm, rational. I wound up shifting my pace rather easily, and I think it's stuck, for my phone voice.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 3:20 PM
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232, 260, 307, 308 & 309
Okay, done. I didn't telephone them. I wrote them a polite note saying that I'm sorry they're bigots but please don't send hate mail to my home anymore.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 3:25 PM
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Presumably what's taught is that, if you really want to avoid having sex, you should get married.

From what I've heard, that's hard to argue too much with empirically.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 3:29 PM
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(Terry embarrasses herself by talking about how she had never realized before that white people have accents, but that's a different issue.)

Agreed.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-31-08 3:48 PM
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re: 324

I'm happy to run some. Only $400 for this exclusive audio course on 2 CDs.

I've actually had voice training, for phone use. The training was mostly about i) slowing down, ii) using the lower register of your voice more, iii) dropping rather than raising the intonation at the end of questions.

I have a killer phone voice.

298 has some truth in it too. A friend talks of going into a really hardcore east end (of Glasgow) pub with a Texan acquaintance (to watch a football match) and warning him not to speak too loudly (this is a genuinely hard as nails area).

Door opens, they walk in, Texan friend (in a loud voice):

"Man, what's the aggregate level of malnutrition in thus place?"


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11- 1-08 1:33 AM
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333 exactly. I had my voice training when I worked for a bank [giving mortgage 'advice' over the phone].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11- 1-08 1:34 AM
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"Man, what's the aggregate level of malnutrition in thus place?"

Did they find his body?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11- 1-08 1:51 AM
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re: 339

Apparently people kept asking him if he was Dolph Lundgren [or some Celtic player who used to look a bit like Dolph Lundgren]. He did get out alive.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11- 1-08 1:58 AM
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The pub they were in is the one that features in Billy Connolly's legendary (but hard to find) crucifixion routine:

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=NE9pxhm1ohQ
(part 1)
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=va7qtkUYOgs&feature=related
(part 2)

This is from the early 70s before he was known outside Scotland and when he was i) still funny (and dangerous) and ii) still had a Glasgow accent.

[translation available on request]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11- 1-08 2:03 AM
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"...oot aw mornin' dae'in they miracles, ah'm knackered, gie's a glass ae that wine ... take a look oot that door, there's nuthin' but deid punters walkin' up and doon."


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11- 1-08 2:05 AM
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