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August 21, 2008

Educators want to speed up washing drunks out of college

AnimalHouse.jpgWaPo | Mark Fisher | On Campus, Legal Drinking Age Is Flunking the Reality Test
Next week, when President C.D. "Dan" Mote welcomes freshmen to the University of Maryland, he will inform them that the college police will enforce underage drinking laws "with terrific ferocity." And then he will turn around and, recognizing that most students do drink, tell the teenagers "to take care of each other when they see someone who's passed out, to take advantage of all of our services for students who abuse alcohol." "We have a real conflict here," Mote says, and he's talking not only about the College Park campus but about every university and about our entire society. We live in a time when efforts to enforce the prohibition on drinking before age 21 are more aggressive than ever, yet there is a common assumption that most young people routinely violate that law.... Too many colleges have become grim enclaves of student binge drinking that leads to all manner of degrading and ugly behavior. "Virtually every sexual assault is associated with alcohol abuse," Mote says. "Almost every assault of any kind is related to drinking. The drinking-age issue is not just about drinking and driving. It's a much bigger pie, and we college presidents see that whole pie."... "The social contract is broken," Mote tells me. "Legislators have made laws that the people do not take seriously. Students point to our alcohol programs and say, 'See, everybody understands that we are going to drink,' and they're right."
All quite reasonable and realistic. And then, the idiots arrive:
Well, maybe. In just 48 hours since Mote's participation in the initiative became public, he's been besieged with criticism. Maryland Del. Bill Bronrott (D-Montgomery) wants Mote and other presidents to remove their names from the petition and get tougher on enforcing the law. Bronrott, a physician who works on alcohol issues, says the research supports the success of the higher age limit in reducing deaths.

August 19, 2008

Teacher advocates relaxing spelling rules

Making an Arguement for Misspelling - TIME

Good spellers, Smith says, should be able to go on writing as usual; those who find the current rules of English too hard to learn should have their spelling labeled variant, not wrong. Smith zeroes in on 10 candidates for variant spellings, culled from his students' most commonly misspelled (or mispelled, as Smith suggests) words. Among them are Febuary instead of February, twelth instead of twelfth and truely instead of truly — all words, he says, that involve confusion over silent letters. When students would ask why there's no e in truly, Smith didn't really have an answer. "I'd say, 'Well, I don't know. ... You've just got to drop it because people do,' " he says. Smith adds that when teachers correct spelling, they waste valuable time they could be spending on bigger ideas.

Word nerds aren't the only ones with a stake in the proposal. People who have trouble with spelling are punished when it comes to applying for jobs or even filling out forms, even though their mistakes are far from unusual, says Jack Bovill, chairman of the British-based Spelling Society, an international organization that has advocated simplified spellings since 1908. A 2007 Spelling Society survey of 1,000 British adults found that more than half could not spell embarrassed or millennium correctly and more than a quarter struggled with definitely, accidentally and separate.

August 13, 2008

Noah Berlatsky's commentary on criticism

via | The Hooded Utilitarian | Critics vs. Creators
“The point of criticism really isn’t to help the artist out — at least not in the sense of telling the artist what it is he or she should do or change. A finished piece is a finished piece. You say it’s good or you say it sucks, or you say it’s somewhere in between, but that assessment is aimed at the work’s (potential) audience, not at the artist.”... I think it's also worth pointing out that, while as an artist you may not want to listen to "critics", you tend to want to listen to *somebody*. The splendid isolation meme is probably satisfying in a Ayn Rand kind of way, but the truth is that virtually all artists want some kind of audience. Art is about communication, and that communication isn't just one way....

California can't math

Schwarzenegger sues controller to force pay cuts
Lawmakers are divided over how to close a $15.2 billion deficit.
mercurynews.com | Algebra mandate will cost California $3.1 billion, education chief says
California's schools chief warned Tuesday that the state would need to spend an additional $3.1 billion to meet a new mandate that all eighth-graders take algebra by 2011.