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 Post subject: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 10:18 am 
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I thought this was an interesting article, tracking certain grammatical mistakes that are becoming more and more common in the media and public discourse and how that indicates a culture where media commentators are flaunting their ignorance, by styling it as authenticity.

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As the dumbing down of intellectual discourse in the U.S. continues to occur, the era is marked by certain characteristic grammatical mistakes. What does it matter? Doesn’t usage, more than book-definition, determine what is ultimately correct? Yes, but language also molds thought.

There it is, you see. Republicans don’t care for education or educated people. They’re anti-teacher, as anyone following the political news knows. They always have been, but now they’re ever so much more so.

Check it out– the Republican Party of Texas wrote this into its 2012 Platform, in the section on education:

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

The Texas GOP now opposes higher thinking skills.

They’re not just against sex education, but forbid multicultural education and even early childhood education. The platform supports “school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded.”

They don’t want critical thinking– who then would vote Republican?

Sure enough, it undermines authority. Theirs, by revealing it to be bogus. But a dumbed-down electorate simply can be bamboozled easier, and this they know well.

Sloppy language, sloppy thought, manipulated, emotional response rather than critical thinking– all a necessary foundation for them to prevail.

Though they are well-known twisters of language, I’m not really saying that they engineer all the things that I find irritating about the way people talk.

No, I’m suggesting that these speech patterns are symptomatic of years of assault on schools, ideas, intellect.

Boy, they don’t miss a trick, do they?

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:15 am 
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I don't know that it's true that "language molds thought."

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:22 am 
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You forgot the link: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/08/22/w ... llies-now/

I just don't understand why some lefties, who otherwise love diversity, insist that everyone use the dialect of wealthy nineteenth-century white folks.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:23 am 
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You can spell it both ways, I think http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molding_(process)

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:28 am 
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hoveringdog™ wrote:
I just don't understand why some lefties, who otherwise love diversity, insist that everyone use the dialect of wealthy nineteenth-century white folks.

Because they don't like to recognize class differences.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:31 am 
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FootFace wrote:
I don't know that it's true that "language molds thought."

Clearly, when someone says "when I laid down last night" instead of the archaic "when I lay down last night," a tiny bit of gray matter curls up and dies within us all, and we edge ever closer to utter social collapse.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:35 am 
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You really have to watch out for those hillbillies.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 1:14 pm 
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"when i laid down last night" and "when i lay down last night" describe two different actions! one is spreading feathers, one is reclining. i will begrudgingly let you have your "may" in place of "might" and your "while" instead of "although," but i will fight long and hard for verb differentiation. because i'm the elitist patriarchy?

it seems like hal robins is making two separate arguments, and neither is very well supported in that article. i don't know whether speech patterns can shape ideological thought; i want to doubt it, but i believe that if you perceive someone as an "other" and you are a person who is reflexively hostile toward otherness, you might dismiss that person's statements. the problem there, though, is that reflex, and not the language being used. i don't know whether an increased use of dialect in what used to be formal-speech arenas is symptomatic of a willful dumbing-down or redirecting of discourse. i do know that when i co-teach writing classes for brooklyn kids, i am shocked at how many third-graders can barely read or write, even though when they're speaking they sound sharp as tacks. i'm not surprised that many of those kids are growing up in poorer or more racially diverse neighborhoods. schools are absolutely victims of political and class squabbling. if you want to maintain class differences, outlawing critical thinking and outcome-based education is a great place to start. i think that's a much more important piece of this article, and it gets short shrift because the author is too busy talking about how much smarter he is than southern republicans. and i think that is a huge part of why discussions about education (o.k., discussions about lots of things) in the u.s. don't seem to get very far.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 2:46 pm 
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hoveringdog™ wrote:
You forgot the link: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/08/22/w ... llies-now/

I just don't understand why some lefties, who otherwise love diversity, insist that everyone use the dialect of wealthy nineteenth-century white folks.


+1 yummy

But I do think language affects ideology and vice versa


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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 6:38 pm 
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Yeah... I seen this earlier. And I still dinnae get it.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 7:12 pm 
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Hmmm. I find a piece about the devolving English language hard to take seriously when it's so poorly written. Somebody needs an editor! Plus, what a racist, classist forkwad.

(White) people from the North Eastern US don't have the final say in what is or is not the correct English pronunciation. Not all people from the south or Appalachia are stupid, ignorant or even Republican. Also, like it or not, Democrats, too, make some pretty annoying grammatical errors. For example, Obama definitely misuses myself (as in "Michelle and myself have blah, blah.). I think that's particularly annoying useage mistake, because it's often an example of the speaker trying to gussy up the language and sound smarter. But you know what? It's not the end of the world. It doesn't mean Obama is dumb. It just means that he doesn't care about or understand a usage rule that I'm peevish about.

That said, yes, the Republican party does seem to have a strategy of "dumbing down"to seem folksy and in touch with the common dude. It's a pretty appalling strategy, since those are some of the people they'd like to fork over hardest. Also, not giving kids good reasoning and literacy tools doesn't really help with creating those bootstrap stories Republicans love so much.


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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 8:52 pm 
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Olives wrote:
(White) people from the North Eastern US don't have the final say in what is or is not the correct English pronunciation.


And look what Language Log just posted.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 9:00 pm 
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FootFace wrote:
Olives wrote:
(White) people from the North Eastern US don't have the final say in what is or is not the correct English pronunciation.


And look what Language Log just posted.

20 words for coffee but no word for self-aware. Bwah! <3


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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 9:29 pm 
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pandacookie wrote:
hoveringdog™ wrote:
I just don't understand why some lefties, who otherwise love diversity, insist that everyone use the dialect of wealthy nineteenth-century white folks.

Because they don't like to recognize class differences.

Zing!

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 9:34 pm 
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Olives wrote:
Hmmm. I find a piece about the devolving English language hard to take seriously when it's so poorly written. Somebody needs an editor! Plus, what a racist, classist forkwad.

(White) people from the North Eastern US don't have the final say in what is or is not the correct English pronunciation. Not all people from the south or Appalachia are stupid, ignorant or even Republican. Also, like it or not, Democrats, too, make some pretty annoying grammatical errors. For example, Obama definitely misuses myself (as in "Michelle and myself have blah, blah.). I think that's particularly annoying useage mistake, because it's often an example of the speaker trying to gussy up the language and sound smarter. But you know what? It's not the end of the world. It doesn't mean Obama is dumb. It just means that he doesn't care about or understand a usage rule that I'm peevish about.

That said, yes, the Republican party does seem to have a strategy of "dumbing down"to seem folksy and in touch with the common dude. It's a pretty appalling strategy, since those are some of the people they'd like to fork over hardest. Also, not giving kids good reasoning and literacy tools doesn't really help with creating those bootstrap stories Republicans love so much.


<3 because I was going to say something like this only not so well because my grammar isn't good.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 9:38 pm 
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Why is going after "hillbillies" okay? Why are pictures like the one accompanying that article okay? Would it be okay if we we went after another group with a stereotypical picture? Let's try!

That article is horrifically classist and a near parody of what people say they hate about East Coast Liberal Elites.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 9:49 pm 
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pandacookie wrote:
hoveringdog™ wrote:
I just don't understand why some lefties, who otherwise love diversity, insist that everyone use the dialect of wealthy nineteenth-century white folks.

Because they don't like to recognize class differences.


I'd also add that a lot of lefties prefer those are are not white middle class to be seen and not heard.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 6:35 am 
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FootFace wrote:
I don't know that it's true that "language molds thought."


I can think of a couple of Max Planck-produced cog sci studies that kinda sorta support this claim.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 9:14 am 
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Oh, for heaven's sake. I've been lambasted for taking this position before, and fully expect to be again, but I really don't care. While I agree that the use of term "hillbilly" is double-plus-uncool, the fact remains that correct - yes, I did say "correct" - grammar and usage are important, and all the willfully disingenuous More PC Than Thou pissing contests in the world (most of which, ironically, are engaged in by middle-class, educated liberals) are not going to change the fact that people are judged by how they express themselves, and that the ability to do so in an articulate, coherent manner helps them to be taken seriously, and can open a wide variety of doors. Whether this is "right" or "wrong" according to anyone's personal beliefs, ethics, ideology, etc., makes no difference to the fact that it is demonstrably true. I've said it before, and I will say it again: I cannot fathom how the ability to speak or write English properly (there's another of those elitist words) could legitimately be seen as negative. Why wouldn't a person - regardless of their profession, field of interest, etc. - want to have excellent language skills at their disposal? It has nothing to do with sounding "like the landed gentry," it's a matter of having the appropriate tools at hand when they're called for and/or can prove useful. How could having as many arrows as possible in one's quiver (how's that for landed gentry talk?) be seen as anything but wholly desirable? To my mind, the fact that this is even being called into question simply reinforces the author's point.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 9:47 am 
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Plus one yummerific to Dmona.

The use of the word "hillbilly" is unfortunate as are some of the examples (the in-surance one for example), but in general the article isn't going after the rural Southern poor, in my view. It is going after rich, white, college-educated men who adopt certain grammatical errors to make themselves seem more like "men of the people" and confer authenticity and credibility as "one of you." While in fact their interests aren't aligned with those of the rural Southern poor or anyone other than the top 1%.

And I don't agree that liberals just want poor minorities to be seen but not heard. Yes there is a disconnect often in access and an ability to hear what is needed by the communities that they seek to help, but I think that generally there is an intent to help. Which is not the case with the GOP/conservatives that are at issue here, where poor minorities are the scapegoats to justify not having any limits on the right to bear arms and to justify slashing social spending to the bone. The perfect can't be the enemy of the good.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 10:24 am 
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Desdemona wrote:
I cannot fathom how the ability to speak or write English properly (there's another of those elitist words) could legitimately be seen as negative. Why wouldn't a person - regardless of their profession, field of interest, etc. - want to have excellent language skills at their disposal? It has nothing to do with sounding "like the landed gentry," it's a matter of having the appropriate tools at hand when they're called for and/or can prove useful.

I think this shows that you entirely miss the point. You are looking at an arbitrary set of "correct" grammar rules that you yourself think means "education" and "opportunity" and want to apply it across the board. Intelligence has little to do with someone's grammar skills. It isn't a negative to speak or write English according to book rules. But it also shouldn't be a negative to speak or write English not according to book rules. And the idea of having the appropriate grammar tools at hand when needed is mostly funny. People may not sound the way you want them to when speaking but that doesn't mean they are incapable of communicating. Or in many cases, communicating in a way that is entirely appropriate for their jobs, situations and lives despite the fact that they aren't using your desired grammar rules.
It's interesting that you think people need to be molded to fit the system rather than that the system needs to be changed.

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Last edited by pandacookie on Mon Aug 27, 2012 10:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 10:37 am 
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Tofulish wrote:
And I don't agree that liberals just want poor minorities to be seen but not heard. Yes there is a disconnect often in access and an ability to hear what is needed by the communities that they seek to help, but I think that generally there is an intent to help. Which is not the case with the GOP/conservatives that are at issue here, where poor minorities are the scapegoats to justify not having any limits on the right to bear arms and to justify slashing social spending to the bone. The perfect can't be the enemy of the good.

I don't think the people in power and the people with access want to hear much at all from the poor, regardless of their political leanings. Everyone professes to want to help end poverty. Terrible stuff, really. But I don't think many people who have comfortable lives really want things to change much if it means they will have a less comfortable life. If we really want to get at the root of class problems in this country I think it would take a lot of uncomfortable self reflection that no one with power and access wants to do. It's easier to laugh about hillbillies because they are the other.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 10:37 am 
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To be clear, I am all for teaching good written communication skills in schools. I am against intentionally making grammar and usage mistakes because you think that's how regular, blue collar folk will relate to you. This article really fails to make that point, though. First, it's not as if he offers any evidence that people misuse lay/lie or me/I than they did in the past. Frankly, I think many people DO know the difference, and would point out that the mistakes we make orally are often different than the ones made in writing.
His points about pronunciation in no way support his (very much buried) thesis. There are regional differences in pronunciation. Always have been, probably always will be. Just because he accustomed to a certain pronunciation, or perceives it as being older, does not mean that it is better.
Finally, I can't see how this piece is NOT going after the rural southern poor. His argument seems to go like this: Sportscasters are causing grammatical mistakes to become more rampant (although, oddly he never offers an example of the errors sportscasters are making); here are some errors I hear a lot that bug me (and I shudder to think that too many of you are much dumber than me, and can't understand what the problem is); furthermore, why don't you pronounce stuff the same way I do? ; hey, you know where these ignorant mistakes come from "southern crackers" and "hillbillies," man, those guys are dumb and wrong about stuff; Republicans want us to adopt southern speech patterns so we'll be less capable of critical thought. Perhaps I exaggerate, but his argument does hinge on poor people from the south and Appalachia being dumb and substandard.
Can I also point out that arguably, some of the best US writers come from the south?


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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 10:58 am 
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Desdemona wrote:
While I agree that the use of term "hillbilly" is double-plus-uncool, the fact remains that correct - yes, I did say "correct" - grammar and usage are important, and all the willfully disingenuous More PC Than Thou pissing contests in the world [...]

What is the difference between prescriptive grammatical correctness and political correctness?

Certainly, being PC is also an important workplace requirement in much of the world. Why champion the former while rejecting, or merely tolerating, the latter?

They strike me as being essentially similar kinds of correctness.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 11:17 am 
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