Skip to comments.Spelling Bee Protester replies
Posted on 06/29/2004 8:21:41 PM PDT by Spellfix
I am new to your forum, a spelling bee protester just getting around to answering some comments posted June 3 here: http://22.214.171.124/focus/f-news/1146693/post My actual remarks are under Comment. Please email me if I'm putting the comment where the thread should be or vice versa. firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm Alan Mole, President of the American Literacy Council, responding to your comments about our picketing the Spelling Bee. Since there were so many postings (116+) and most were negative, perhaps you'll forgive me if I take a little more space to reply than is customary.
Very briefly this is our position:
ALC actually likes the Bee, since it's a good way to make a hard subject fun for kids. But where the Bee glorifies the difficulty of spelling, we think it should be easy. Where the Bee finds the one student in ten million (literally!) who can master it, we want to make it logical so everyone can master it and millions more can read.
We have 22% functional illiteracy in America, some 40 million adults. In Sweden it's 7%, Germany 10% and Norway 12%. All those countries reformed their spelling, some several times in the last century. And their low illiteracy *is* due to their spelling. A paper in Science reports that Italians have just as much dyslexia as English speakers, as measured by trouble repeating syllables and by brain scans, yet there is far less trouble reading. The paper concludes that the difference is due to the spelling systems. (Italian has honest and phonetic spelling.)
Illiteracy often leads to poverty, desperation and crime. The USA has 2.1 million prisoners behind bars, the highest incarceration rate in the whole world. Is this due to spelling and illiteracy? Well, 60% of our prisoners are illiterate -- judge for yourself.
Most European countries have reformed their spelling and lowered their illiteracy. It can be done. And it could be painless here in America because computers can transform documents, to or from reformed spelling, in seconds. So no one would be forced to read or write in reformed, nor is it likely that newspapers would change for a century.
But as a gradual start we want to take some dyslexics who have failed every effort to learn reading in regular spelling, and teach them in reformed. Perhaps some day one will hand you a note in SoundSpel. Would you deign to read it, knowing it made that man literate? Could you read it?
Well, SoundSpel drops silent letters ("no" not "know") and it spells long vowels (AEIOU) as AE (as in steak), EE (as in meet), IE (as in tried) and so on. Heer's a sampl. It is a litl shoking at ferst but being fonetic it's eezy with sum practis. Wuud U tri to reed it, to help a dislexic? To fiend out mor, see www.spellingsociety.org or www.americanliteracy.com/alc6.htm
In answer to typical comments:
1. No, we do not want to reform grammar, and I know of no one among us who likes Ebonics. Spelling is not grammar. Most of the nations of Europe have reformed their spelling; none that I know of their grammar. Norway reformed spelling four times in the last century but never adopted Norbonics.
2. Yes, it can be done, and is not a silly impossible proposal. Just as Arabic numerals replaced Roman numerals (a vastly inferior system requiring a university education to learn to add and subtract), just as Standard Time replaced every hamlet having its own time based on local noon, just as Sweden and Norway and Germany reformed their spelling, so we can reform ours.
3. "Reformers just want to coddle poor widdle kiddies, who should have to learn as we did." Other countries fixed their spelling to make it easy, barely harder than learning to count, which is the way it should be. They have far less illiteracy (7% Sweden VS 22% USA, 20% UK, 17% Canada...) Their children almost all become fluent in one or more foreign languages, while the U.S. performance is pathetic in this area. Of course it takes them two weeks to learn to read and write while it takes us two years. (A third of the first six years of grade school is spent on readin' and writin'.) There are far better things for children to learn than our corrupt spelling. Do reformers want to make it better for children? Yes. But why would *you* be against that? Do you hate children? Do like polio? ("I had to face that risk so they should too. And let's bring back diphtheria!")
4. "Everyone can learn to spell!" Yes -- in Germany. But here literally ten million children compete in the Bee and 9,999,999 misspell a word and drop out, before one is declared champion. If you think one in ten million is everyone you must have taken New Math.
5. "No responsible person would champion spelling reform." In 1908 most responsible people thought it would happen. Teddy Roosevelt, Mark Twain, Andrew Carnegie, Tennyson, Shaw and hundreds of college presidents, even the NEA (then more society than union) all vigorously supported it.
6. "Get a life!"-- Oh, I think T.R. had one.
These comments should have convinced you, yet somehow I suspect I can look forward to a vigorous debate. Well, it should be interesting...
f u kn rd thz, thn u kn mk mny in cort rprting
I read through your comments, and can you elaborate as to the reason you thought it necessary to post this?
You want to reform spelling? In what way?
Illiteracy? How is that the fault of or tie into the National Spelling Bee? It sounds like you want to dumb it down, make it "more inclusive" in order to make it more "fair."
It seems to me that it should be hard. Kind of like the difference of riding around the block versus winning the Tour De France.
How kan u sa that english iz not reformd wen we no longer hav too speek in thous, thes, therfors, wens, warefor, and hens dont hav to dekod such thins lik this: The angell sayde to thee that the fruyt off thi body sulde be blyssyde?
Well, isn't that nice.
With hym ther was a Plowman, was his broother,
That hadde ylad of donge ful many a foother.
A trewe swynkere and a good was he,
Lyvynge in pees and parfit charitee.
God loved he best with al his hoole herte
At alle tymes, thogh hym gamed or smerte,
And thanne his neighebore right as hymselve.
He wolde thresshe, and therto dyke and delve, 2
For Cristes sake, for every povre wight,
Withouten hyre, if it lay in his myght.
His tythes payde he ful faire and wel,
Both of his propre swynk and his catel.
In a tabard he rood upon a mere.
Meihem In Ce Klasrum
by Dolton Edwards
[Note: This was originally published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1946, after the terms of George Bernard Shaw's will had come to light.]
Because we are still bearing some of the scars of our brief skirmish with II-B English, it is natural that we should be enchanted by Mr. George Bernard Shaw's current campaign for a simplified alphabet.
Obviously, as Mr. Shaw points out, English spelling is in much need of a general overhauling and streamlining. However, our own resistance to any changes requiring a large expenditure of mental effort in the near future would cause us to view with some apprehension the possibility of some day receiving a morning paper printed in - to us - Greek.
Our own plan would achieve the same end as the legislation proposed by Mr. Shaw, but in a much less shocking manner, as it consists of merely an acceleration of the normal process by which the language is continually modernized.
As a catalytic agent, we would propose that a National Easy Language Week be proclaimed, which the President would inaugurate, outlining some short cut to concentrate during the week, and to be adopted during the ensuing year. All school children would be given a holiday, the lost time being the equivalent of that gained by the spelling short cut.
In 1946, for example, we would urge the elimination of the soft "c", for which we would substitute "s". Sertainly, such an improvement would be selebrated in all sivic-minded sircles as being suffisiently worth the trouble, and students in all sities in the land would be reseptive toward any change eliminating the nesessity of learning the differense between the two letters.
In 1947, sinse only the hard "c" would be left, it would be possible to substitute "k" for it, both letters being pronounsed identikally. Imagine how greatly only two years of this prosess would klarify the konfusion in the minds of students. Already we would have eliminated an entire letter from the alphabet. Typewriters and linotypes kould all be built with one less letter, and all the manpower and materials previously devoted to making "c's" kould be turned toward raising the national standard of living.
In the fase of so many notable improvements, it is easy to foresee that by 1948, "National Easy Language Week" would be a pronounsed sukses. All skhool tshildren would be looking forward with konsiderable exsitement to the holiday, and in a blaze of national publisity it would be announsed that the double konsonant "ph" no longer existed, and that the sound would henseforth be written with "f" in all words. This would make sutsh words as "fonograf" twenty persent shorter in print.
By 1949, publik interest in a fonetik alfabet kan be expekted to have inkreased to the point where a more radikal step forward kan be taken without fear of undue kritisism We would therefore urge the elimination at that time of al unesesary double leters, whitsh, although quite harmles, have always ben a nuisanse in the language and a desided deterent to akurate speling. Try it yourself in the next leter you write, and se if both writing and reading are not fasilitated.
With so mutsh progres already made, it might be posible in 1950 to delve further into the posibilities of fonetik speling. After due konsideration of the reseption aforded the previous steps, it should be expedient by this time to spel al difthongs fonetikaly. Most students do not realize that the long "i" and "y," as in "time" and "by," are aktualy the difthong "ai," as it is writen in "aisle," and that the long "a" in "fate" is in reality the difthong "ei" as in "rein". Although perhaps not imediately aparent, the seiving in taime and efort wil be tremendous when we leiter elimineite the sailent "e," as meide posible bai this last tsheinge.
For, as is wel known, the horible mes of "e's" apearing in our writen language is kaused prinsipaly bai the present nesesity of indekeiting whether a vowel is long or short.
Therefore, in 1951 we kould simply elimineite al sailent "e's" and kontinu to read and wrait merily along as though we wer in an atomik eig of edukation.
In 1951 we would urg a greit step forward. Sins bai this taim it would hav ben four years sins anywun had usd the leter "c", we would sugest that the "National Easy Languag Wek" for 1951 be devoted to substitution of "c" for "Th". To be sur it would be som taim befor peopl would bekom akustomd to reading ceir newspapers and buks wic sutsh sentenses in cem as "Ceodor caught he had cre cousand cistls crust crough ce cik of his cumb."
In ce seim maner, bai meiking eatsh leter hav its own sound and cat sound only, we kould shorten ce languag stil mor. In 1952 we would eliminait ce "y"; cen in 1953 we kould us ce leter to indekeit ce "sh" sound, cerbai klarifaiing words laik yugar and yur, as wel as redusing bai wun mor leter al words laik "yut," "yor." and so forc. Cink, cen, of al ce benefits to be geined bai ce distinktion whitsh wil cen be meid between words laik:
* ocean now writen oyean
* machine now writen mayin
* racial now writen reyial
Al sutsh divers weis of wraiting wun sound would no longer exist, and whenever wun keim akros a "y" sound he would know exaktli what to wrait.
Kontinuing cis proses, eeir after eeir we would eventuali hav a reali sensibl writen langug. By 1975, wi ventyur tu sei, cer wud bi no mor uv ces teribli trublsum difikultis, wic no tu leters usd to indikeit ce seim nois, and laikwais no tu noises riten wic ce seim leter. Even Mr. Yaw, wi beliv, wud be hapi in ce noleg cat his drims fainali keim tru.
Und finali ve vould awl ve speking German lik ve ver suppozd to vit Hitler's plans.
And ~100% have committed crimes.
welkum to FREE REPUBLIC. Its kustomary to respond to comints abot posts u maik.
Let's reform medicine next. People that would kill a person on the operating table should be allowed to get through Med School. Would you try to let them operate on you, just to help a clumsy doctor?
Frankly, I don't believe in "reforming" standards to the lowest common denominator so that we can pretend more people have improved. Expect less out of people and get less out of people.
Yes, I feel sorry for dyslexics and would even try to read their notes. However, I also don't expect to make one person's disability ten people's disabilities.
Go study the cultural revolution in China. What you propose may be well-meaning, but it is actually borderline evil.
Everybody complains about the whether, but, other than you, nobody ever seems to do anything about it.
I think he wants to bring spelling in line with pronunciation, make it more phonetic.
I am going to have to violently disagree with almost everything in your post. I will not address the Spelling Bee issue itself, as I am not familiar with the post or the incident.
Asian countries that have much more complex languages can have low literacy rates, as well. So many things happened over the years cited, that it is impossible to pin any drop to a particular reform. I do not believe French has been reformed, but I doubt that France's literacy rate is all that bad. For that matter, the article does not inform us of the illiteracy rate among the English and Canadians, who have less standardization than we do. (Cheque, colour, etc.)
This reminds me of the people who trot out the same statistics to argue for a longer school year. They mention that Germany and Japan have longer school years and more literacy and better test scores. They usually omit that Belgium has a much shorter school year and ALSO has better test scores.
So, besides your "post hoc ergo propter hoc" fallacy, you also engage in the straw man of "If we oppose you we support illiteracy." There is more to a language than getting the spelling right. There are reasons why Shakespeare, the original King James and Challoner Douay-Rheims Bible and Charles Dickens are kept in their original form. They are not only for the University educated, either. The look of the word, sometimes subtle differences in sound that cannot be reconciled with a Scando-Germanic sparseness, are important for great literature and poetry.
English differs from many other languages because its vocabulary is vast. English is also a mongrel language, owing its vocabulary and grammar to Germanic, modern Romance and Classical tongues. Oftentimes, the irregular spellings give us an idea of whether the root is derived from Latin, French, Greek or German. It is an advantage in reading that English has alternate spellings for words sounding the same. Homonyms help a reader who cannot "hear" the inflection of voice. But he will know the difference be "no" and "know," or "right" and "write."
There were plenty of brainy people who opposed the standardization movement then. G.K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc come to mind immediately. Most Freepers have more respect for the writings of Chesterton than for the writings of the Socialist Shaw. Twain's writing is excellent, but he had a poor track record of guessing the future. He would not invest in the telephone, but lost much of his fortune on failed 19th century stenography inventions.
As a traditional conservative, I believe that radical changes like this should not come from literacy councils, playwrights or even presidents. President Carter attempted to impose the Metric system on the people of the United States. We just said no. Now, here and there, it makes its way in, but for most day to day uses, people think and work in Fahrenheit, pounds and feet. Computers do a great job on the conversions, for when working with other countries is necessary. People who have use for both can learn them both. The Canadian government has imposed metric on the Canadians for decades, now. However, when you talk to real Canadians, not a single one describes his weight in kilograms, and the percentage who know what a centigram or a decaliter is corresponds to the percentage of Americans who know what a league or a hundredweight is. People will learn whatever measurements they care to when they need to.
The language, including spelling, is always changing. I would argue that some of the change is bad, especially those inorganic changes that stem from a new class of PhDs and sexual revolution activists pushing their style on Universities, government agencies and editors. Some of the changes are organic, but are possibly the sign of a language in decline. The French people are regularly adopting English words to meet their needs (Walkman and weekend are two very non-French words in the LaRousse dictionary). The best efforts of the French government cannot convince the citizens to use "communique electronique" rather than "e-mail." I hope that Americans will have at least as much backbone as the French in resisting a top-down imposition of a vocabulary that looks like Newspeak.
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