Friday, November 20, 2009

Permanent Employment

The following was sent to me via email. I'm aware that the intended "lesson" was supposed to be political. Well, you know what they say about intentions. Unlike the writer of the piece, I see this as illustrative of a language problem, or maybe the state of education today. One thing for sure--if this is the state of our spoken language today, English teachers are never going to be unemployed.

CLUELESS in Seattle

In a Seattle , Washington college classroom, they were discussing the qualifications to be President of the United States . It was pretty simple. The candidate must be a natural born citizen of at least 35 years of age.

However, one girl in the class immediately started in on how unfair was the requirement to be a natural born citizen. In short, her opinion was that this requirement prevented many
capable individuals from becoming president. The class was taking it in and letting her rant, but everyone's jaw hit the floor when she wrapped up her argument by stating, “What makes a natural born citizen any more qualified to lead this country than one born by C-section?”

Yep, these are the 18 year olds that just voted for the President of the United States . These are our future leaders. Are we in trouble or what?


Deb said...

that's really scary.

Dave said...

What's scary is that there is no real evidence that our 18 year old voters are any less clueful than our 30, 40, or 50 year old voters.

You know how stupid the average person is? Well, think about it, half are even stupider than that. (*)

(*) Yes, it's really median, rather than mean, but since intelligence decently approximates a bell curve, it's close enough.

Dave said...

Also, in fairness, this wasn't really an issue of knowledge of English. It was a lack of knowledge of a specialized legal term.

Anonymous said...

I would not be so ready to believe that this a true story. There are so many cute or not so cute little stories like this that make the chain email circuit that I take most of them with a huge grain of salt -- if I even read them at all.

ProfK said...

the definition of what "natural born" means apropos of the presidency is explained in high school as part of teaching of American History.

I take a lot of those pass around emails with multiple grains of salt. However, I teach college English, and have taught on multiple college campuses. This scenario is so plausible. Vocabulary usage is a real problem. When a student tells me that we live in an effluent society, I cringe. When I point out that there are two words--affluent and effluent--and that they mean very different things, I get incredulous stares. Despite all their years of schooling, some students still express incredulity that one word can have multiple meanings.

Anyone who teaches will tell you that they are no longer surprised by the things that come out of students' mouths.

G6 said...

Although, I know this was not your main point, but permit me to digress for a moment because your story also illustrates quite well another failing we have in educating our children - the use of correct words to describe body parts and other sensitive information.
The phrase vaginal childbirth is considered "unseemly" so the less correct natural childbirth is substituted.
Little children are taught that their lower regions are called "tushies" and then when G-d forbid they have a pain, they cannot describe where. We teach our children eyes, ears, nose, throat, head, shoulders, knees and toes (knees and toes) but couch anything else in the vaguest of terms "mishum tzniyus". It's a disservice to our children.

r said...

the definition of what "natural born" means apropos of the presidency is explained in high school as part of teaching of American History."

I think Dave has a point. I don't think it is at root really an issue of language as it is a deficiency in what they used to call civics.

ProfK said...

I agree G6. There seems to be a problem in calling a spade a spade, if that spade is somewhere between the knees and the shoulders. I'd be willing to bet that if we took 10 parents and asked them to give the names used by them, and their children, for this portion of the human anatomy, we'd probably get about 100 different terms, none of them the correct anatomical term.

Re the "natural childbirth," this bothered me no end back when I was having children, and still does now. "Natural childbirth" was supposed to be drug free, and by vaginal delivery only. So that left the rest of us having "unnatural" childbirth? Carry that out to its logical end and that would mean that children delivered by "unnatural" childbirth are themselves "unnatural."

Critically Observant Jew said...

ProfK, would it sound better if she said, “What makes a natural born citizen any more qualified to lead this country than one who was untimely ripped?”

(somehow that part of Macbeth stayed with me - probably because I was delivered that way)

Dave said...

Well, she'd get serious style points from me for that phrasing.

Ari said...

At least she had an opinion. Many kids just don't care about politics or civics.

Mike S said...

Considering that an appeals court just devoted a 19 page opinon to dismissing the notion that President Obama's father's British citizenship did not disqualify the president from office, perhaps the definition we all learned in high school isn't so obvious.