Archive for the ‘University of North Georgia’ Category

Academic Freedom, Part I   3 comments

AND ASSAULTS UPON IT

Academic freedom is precious.  It is also essential.  The advocacy for academic freedom is a core principle for me.  I strive to speak out for it and to practice it consistently, regardless of whether any given threat to it comes from the Right or the Left.  I aspire to avoid hypocrisy as much as possible.

For years, for example, I have cringed at calls for “safe spaces,” in practical terms, spaces in which to hide from theories and perspectives one does not like.  These kinds of “safe spaces” epitomize a misplaced sense of entitlement run amok.  One purpose of education–higher education, in particular–is to broaden the intellectual horizons of students.  Educators should, of course, teach their assigned subjects; staying on topic is crucial, too.  “Coloring inside the lines,” so to speak does not constitute bowing to censorship and does not indicate any threat to academic freedom.

Many conservatives pretend that liberals (with whom I usually sympathize) have a monopoly on seeking “safe spaces” away from certain perspectives.  Evidence indicates, however, that many conservatives seek “safe spaces” of their own.  This week, in Idaho, the controversial theory du jour is Critical Race Theory.  Moving to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory–even in public colleges and universities in Idaho–constitutes an assault on academic freedom.  Critical Race Theory is germane to certain academic disciplines.  Those whose disciplines include Critical Race Theory should have the right to bring it up when it is applicable.

My experience as a classroom instructor informs my perspective.  The prospect of some authority from on high legally forbidding me to teach a part of my discipline appalls me.  Even the threat of such a law or policy appalls me, regardless of the ideological roots of that prohibition.

Whether a person, institution, or government respects academic freedom is easy to determine.  One needs simply to observe actions and policies.  Deeds reveal creeds.

I have granted my students the right to disagree with me in subjective matters.  Objective reality is what it is.  Therefore, I have marked off for getting facts wrong.  I have also marked off for making incoherent arguments not rooted in facts presented.  That has been fair.  “Back up your arguments,” I have told pupils.  “Think critically,” I have instructed them.  I have returned papers bearing high grades–“A’s”–and comments about why interpretations were wrong.  That was fair, too.  When students fulfilled the terms of the assignment, they earned high grades.  And their interpretations were wrong.  Those interpretations did not affect their grades, nor should they have.  Certain students have expressed surprise at this combination of grade and comments.  These students have also tended to give me favorable evaluations.

In another case, I was grading final essays one semester.  I had specified that the minimum length was to be eight full pages.  One student submitted only four pages.  I read his essay closely.  He backed up his argument with evidence.  His interpretation was rubbish, but he backed everything up with facts.  I assigned his essay a grade of 50.  When the student asked me why, I explained that he had submitted half of an essay, so 50 was the maximum possible grade.  (This was consistent with the terms of my syllabus.  Regardless of content, 50 was the maximum possible grade for a four-page-long essay.)  I told him that, If he had submitted at least eight pages in which he had argued as well as he did in four pages, I would have given him an “A” on the essay.  (I would have.)  Anyhow, he earned an “A” in the course.   He seemed satisfied with my explanation.

I strive to avoid hypocrisy regarding academic freedom.  More people, institutions, and governments, should do the same.  They ought to respect academic freedom.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

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Feast of Mark Hopkins (June 14)   Leave a comment

Above:  Mark Hopkins Stamp

Image in the Public Domain

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MARK HOPKINS (FEBRUARY 4, 1802-JUNE 17, 1887)

U.S. Congregationalist Minister, Theologian, Educator, and Physician

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The ideal college is Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other.

–James Abram Garfield (November 19, 1831-September 19, 1881), President of the United States of America (March 4-September 19, 1881)

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Mark Hopkins comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Hopkins came from a devout Congregationalist family, which shaped his destiny.  He, a son of Archibald Hopkins (1766-1839) and Mary Curtis Hopkins (1772-1868), debuted in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, on February 4, 1802.  A great-uncle was Samuel Hopkins (1721-1803), a prominent Congregationalist minister, theologian, and abolitionist.  Our saint, who graduated from Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1824, worked as a tutor at Williams College (1825-1827) prior to matriculating at Berkshire Medical College, Pittsfield, Massachusetts (Class of 1830).  The our saint returned to Williams College as Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy (1830-1887).  He also served as the president of the college (1836-1872).  Hopkins, a skilled practitioner of the Socratic Method, became an ordained minister in 1833.  He chose to remain at Williams College; our saint declined a host of offers from churches, universities, colleges, and seminaries elsewhere.  Hopkins also found time to serve as the President of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions from 1857 to 1887.

Hopkins married Mary Hubbell (1813-1898).  The couple had ten children.

Hopkins produced a range of published works of theology.  His theology anticipated Charles Darwin‘s On the Origin of Species (1859), which was unoriginal.  (Ask Alfred Russel Wallace.)  Our saint’s On the Argument from Nature for the Divine Existence (1833), rooted in Aristolelian philosophy and the theology of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1768), argued that evolution is a driving force within nature and is consistent with the existence of God.

Hopkins, Renaissance man and Christian apologist, died in Williamstown, Massachusetts, on June 17, 1887.  He was 85 years old.

Hopkins, as an educator, intrigues me.  I have much experience in postsecondary education.  I have been around long enough to witness changes in the student body.  Nothing is new under the sun, of course.  However, I recognize that some negative patterns have become more prominent lately.  Increasingly, students do not know how to take notes and/or do not want to take their own notes.  No, more pupils expect their professors and instructors to give them notes, preferably in the form of overly verbose and poorly-designed PowerPoint slides.  Attention spans have become shorter.  Socrates did not need billboards and PowerPoint slides.  Neither did Mark Hopkins.  He had what he needed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 6, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANNA ROSA GATTORNO, FOUNDRESS OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE DAUGHTERS OF SAINT ANNE, MOTHER OF MARY IMMACULATE

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXIS TOTH, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE DICKINSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA CATALINA TROIANI, FOUNDRESS OF THE FRANCISCAN MISSIONARIES OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS WILLIBALD OF EICHSTATT AND LULLUS OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT WALBURGA OF HEIDENHELM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; SAINTS PETRONAX OF MONTE CASSINO, WINNEBALD OF HEIDENHELM, WIGBERT OF FRITZLAR, AND STURMIUS OF FULDA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS; AND SAINT SEBALDUS OF VINCENZA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MISSIONARY

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O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [Mark Hopkins and all others]

who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRODEGANG OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDMUND KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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2020: Best Wishes   2 comments

Above:  The Middle Oconee River at Ben Burton Park, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, December 8, 2019

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I find myself at the convergence of turning points as 2019 comes to an end.  On the personal front, I deal with two deaths.  Professionally, I look to the future with a combination of confidence, hope, and uncertainty.  The result will be better than what it will replace, I affirm.  However, I do not know what will happen between now and then.  How long should I remain in Athens-Clarke County?  What I do not know outweighs what I understand.  I know, however, that I must not make rash decisions, especially while I grieve and adapt to my “new normal.”

Experience is a fine teacher.  A wise pupil heeds it.  One lesson experience teaches me is that a grudge is a burden one should never impose on oneself, regardless of how righteous one’s indignation may be.  I acknowledge objective reality.  (Why should I not?) I know that a particular professor at The University of Georgia (UGA) fired a torpedo into the bow of my doctoral program and sank it like the Lusitania.  I also understand that my anger over that example of academic abuse burned out years ago.  Whenever I walk on the UGA campus, I feel simultaneously at home, in a familiar place, yet on virgin territory different from a place I have ever been.  The area does look different than it used to, due mainly to construction on campus.  It is a place I want to call home again.  A relationship, however, has more than one party.

My congregation, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, keeps providing incentives to remain in town.  I am active in the parish, in which I have found my niches.  The emotional and spiritual support members of the congregation have been providing to me since Bonny’s death has become a source of much gratitude.  I can never repay them.  Perhaps I will have opportunities to “pay it forward” in time, not that I seek grief for anyone.

Praying for one’s needs is not sinful, but being selfish in prayer is.  With that in mind, I issue the following prayer:

May God’s best for each person be that person’s reality.  May you, O reader, receive all the help you need and provide all the aid you should.  May the light of God shine in your life, attract others to God, and strengthen the faith of many.  May 2020, by these standards, be a better year for you than 2019 has been.  May it be a better year for all countries, nation-states, peoples, and refugees.  May 2020 be a better year for the planet.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF PAUL EBER, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MURRAY, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Temerity   4 comments

The temerity of some postsecondary students never surprises nor ceases to appall me.

Late last semester, I decided to abandon written assignments in my (history) courses at the University of North Georgia (the Oconee Campus, to be precise), effective this semester.  The cumulative effect of so much bad writing and inability or unwillingness to follow the assigned style manual, combined with persistent (and frequently denied) plagiarism, wore me down.  I took pity on myself.  I stripped out the essays, the book report, and the weekly quizzes, and replaced them with four tests, including the final exam.  The restructuring of my courses has necessitated the rewriting of my teaching notes (in progress during this semester), as well as the writing of possible test questions before and after classes.

The first test of 50 questions for Monday, February 4.  Grading will be easy, for I know where the Scantron machine is on campus.

My test bank for the first test has grown to more than 50 questions.  After I have mentioned the test bank in class, some students have asked if I will post the test bank on Distance Learning (D2L), so that they may study the questions.  I have given these pupils the looks they deserve.  No, I have said, pupils will see the questions on February 4, when I distribute the tests.

I am not alone in noticing the sense of entitlement rife in the undergraduate population these days.  My disgust with this attitude is evident in my new syllabi, which contains a bullet list that begins with the mantra,

You are not entitled to….

Sometimes I think about younger generations and feel generally positive about the future.  On other occasions, however, I ponder certain young people and mourn for the future.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 29, 2019 COMMON ERA

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Posted January 29, 2019 by neatnik2009 in University of North Georgia

Students’ Individual Responsibility   3 comments

Above:  A Portion of My Home Desk Area, November 5, 2018

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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When I was an undergraduate at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, taking upper-level history courses, a research paper was part of every such course.  The format was Turabian, of course.  In 1993-1996, my time at Valdosta State, I used an electronic typewriter to create my written assignments.  Almost always the professors were kind enough to permit endnotes instead of footnotes.  Those professors also never took any time to explain the Turabian format.  Doing so was not their job, and I never imagined that it was.  No, my responsibility vis-à-vis formatting was to consult and follow the style manual, then in the fifth edition.  My copy of the style manual was an essential volume in my library.

Many of the students I teach at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia apparently lack the initiative to consult the current Turabian manual (ninth edition) or an online Turabian guide.   Many of them seem to think that my job is to tell them everything about the Turabian style, especially with regard to footnotes (easy to do via computer) and bibliographic entries.  Many of them ignore my written guidance (more than any of my professors gave, that is, none) and plead ignorance.  Yet ignorance, especially the variety born of laziness and apathy, is not a good defense.

Many of my colleagues and I see the same disturbing pattern:  pupils, overall, expect proverbial hand-holding through tasks that should be simple for college students yet prove challenging.  Furthermore, proverbial hand-holding often does no good anyway, based on results.

As I tell students, the more they put into their education, the more they will get out of it.  Regardless of what they did or did not learn at their high schools (some of which report high test scores), they are responsible for showing the necessary initiative.  Instead, many of them give up and avoid taking any of my courses again.

I accept my responsibility to my students.  They deserve my best efforts to prepare them for the world.  One lesson I hope I teach is the importance of showing initiative.  Another lesson I strive to teach is working hard through struggles to emerge better off in the end.

I ponder the causes of the problems I recognize in many students.  A partial list follows:

  1. The sense of entitlement commonplace in Millennials;
  2. The results of helicopter parenting;
  3. The failures of schools, especially the coddling of students, often for the purpose of raising scores on high-stakes tests;
  4. The endemic lack of time-management skills;
  5. Short attention spans; and
  6. The plethora of distractions, mostly technological.

Responsibility is both collective and individual.  Regardless of the negative influences of others on one’s life, one does have much agency.  Those other influences may not cease to exist, but one can, at least, consult and follow a mandated style manual in a university course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Generational Experiences, Memories, and Knowledge   Leave a comment

Tomorrow I will begin to teach my Fall Semester 2018 sections of United States History I (through 1877) at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia

Whenever I prepare lessons, I think about generational experiences, memories, and knowledge.  The birth years of my students range from 1995 to 2001, with the greatest concentration of in 1999 and 2000.  Given that my memory reaches back to the 1970s, I am beginning to feel relatively old.  I find that PowerPoint is not a useful tool for teaching history; besides, most people who give PowerPoint presentations seem just to read their slides.  (I can read slides; why are people reading them to me?)  Neither do I teach from a script.  No, I teach from skeletal notes.  This means that, after I prepare and as I teach, I speak not quite extemporaneously.  I understand the material, but have no prepared comments.  This means that I have to watch my references.

Technological and cultural references are especially tricky.  I recall that once I confused a student when I said “typewriter.”  My Saturday Night Live references from the Dana Carvey-Phil Hartman era fall flat as nobody recognizes the reference to the Church Lady.  (“Isn’t that special?” “Could it be Satan?”)  These students have no memory of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  Most of them have little sense of historical perspective; the 1990s might as well be ancient history for them.  If they do not remember it, it is ancient history, by their standards.  Books seem to be objects of curiosity for many of my students, who are addicted to screens anyway, and who mistake searching via Google for conducting research.

I come from a certain bookish background and a particular time.  Nine thick dictionaries and a thesaurus are on my desk.  I do not need nine dictionaries, but I like them.  The smell of old paper inspires great joy in me.  I like to hold a book. read, and turn pages.  I have no television or streaming service, and want none.  Days pass without me turning on my television set.  I enjoy screening foreign art movies as well as Marx Brothers films.  The original, British version of House of Cards (all three miniseries) is superior to the American version, I know.  Torchwood:  Children of Earth breaks my heart every time I watch it.  Tom Baker is the best actor to have played the Doctor; that is obvious.

I perceive the world differently than my students do partially because I have more and different experiences than they do.  My students are, for better and worse–hopefully more of the former than the latter–part of the future.  I hope to contribute to the shaping of that future, for the better, as I pass on to my students much of what I know.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

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College Students and Deadlines   Leave a comment

Plus a Complaint Regarding a Related Matter

I teach undergraduates at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia (UNG).  Every semester I deal with students who seem to think that deadlines are friendly suggestions.  This is hardly a new problem.  It is certainly not unique to UNG or the Oconee Campus.  It does seem, however, to be getting worse.  Conversations with other members of the faculty prove that they are dealing with the same problem, and that they think it is getting worse.

Today, although not a teaching day, is certainly a working day for me.  Today is, to be precise, the deadline for Essay #2, due at turnitin.com by 10:00 p.m.  Today is also the last of five days to submit that assignment.  For anyone to receive an extension from me requires a desperate and unavoidable situation.  Experience teaches me to expect at least one student lacking such an emergency to ask for mercy.

I know I missed the deadline,

this student will write.  I will answer,

Yes, you did.

Then I will mete out the academic penalty.  Then some of them will not submit an essay.  That grade is automatically a zero, of course.

Based on my experiences with students and conversations with colleagues, I can only conclude that many students are accustomed to requesting deadline extensions for the flimsiest of reasons and receiving them.  I hear from people close to many local schools that those institutions of education are, for a lack of a more precise term, jokes.  That certainly explains many of the students who crash and burn in my courses.

I have responsibilities to students, just as they have responsibilities to themselves.  I am responsible, for example, for teaching them what they need to know–in this case, the importance of deadlines, which matter in the real world.  As much as I seek to build people up and help them achieve their potential, I understand that I am doing nobody any favors by engaging in proverbial hand-holding and spoon-feeding–certainly not in my capacity as a classroom instructor.  So I do not do that.  Society needs for people at least 18 years old to be functional adults.  College students have the responsibility to be functional adults and good pupils.

I know that I will read complaints about having required students in a history course to have used the Turabian format then having held them accountable for not doing so, despite the fact that I referred pupils to online guides to that format and showed them printed style manuals.  That, however, is a different, but related, matter.  I get the impression that certain students have never had to read and follow instructions or face the consequences.  It is better for them to learn that now than later, in the real world.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

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In Praise of Books   Leave a comment

Above:  Five of My Books, August 3, 2017

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I come from a bookish family.  I recall the old family house in Summerville, Georgia, before my grandmother Taylor died, the structure stood vacant, and vandals burgled it (oddly, without any of the neighbors noticing).  I remember opening closets and finding bookshelves (full of books, of course) built into them.  My love of books is learned.

I, as a one trained in history, harbor strong suspicions of technology without resorting to joining the ranks of Luddites.  Technology provides tools, many of which I find useful.  Other tools, however, do not interest me.  Some of them are counter-productive.  A printed and bound book is, under the proper circumstances, of more value for a longer period of time than any electronic version of a book.  The former certainly requires less technology–such as glasses and a lamp, perhaps–to access it.  Although the Internet is a wonderful resource for reference purposes, when one knows how to use it properly, I prefer reference works when possible.

I notice that many of my students–some of them, by their own admission, not avid readers–seem oblivious to the presence of books as sources for their essays.  It is their loss.  They do not understand the pleasures of holding an old book and smelling the pages or admiring its design.  These students are, to borrow a term, digital natives.  They are not always adept at interpreting information well, analyzing sources properly, and appreciating the riches of well-edited reference works.  I still swear by my sets of Americanas (1962) and Britannicas (1968), encyclopedias more detailed in certain ways than any Internet resources I have found.

Furthermore, despite the digitization of many volumes at websites such as archive.org, an invaluable resource, not everything is there.  And, even when a particular book is there, a hard copy is superior and certainly easier on one’s eyeballs.  The physical book is also tactile; that is a virtue.

Books are superior to the alternatives.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

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The Plural, the Possessive, and Contractions   Leave a comment

With Ruminations About Students, Technology, and Pre-College Education

The atrocious writing of many college students alarms me.  I wonder how they got into college without knowing, for example, that “it’s” is not the same as “its.”  “Its'” is not “its” either.  I know whereof I write, after years of teaching U.S. History survey courses (mostly the first part, through 1877) at a public university in Georgia.  To be fair, many students also write beautifully and understand English usage and grammar well.  This post is not about them and their delightful essays, however.

Many students seem confused about how to make a singular word plural.  Consider, O reader, the word “colonist.”  I am tired of reading essays and quiz answers in which pupils use it as if it is plural.  As they should have learned in elementary school, “colonists” is plural and “colonist” is singular.”  The way to make many words plural is to add an “s” to the end.

Many students confuse the plural and possessive forms of words.  Some of them labor under the delusion that “colonist’s” is plural, not singular possessive.   Alas, they are not alone.  One needs to go no further than the comments sections of websites to find examples of mangling the English language.  An example off the Internet is present in every weekly sales paper for a small chain of grocery stores in an around Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, where I live.  The sales papers indicate the stores “with deli’s.”  You, O reader, can probably think of local examples easily too.

As a matter of fact, one should use an apostrophe to create the plural forms sometimes, as in letters.  For example, I might calculate the percentage of students I assigned A’s at the end of last semester.  I would have “as” without the apostrophe.   The problem regarding apostrophes is using them when one should not.

I do not know what is so confusing for so many people regarding “it’s” and “its.”  “It’s” is the contraction for “it is.”  “Its” is a singular possessive pronoun.  This is simple, is it not?  It should be.

Although I teach history, I also have to teach some English usage and grammar, unfortunately.  I make students write essays, not take tests.  Each student has about a month to write 8-10 pages on a prompt he or she selects from a list of three or four options.  I also provide the pupils with detailed instructions and writing guidelines.  When I add the book report to the list of writing assignments, I assign each student to write 28-36 pages during the course of the semester.  This is hardly draconian, except on yours truly, for I have to read all of this writing.  (Do the math.)  Yet some pupils, as they write in course evaluations, consider 28-36 pages to be “a lot of writing.”  The length of the writing assignments (28-36 pages spread across four papers in one semester) is not excessive, but the accumulation of their bad writing and their complaining is.

I refrain from criticizing teachers who have preceded me in these pupils’ lives.  Not only do I lack sufficient information to arrive at a conclusion, but I also understand that teachers have inattentive students.  Many factors can cause students not to pay attention.  Life at home might be troublesome.  A pupil might be hungry.  One might be fatigued.  A student might have an especially short attention span.  Or one might simply not care.  Regardless of the reason or set of reasons applicable in any given case, a reality teachers know well is that what they taught and what certain students learned bear little or no similarity to each other.  Communication is, by definition, an interactive process.  Whenever Person #1 sends a message to Person #2, who receives it and understands it as Person #1 intended, Person #1 has communicated with Person #2.  A number of factors might garble the message, even if Person #1 has sent it as best as possible.

I do not blame teachers overall.  Yes, some teachers are better at their jobs than others are, but teachers deserve much more credit than they receive.  We, as a society, require that they do more than they ought to have to do.  Parents and guardians, for example, have much responsibility; we should not shift any of that to teachers.  Yet we do.    Not only do I blame many parents and guardians, especially those who do not accept their share of responsibility and make like needlessly difficult for educators, but I also assign blame to inattentive and lazy students who rely too much on technology.  “Technology” is a blanket term for tools, from the wheel to smart phones.  Technology is not the problem.  It is, after all, neutral; how one uses it is good or bad.  I know from one-on-one discussions with certain students that they rely on their computers (word processing programs, to be precise) with regard to writing.  These pupils have not, therefore, internalized English usage and grammar as well as they should have.  These students’ writing would be superior without computers; they would know how to write in a literate manner without word processing programs.  The fault lies with these pupils.

The technology, in fact, can be overwhelmingly positive.  I recall the electronic typewriter I used during my undergraduate years.  I remember being grateful when the professor required end notes, not footnotes.  I also recall having to retype pages because of a few mistakes.  Word processing programs are godsends in my life.  I do not, however, mistake the spell check function for proofreading.  Many students do.

I harbor concerns for college students who write poorly, as evident in their difficulties relating to the plural, the possessive, and contractions.  Many of them will apply for employment that will require them to write in an official capacity.  For some the application and interview process will entail going to a room and writing on paper.  Or perhaps they will, as part of the process, have to write a statement on the application itself.  There is also the matter of the cover letter, assuming that the employer in question reads it.  The process will expose these applicants’ inadequate language skills, unless they improve those skills in the meantime.

I recall having excellent teachers as well as parents who valued my education.  I also remember being an attentive student.  The factors of school, home, and pupil are essential in education.  They are crucial to one knowing the difference between lessons and lesson’s.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 1, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Posted July 1, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Language, University of North Georgia

Tagged with

The Definite Article   Leave a comment

Above:  The

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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One should use the definite article (the) cautiously.  I argue this point, for I prefer to speak and write accurately.  I also like for others to do the same.  The misuse of “the” renders one’s argument objectively false by overstating one’s case.  Such shoddy discourse annoys me.

As I have noticed, many college students have been (and are) overly found of “the.”  During my years of teaching U.S. history survey courses in college, I have emphasized the fact that many colonists in what became the United States remained loyal to the British Empire during the American Revolutionary period.  In stating this plainly I have manifested fidelity to objective reality.  I have also instructed pupils both orally and in writing not to write of “the colonists” as if all colonists were of one political mind and warned these students.  Nevertheless, many students have not heeded my instructions to write of the past accurately in their essays.  I have graded those essays accordingly.

Another fault of misusing “the” is applying it in the spirit of invective.

The ______s insert negative stereotype here.

Infamously, for example, the Gospel of John mentions “the Jews” (in most English-language translations), although the Greek word is actually a geographical term sometimes.  Whether the term should be “the Jews” or “the Judeans” in English in any given verse, the issue of invective remains.  In the case of the Gospel of John, how can one avoid reading those passages without considering the millennia of Christian anti-Semitism inspired partially by the invective in that text?

We continue to have problems with invective, often expressed with the misuse of the definite article, in 2017.  Human nature is constant, after all.  One might engage in partisan invective, for example.  Or one might be a racist or some other variety of bigot, perhaps with regard to religion.  Or one may be merely an unrepentant ethnocentrist and Nativist.  Either way, one engages in stereotyping, thereby overlooking the diversity inherent in any population.  One therefore engages in the sin of judging others.  One also makes objectively false statements.

Shall we strive to love our neighbors as ourselves and to think, speak, and write objectively correctly?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2017 COMMON ERA

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