Sunday Times (W.A.) provides resource for English teachers. (2)

February 28, 2016

Once again The Sunday Times has provided Western Australian teachers with real-life examples so their students can have the opportunity to criticize adults’ writing.  The best one this week is from the Editorial. (Responsibility for editorial comment is taken by the editor, Rod Savage, 34 Stirling St, Perth, Western Australia  6000 – do send him a letter of thanks!)

In the section headed “Keep Bullies at Bay” (Page 38, News, The Sunday Times, 28 February 2016) the Editor addresses controversy over the Safe Schools scheme, which – acknowledging that ignorance is often behind out-grouping – addresses the range of sexual orientations.  The editorial’s final two paragraphs provide several topics for criticism and discussion:

“Everyone recognises the need to implement strategies to protect all children from bullying.  And that must include students who are gay, lesbian, or transgender.  We should not let these children down just because the scheme doesn’t sit comfortably with some politicians.  We can’t ignore the real risks of suicide and self-harm.  We live in an enlightened society and we shouldn’t incubate schools from that.  Critics say the scheme has highly sexual content which is more about ideology than helping children deal with bullying.

By all means, review the content, but we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Remember, prejudice, fear and by extension bullying, stem from ignorance.”

Comment

  1.  “… we shouldn’t incubate schools from that …”
    In this case, the desired word is probably “insulate.”  Mrs Malaprop had the habit of using fancy words in order to try to appear admirably educated, and (like Kath and Kim) showed her actual class by her incompetence – thus the literate reader’s derision of malapropisms.  However, in the more Hemingway-driven style of the popular press,  a technical term is often used because there is no simpler alternative, so the journalist who is not certain must not rely on the spellchecker.  “I don’t think that word means what you think it means”  is a marvellous tag.
  2. The first paragraph sentence order and sentence division
    “Everyone recognises the need to implement strategies to protect all children from bullying, and that must include students who are gay, lesbian, or transgender.  We can’t ignore the real risks of suicide and self-harm.  We should not let these children down just because the scheme doesn’t sit comfortably with some politicians:   we live in an enlightened society and we shouldn’t incubate (sic) schools from that. ”  Is that a better order?  Is it better to combine the first two sentences by using the comma before  “and” instead of a full stop?  Is the colon a better choice than a full-stop after “politicians”? Why, or why not?
  3. The paragraph break. 
    Would the final sentence of the second-last paragraph  be better as the first sentence of the final paragraph?  Why, or why not?
  4. Remember, prejudice, fear and by extension bullying, stem from ignorance.”
    This is also  worth a class discussion:
    – Why does the author have “by extension” before “bullying”?  – Would “as a result” be better than “by extension”?  Do the answers to the following change if we use “as a result”?
    – Would it be better as “… prejudice, fear, and (by extension) bullying stem …” or as  “… prejudice, fear, and by extension bullying stem …”  or as “… prejudice and fear and, by extension, bullying stem …” or even as  “…prejudice and fear (and, by extension, bullying) stem …” ?
    –  Is the Oxford Comma the best choice here, and if not, why not?
    Why do the suggested alternatives remove the comma between “bullying” and “stem”?   Should the comma remain? Why?
    – Why do the suggested alternatives separate  “by extension” from the surrounding “and bullying”?  Is this necessary? Why?

Thank you, Rod Savage.  Perhaps you could consider these questions before passing such items for publication?

Sunday Times (W.A.) provides resource for English teachers.

February 22, 2016

Australian newspaper editors seem to have decided to follow the advice to journalists “to write at a 7th-grade level” 

Unfortunately, they are printing works at the level of current 12-year-old average output, not at the level a 12-year-old might be expected to read.  This provides weekly items to help teachers develop their students’ editing skills, including reading the surrounding text to infer the probable meaning and then discussing the choice of improved wording.

For example, in a piece on education (I did appreciate the irony) regarding Civics and Citizenship, Claire Dickers wrote:

Education Minister Peter Collier conceded the approach to teaching history had been “ad hoc” for generations.

But, he would be “very surprised” if teachers using contemporary examples within the classroom politics.

(The Sunday Times 21.02.2016, News, page 35)

Comment:

I think it was supposed to mean “if teachers were not also using contemporary examples to teach the basics of Australian politics.”   It may have carried some implication that the use of past examples in teaching politics contributes to students’ awareness of Australian history.

I would prefer “However,” to “But,” as a sentence beginning, particularly as it is a new paragraph.  Had the author written “generations, but he …”  I would not have complained about the conjunction.

Then, on the very next page, a photograph caption  begins:

Fearless West Australian surfer Jarryd Foster has taken on, and defeated, a death-defying wave in Portugal.

(The Sunday Times 21.02.2016, News, page 36)

Comment

I do not think the wave had any inclination to defy death.  The photograph suggested that surfing it might possibly be deadly, and to most of us would be terrifying – and riding it was certainly a death-defying act.  The wave itself, however, seems to be (if one may attribute such things as attitude and awareness of its future to a hydrological event) merely going about its duties in an exemplary, even enthusiastic manner, with no attempt to evade the final cessation of the wave-form.  Surely, the wave was (again, providing one accepts that it can have attitude and awareness) accepting rather than defying its death?

The dissection of a gruesomely malformed creature may be educational, but I would prefer not to have to see such things on a Sunday morning.

Too many Sodomites in politics nowadays…

February 19, 2016

“Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. ” (King James version)

 

For the less literate – New Living Translation
Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.

  http://biblehub.com/ezekiel/16-49.htm

Just sayin’ .

Cruz Iowa “big victory”?

February 7, 2016

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/02/02/ted-cruzs-interminably-long-iowa-victory-speech-annotated/  said “Ted Cruz won a big victory Monday night at the Iowa caucuses.”   Most Australian media had American talking heads referring to a clear victory and Donald Trump coming second, with little talk of Rubio.

From http://www.iowacaucus.biz/, Marco Rubio took 23.1 per cent, Mr Trump 24.3 per cent and Mr Cruz 27.7 per cent of the vote.

Less than a 5% difference?  In polling terms, that’s experimental error.  In USA political terms, at the start of the long chain of preliminaries in  other – less farm-based – States, this is neck-and-neck.

I think the media have not done a good job of reporting here.  We have the right to feel insulted, and the responsibility to wonder about their hidden agendas.

 

I

How to reduce crystal meth use in Australia (and elsewhere) in the longer term.

December 8, 2015

Our Noble Leaders have started talking about “Australia’s Ice pandemic”.

I don’t think that word means what they think it means. I believe the internationally accepted definition of a pandemic  is : ‘an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of  people’.  (Last, J. A Dictionary of Epidemiology (4th Edition) Oxford University Press 2001)

Not crossing international boundaries.   I think they could call it an epidemic – but not a very big one.

Then they talk about stopping it by “talking to young people about risks” and by law enforcement action.  Not about changing the education system from “learn this stuff to get a job” to “learn this stuff to find and make fun and beauty you couldn’t understand without it, and so you will never be bored even if locked in an empty room.”  Not about making risky activities like adult-sized versions of adventure playgrounds available in all suburbs.  Not about social support (guaranteed shelter, food, health care, and safety needs in exchange for the dole cheque?)  for the desperate.  Even though these would mean that people would (like the rats in enriched cages) be less inclined to seek escape through crystal meth, alcohol, and other drugs.

I expect that the right-wing parties in Oz won’t  talk that way, not for the next 20 years.  After all, we know the source of their “Scientific” theories on how the world works.  They don’t care about accuracy, and not just in abusing the word “pandemic.”  For example our Federal Government’s Minister for resources and energy pronounces “nuclear” as “newcewlar.”   Rational action to reduce the risk of youth turning to drugs?   5 years after the Republicans give it the OK they’ll consider it.  Sigh.

August 14, 2015
There are differences between judging others based on their writings, making allowance for the perils of Murphy (Muphry’s Law when one criticises others’ writing) and wishing to be accurate oneself.

The Standard English forms of spelling and grammar were set up partly to facilitate accurate communication, and the standardisation has led us to be able to share the thoughts of people who spoke dialects we would struggle to understand and who lived hundreds of years ago.  We learn our individual forms of written English (as with all languages) through our lifetime’s experiences linking form with meaning.

Accurate (that is, adhering to the Standard form) spelling and grammar are a matter of peacock’s tail (display of energy beyond essentials for survival, thus good genetics) and also a matter of courtesy to the reader (we ought not have to guess what you meant to say.) I do not mind making allowances for those with a learning disorder, but would prefer to rewrite poorly constructed comments with standard spelling and grammar before putting them online. Why? Not mainly for personal display. Not just as courtesy to readers. Largely because online items are, for many students, the main form of reading and writing, and thus the main source of background awareness and practice of spelling and grammar.

Students who have the capacity to learn the more esoteric levels of Standard spelling and grammar are not doing so, and thus are unable to read with ease more complex texts containing very deep concepts and subtle humour. They therefore fail to develop their greater potential depth of understandings and ability to describe complexity as rapidly as was previously possible, when true speed reading (not skimming, but reading well beyond speaking speeds full text perception and comprehension) made access to thought much more rapid than is possible with TED-talk transmission.  They may not develop to their full potential for thinking at all, which is a loss for Humanity.  They also miss out on great ideas and great entertainment – wonderful things which they could translate for the many who have not the potential or the time to read the difficult texts, another loss for us all.
So, as a public service, if you can be correct – do so.

“That Dress” : Not neuroscience, if you saw brownish and blueish … camera effect, I think.

August 13, 2015

If you remember the chatter about what colour “that dress” was, many talked of “personal perceptions” and “Brightness of environment.” None of the commentators asked the first question that I had:  What are the colours on the image on my screen?  Or the second question: What factors other than the incoming light may affect colour perceptions?  They assumed the screen image was the same as the dress, and that different perceptions were physically based and in some sense equally valid – they didn’t ask “Why do some misperceive?”

Being a bit scientific, however, I used paintshop to sample and make swatches of the colours on the web images in question and the web image of “the original.”

http://www.buzzfeed.com/catesish/help-am-i-going-insane-its-definitely-blue

and http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/02/26/the_great_blue_and_black_versus_white_and_gold_dress_debate.html

And got these 3 sets of colours.

that dress colours   Can you guess which is the question post and which was the “original dress” image?

Note that the neuroscience effect is noticable – the swatches may seem darker than the perceved colours on the question posts’ dress image.  But it takes talent to see the top left swatch as black.

In different parts of the images, I found different specific shades, but all in the same groupings : for example, for ” black” locations  the web image in question had hue about 30, saturation 50 to 100, and light  about 50 to 90 with  slightly higher R (110 – 140) than G and half to two thirds the B as R ; while the “the original dress” web image on the Slate for  black had saturation and light about 20 to 50 and hue about 160 to 180, with R and G  about 30 to 40 but with B slightly higher.

I think the question posts’ image had been changed by the limited capabilities of a digital camera (probably in a mobile phone.)  I wonder why none of the news reports on academics’ explanations mentioned that?  And why they didn’t mention the confounding problem of social effects on perception, well known since the 1950s (search on Asch and Conformity)  – which  adds to up to “we see what we expect to see, and we expect to see what other people say we can see.”

I think it would be interesting to do a study correlating the responses to such a colour question with personality, including personal response to social pressure.  Do those who want to be different “see” less likely suggestions?  Do conformists “see” what they are told most people see?  Do those who see purple cats (when the cats are purple) resist incorrect suggestions?

In other words, the differences may be more social science than neuroscience.

 

PS: good commend on fb:

Ceri Vergeltungswaffe I do disagree on one point – it does not take talent to view the top left swatch as black. It takes a poor colour display on a digital device. Or it take growing up with digital devices where “black” is really just super-low saturation and one has become used to adjusting. The subconscious process of “it’s black in context” is the same as the checkerboad “are these two squares the same” illusion.

Marriage Equality: should the elderly and otherwise infertile couples be allowed to marry?

July 2, 2015

I think it is time that anyone who uses the argument that “Children have a right to a father and a mother so same-sex marriage should not be allowed”  should no longer be heard in the discussion unless they answer “Yes” to the  following four questions.

Firstly, the logical extension of this is the forced removal of children from single parents of either gender, including the bereaved partners of ex-servicemen, and their adoption by heterosexual couples.  That would be entertaining.  Do they agree with this forced removal?

Secondly, because the argument ignores the statistics which show that the children raised by same-sex couples tend to be – if different at all – better balanced and happier than those raised by heterosexual couples.  (This may be because they are so much more likely to  be truly wanted children, and the parents therefore usually seek out role models to show both genders at their best.)  Have they  evidence  (not hearsay or anecdote, actual peer-reviewed research) to contradict this?

Thirdly, because this emphasis on children assumes that marriage is solely to produce offspring.  Do they intend to legislate against the marriage of the elderly and otherwise infertile heterosexual couples?

Do they intend to legislate against the adoption of children by single parents and LGBTI couples?

 

What is normal?

January 27, 2015

This was left in a caravan park in the 1950’s, earlier provenance unknown, but the hairstyles date it.

My, how culture changes: we are no longer allowed to see the range of shapes as normal, let alone have images of them or names for them except on unsavoury internet sites. Some may object to the descriptive lables, but I think they are rather poetic.

In these days of Barbies, airbrushing, and boob-jobs it could be a valuable health-ed and art resource.  Imagine comic-books with the full range depicted…

 

Dismissing Freud – baby and bathwater time.

January 6, 2015

According to university student reports, Psychology students are now taught to dismiss Freud – that is, if they are even introduced to his name.  I see three problems with this,  Firstly, they lose the good bits such as  the concept of “Freudian Slips.”  Secondly, they miss the historical perspective – which can inform a properly sceptical view of current theories.  Thirdly, they miss the anthropological perspective, the link between the theories and the culture in which they were developed (for example, penis envy and castrtion fears in a society where men have social power and freedom of movement and body details are a taboo topic, what a surprise….)

The third point is a sad loss in our increasingly multicultural society:  If a woman seeks mental health support and comes of a very patriarchal and female-restricting society, would current approaches help her fit the social rôle her family expects, and would the health professionals be sufficiently aware of the problem to even consider offering culturally sensitive counselling?  I have the uncomfortable feeling that old-style Freudian would be more fitting for some groups – not just Muslim, consider  http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/127114/why-jewish-women-are-wearing-burqas/ and assault on non-compliant http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2014/03/haredi-modesty-assault-woman-beaten-up-by-haredi-man-in-beit-shemesh-over-skirt-length-678.html

– our underlying WEIRD cultural  assumptions will challenge these families should they migrate here.

Should people be offered the option of psychiatric help to fit in with their sub-culture’s expectations for their rôle, rather than to achieve full mental health as our culture defines it?  To what extent would a Freudian approach help?