Friday, February 27, 2009

Grammar: And I quote....

I've found that I'm losing steam with these grammar posts. Anyhow, in my political analysis assignment I found that I would punctuate after quotation marks instead of in the quotation marks. So, I thought it'd be a good idea to go over those rules.

There are two instances when it is appropriate to use quotation marks:

1. To enclose direct quotes.
ex. Jim said, "Never bring your purple belt to work, because somebody might steal it."
2. To indicate if a word is used in an ironic fashion. (This is where most people over do it. Less is more folks!)
ex. The great march of  "progress" has left millions impoverished and hungry.

For more tips on quotation punctuation click here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Grammar: Subject Verb Agreement

Subject verb agreement is one of those grammar issues that silently creeps up on a conversation or in a term paper.  You tend to feel like a goober when you realize you've just said something like "They is right!" Oh I going to have to live down by the river in a van? Wait there is hope!
Subject verb agreement is quite simple(maybe that's why we feel stupid when we misuse it?). Ironically, you only need to make sure that subject agrees with the verb in number. Hooray!

Here are some common subject verb agreement mistakes:

Incorrect: Here is wealth and beauty.
Correct: Here are wealth and beauty.

Incorrect: There is no books.
Correct: There are no books.

Incorrect: There are a variety of ice cream flavors.
Correct: There is a variety of ice cream flavors. 

Agree or disagree? If you agree to disagree click here for more:)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Roots of Debate in Education and the Hope of Dialogue

The essay "The Roots of Debate in Education and the Hope of Dialogue" by Deborah Tannen discusses our debate centered society we live in, as well as the effects it's wrought on our education system. 

Tannen writes that our society spends too much time trying to prove others wrong instead of accepting that there may be multiple ways to solve a problem. In contrast there are some cases once a point is proven we hold tightly to that point and are too scared to debate it. Tannen wrote about  an Australian resident who debated that ulcers are caused by bacteria, even though it was believed that the stomach was too sterile to support a bacteria. This is an example of when debate can be "constructive".

Tannen suggests that to go beyond dualism we must be able to catch ourselves in thinking there are only two sides of an issue. Instead we need to try to keep in mind all sides of the issue. She also suggests that we ask what's right with an opposing point. Tannen says to avoid trying to fit "ideas into any particular camp" because it "requires you to oversimplify".  This narrow-mindedness also implies that only one solution is applicable to every problem.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Grammar: Than or Then?

I've always had a hard time with the proper usage of than and then. Since, I didn't know how to use them I usually just stuck with then all the time. I know that's not smart but I figured I'd be right at least half the time.  

So, when do you use than, or even then? To put it simplistically then is used to denote time. 
ex: Will you be home at noon? I'll call you then.
On the flip side, than is used in comparisons. 
ex. Tom is smarter than Bill.

Monkey see, monkey do, monkey click here for more:)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Gatto & Rose

The two essays this week were very intriguing. I thought both offered interesting insight and opinions on the structure and validity of the a school system. 

Against School by John Taylor Gatto was an interesting piece because it came from someone who had firsthand experience working in the public school system. I thought Gatto made an interesting point when he noted that we could get rid of the school "system" and "help kids take an education rather than merely receive schooling." He suggests that students would more likely discover their genius if only the curriculum was more flexible. I'm not sure If I'm on board with his idea that the public school system is a conspiracy. However, I think his points on the structure of the system are valid. I think elementary and secondary education should give students more options in how and what they are learning. I think the most beneficial thing I learned from this essay is how to oppose becoming a product of the public school system. Gatto wrote, "I've concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven't yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves."

The second piece, "I Just Wanna Be average"  by Mike Rose illustrated the great divide that occurs when we use testing to determine student's capabilities. I think the reliance we have on testing is one of the greatest fallacies of the American education system. Rose writes about what can happen when a teacher imposes a stricter curriculum and forces students to dig deep into the western literature. I think if more teachers taught the way Mr. Jack MacFarland taught, students would be more willing to engage themselves in finding their genius. I think the most powerful statement Rose makes is in his last paragraph where he writes, "Knowledge was becoming a bonding agent." I think this is his point in a nutshell. Knowledge is what brings us together or even what separates us. What we know is so critical to who we become.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Grammar: Verb Tense Consistency

Verb tense consistency is one thing I struggle with in writing as well as speaking. I tend to start speaking or writing in one tense and finish the sentence in an opposite tense. That probably makes me seem a little crazy. So, I decided this would be a really good thing to brush up on, because who likes to look crazy?

Here are some examples:
Incorrect: The ocean contains rich minerals that washed down from rivers and streams.
Corrected: The ocean contains rich minerals that wash down from rivers and streams. 
Incorrect: Yesterday we had walked to school but later rode the bus home.
Corrected: Yesterday we walked to school but later rode the bus home.

For more on verb tense consistency click here!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Idiot Nation

Surprisingly, I agreed with Moore's views of the American public school system. The government gives schools an inch of funding and expects students to exceed a mile. I think it's impossible to be academically successful without full access to an updated library. I also think it's a ludicrous idea to believe that testing is the solution to our problems. I remember my stomach instantaneously tightening as I heard my teacher utter the phrase "state testing". After 12 years of state testing I can honestly say I never once took a state exam that coincided with what I learned in the classroom. Not only did state testing hinder the teachers ability to teach creatively, it hindered my ability to give an answer that wasn't listed as A, B, or C. From a young age we are taught to regurgitate everything our teachers teach. Can you say monkey see monkey do? 

 I recently had a conversation with an exchange student from Brazil. She told me about the vast differences between American high schools and the ones she attended in Brazil. She explained that in Brazil you don't have the option of failing a class. If you fail one class you retake the whole year. I sat with my mouth gaping open as I realized under those circumstances my graduating class would've  been  30 instead of 350. I think that our public schools stress the importance of sports rather than the importance of academics. In most high schools if you participate on any team you have to maintain about a "C" average. My junior year of high school the administration decided it was indefinitely important to put in a custom turf field. In order to do so they pulled funding from school clubs and teacher funds. 

Wow. Was anyone else shocked by the fact that corporate America is trying to buy the souls of students through their lunch money? Coke Day? You've got to be kidding! I think the reason administrators have allowed the invasion of corporate America into public schools goes back to a lack of funding. If they can't get it from the government or from making kids go door-to-door guilt tripping people into buying cookie dough, where can it come from? From box tops and pop cans of course! 

I don't think we need another big business bailout, but rather, an education bailout.

Grammar: Reflecting on Reflexive Pronouns

Ironically I didn't actually learn what a reflexive pronoun was until I started learning Spanish. In other words I had to learn another language to actually understand my native tongue. 

Reflexive pronouns are pretty easily understood. However, the reflexive pronoun "myself" gets abused every now and again. I like hearing people say things like, "I took the dog with myself,"or  "You can call Larry, Moe,  or myself."  Ok. Great. I think sometimes we add "myself" in hopes that we'll sound more eloquent. Maybe in the same regard that some people raise their pinky as they drink out of a plastic cup. Yes, it seems more regal, but really doesn't make much sense. 

Some basic rules in using reflexive pronouns are:

1. When the subject and object are the same.
ex. The band calls themselves "U2".
2. As the object of a preposition, referring to the subject.
ex. That man is talking to himself.
3. When you want to emphasize the subject.
ex. They ate all the pie themselves. 

Raise your right pinky. Do you solemnly swear that you will not misuse reflexive pronouns?
Ok, you can click here:)