Friday, November 30, 2007
Past Tense a Thing of the Past
WASHINGTON—Faced with ongoing budget crises, underfunded schools nationwide are increasingly left with no option but to cut the past tense—a grammatical construction traditionally used to relate all actions, and states that have transpired at an earlier point in time—from their standard English and language arts programs.
A part of American school curricula for more than 200 years, the past tense was deemed by school administrators to be too expensive to keep in primary and secondary education.
"This was by no means an easy decision, but teaching our students how to conjugate verbs in a way that would allow them to describe events that have already occurred is a luxury that we can no longer afford," Phoenix-area high-school principal Sam Pennock said. "With our current budget, the past tense must unfortunately become a thing of the past."
In the most dramatic display of the new trend yet, the Tennessee Department of Education decided Monday to remove "-ed" endings from all of the state's English classrooms, saving struggling schools an estimated $3 million each year. Officials say they plan to slowly phase out the tense by first eliminating the past perfect; once students have adjusted to the change, the past progressive, the past continuous, the past perfect progressive, and the simple past will be cut. Hundreds of school districts across the country are expected to follow suit.
"This is the end of an era," said Alicia Reynolds, a school district director in Tuscaloosa, AL. "For some, reading and writing about things not immediately taking place was almost as much a part of school as history class and social studies."
"That is, until we were forced to drop history class and social studies a couple of months ago," Reynolds added.
Nevertheless, a number of educators are coming out against the cuts, claiming that the embattled verb tense, while outmoded, still plays an important role in the development of today's youth.
"Much like art and music, the past tense provides students with a unique and consistent outlet for self-expression," South Boston English teacher David Floen said. "Without it I fear many of our students will lack a number of important creative skills. Like being able to describe anything that happened earlier in the day."
Despite concerns that cutting the past-tense will prevent graduates from communicating effectively in the workplace, the home, the grocery store, church, and various other public spaces, a number of lawmakers, such as Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, have welcomed the cuts as proof that the American school system is taking a more forward-thinking approach to education.
"Our tax dollars should be spent preparing our children for the future, not for what has already happened," Hatch said at a recent press conference. "It's about time we stopped wasting everyone's time with who 'did' what or 'went' where. The past tense is, by definition, outdated."
Said Hatch, "I can't even remember the last time I had to use it."
Past-tense instruction is only the latest school program to face the chopping block. School districts in California have been forced to cut addition and subtraction from their math departments, while nearly all high schools have reduced foreign language courses to only the most basic phrases, including "May I please use the bathroom?" and "No, I do not want to go to the beach with Maria and Juan." Some legislators are even calling for an end to teaching grammar itself, saying that in many inner-city school districts, where funding is most lacking, students rarely use grammar at all.
Regardless of the recent upheaval, students throughout the country are learning to accept, and even embrace, the change to their curriculum."At first I think the decision to drop the past tense from class is ridiculous, and I feel very upset by it," said David Keller, a seventh-grade student at Hampstead School in Fort Meyers, FL. "But now, it's almost like it never happens."
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Don't say you weren't warned...
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Semantics and Pragmatics
Via Brit and David I see that Semantics and Pragmatics - the new open-access journal edited by David Beaver and Kai von Fintel - is now online and ready to accept submissions. David and Kai have clearly put a lot of thought into this, so I'll be interested to follow the project's progress. Hopefully it'll inspire some further open-access philosophy journals to sit alongside the fantastic Philosopher's Imprint.
This blog has continued to remain very quiet, and it's likely to stay that way through December I'm afraid. But I do anticipate things changing in the new year. I'd particularly like to finish my series of posts on Jason Stanley's Language in Context, and by then I'll have had a chance to read the new Cappelen and Lepore book. So posting will continue to be sporadic for the next month, but I anticipate there being much more life here next semester.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
And so we watch the sun come up from the edge of the deep green sea...
Firstly, Jon Cogburn has a timeline of horrible moments in the history of philosophy, as well as a Sorites series of types of irritating professors.
Readers from Austin will be familiar with the work of Jeremy, mastermind behind Amorphia Apparel. Well, he's got a new site up, this time devoted to Science! t-shirts. In Jeremy's own words:
"In this case the theme is Science! which is like the mad and absurd version of mere 'science'. Obviously this spin-off is based on my recent (and unusually successful) 'science robot' design, so think of it as Baywatch Nights to my Baywatch, Knots Landing to my Dallas, Joey to my Friends or Empty Nest to my Golden Girls... Hrrrrm, upon careful consideration perhaps this isn't the best way to convince you to visit."
I've continued to receive suggestions for the Philosophy Job Market and Publishing Advice page, so it's worth checking back from time to time. And, of course, I welcome further suggestions.
For those of you looking for philosophical nourishment, Andreas has started a series of posts reporting from what looked like an absurdly good conference on context-sensitivity in Paris (disambiguate as you see fit). His first post in the series is on Stalnaker's keynote speech.
Lastly, I've been slightly obsessed recently with 'From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea' by the Cure. For the uninitiated, here it is:
That's all for now. I'll try to have a post up on Stanley and Szabo's 'On Quantifier Domain Restriction' up as soon as possible, though it'll have to wait until I'm feeling better - can't tackle Jason on an empty stomach, after all!