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Syntax without content

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  • Dennis Newson
    I ve lifted this from another list and it is ***** something like 80 lines long. If that is too long for you.... !DELETE HERE! It is also a very readable
    Message 1 of 15 , Jun 1, 2005
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      I've lifted this from another list and it is ***** something like 80 lines long. If that is too long for
      you....

      !DELETE HERE!

      It is also a very readable though scary account of how to teach English syntax.
      I find the idea that you can divorce syntax from content worrying, but I could be quite, quite
      wrong.

      Comments, brother and sister dogmeists and others?


      Dennis

      ----------


      From today's NY Times,
      May 31, 2005

      Devoid of Content
      By STANLEY FISH



      Chicago

      WE are at that time of year when millions of American college and
      high school students will stride across the stage, take diploma in
      hand and set out to the wider world, most of them utterly unable to
      write a clear and coherent English sentence. How is this possible?
      The answer is simple and even obvious: Students can't write clean
      English sentences because they are not being taught what sentences
      are.

      Most composition courses that American students take today emphasize
      content rather than form, on the theory that if you chew over big ideas
      long enough, the ability to write about them will (mysteriously) follow.
      The theory is wrong. Content is a lure and a delusion, and it should be
      banished from the classroom. Form is the way.

      On the first day of my freshman writing class I give the students
      this assignment: You will be divided into groups and by the end of
      the semester each group will be expected to have created its own
      language, complete with a syntax, a lexicon, a text, rules for
      translating the text and strategies for teaching your language to
      fellow students. The language you create cannot be English or a
      slightly coded version of English, but it must be capable of
      indicating the distinctions - between tense, number, manner, mood,
      agency and the like - that English enables us to make.

      You can imagine the reaction of students who think that "syntax" is
      something cigarette smokers pay, guess that "lexicon" is the name of a
      rebel tribe inhabiting a galaxy far away, and haven't the slightest idea
      of what words like "tense," "manner" and "mood" mean. They think I'm
      crazy. Yet 14 weeks later - and this happens every time - each group has
      produced a language of incredible sophistication and precision.

      How is this near miracle accomplished? The short answer is that over the
      semester the students come to understand a single proposition: A sentence
      is a structure of logical relationships. In its bare form, this
      proposition is hardly edifying, which is why I immediately supplement it
      with a simple exercise. "Here," I say, "are five words randomly chosen;
      turn them into a sentence." (The first time I did this the words were
      coffee, should, book, garbage and quickly.) In no time at all I am
      presented with 20 sentences, all perfectly coherent and all quite
      different. Then comes the hard part. "What is it," I ask, "that you did?
      What did it take to turn a random list of words into a sentence?" A lot of
      fumbling and stumbling and false starts follow, but finally someone says,
      "I put the words into a relationship with one another."

      Once the notion of relationship is on the table, the next question
      almost asks itself: what exactly are the relationships? And working
      with the sentences they have created the students quickly realize two
      things: first, that the possible relationships form a limited set; and
      second, that it all comes down to an interaction of some kind between
      actors, the actions they perform and the objects of those actions.

      The next step (and this one takes weeks) is to explore the devices by
      which English indicates and distinguishes between the various components
      of these interactions. If in every sentence someone is doing something to
      someone or something else, how does English allow you to tell who is the
      doer and whom (or what) is the doee; and how do you know whether there is
      one doer or many; and what tells you that the doer is doing what he or she
      does in this way and at this time rather than another?

      Notice that these are not questions about how a particular sentence
      works, but questions about how any sentence works, and the answers
      will point to something very general and abstract. They will point,
      in fact, to the forms that, while they are themselves without
      content, are necessary to the conveying of any content whatsoever, at
      least in English.

      Once the students tumble to this point, they are more than halfway to
      understanding the semester-long task: they can now construct a language
      whose forms do the same work English does, but do it differently.

      In English, for example, most plurals are formed by adding an "s" to
      nouns. Is that the only way to indicate the difference between singular
      and plural? Obviously not. But the language you create, I tell them, must
      have some regular and abstract way of conveying that distinction; and so
      it is with all the other distinctions - between time, manner, spatial
      relationships, relationships of hierarchy and subordination, relationships
      of equivalence and difference - languages permit you to signal.

      In the languages my students devise, the requisite distinctions are
      signaled by any number of formal devices - word order, word endings,
      prefixes, suffixes, numbers, brackets, fonts, colors, you name it. Exactly
      how they do it is not the point; the point is that they know what it is
      they are trying to do; the moment they know that, they have succeeded,
      even if much of the detailed work remains to be done.

      AT this stage last semester, the representative of one group asked
      me, "Is it all right if we use the same root form for adjectives and
      adverbs, but distinguish between them by their order in the sentence?" I
      could barely disguise my elation. If they could formulate a question like
      that one, they had already learned the lesson I was trying to teach them.

      In the course of learning that lesson, the students will naturally
      and effortlessly conform to the restriction I announce on the first
      day: "We don't do content in this class. By that I mean we are not
      interested in ideas - yours, mine or anyone else's. We don't have an
      anthology of readings. We don't discuss current events. We don't exchange
      views on hot-button issues. We don't tell each other what we think about
      anything - except about how prepositions or participles or relative
      pronouns function." The reason we don't do any of these things is that
      once ideas or themes are allowed in, the focus is shifted from the forms
      that make the organization of content possible to this or that piece of
      content, usually some recycled set of pros and cons about abortion,
      assisted suicide, affirmative action, welfare reform, the death penalty,
      free speech and so forth. At that moment, the task of understanding and
      mastering linguistic forms will have been replaced by the dubious pleasure
      of reproducing the well-worn and terminally dull arguments one hears or
      sees on every radio and TV talk show.

      Students who take so-called courses in writing where such topics are the
      staples of discussion may believe, as their instructors surely do, that
      they are learning how to marshal arguments in ways that will improve their
      compositional skills. In fact, they will be learning nothing they couldn't
      have learned better by sitting around in a dorm room or a coffee shop.
      They will certainly not be learning anything about how language works; and
      without a knowledge of how language works they will be unable either to
      spot the formal breakdown of someone else's language or to prevent the
      formal breakdown of their own.

      In my classes, the temptation of content is felt only fleetingly; for as
      soon as students bend to the task of understanding the structure of
      language - a task with a content deeper than any they have been asked to
      forgo - they become completely absorbed in it and spontaneously enact the
      discipline I have imposed. And when there is the occasional and inevitable
      lapse, and some student voices his or her "opinion" about something, I
      don't have to do anything; for immediately some other student will turn
      and say, "No, that's content." When that happens, I experience pure
      pedagogical bliss.

      Stanley Fish is dean emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
    • twocentseltcafe
      ... English syntax. ... but I could be quite, quite ... I may very well be an Other. :-) I m not sure. At this point a fairly full description of what you find
      Message 2 of 15 , Jun 1, 2005
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        --- In dogme@yahoogroups.com, "Dennis Newson" <djn@d...> wrote:
        >
        >
        > It is also a very readable though scary account of how to teach
        English syntax.
        > I find the idea that you can divorce syntax from content worrying,
        but I could be quite, quite
        > wrong.
        >
        > Comments, brother and sister dogmeists and others?

        I may very well be an Other. :-) I'm not sure.

        At this point a fairly full description of what you find worrying and
        scary about that article might help focus the discussion, IMHO...
      • twocentseltcafe
        ... uh, er.. I meant to say a full description of *why* that should be scary and worrying...
        Message 3 of 15 , Jun 1, 2005
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          --- In dogme@yahoogroups.com, "twocentseltcafe" <twocentseltcafe@y...>
          wrote:
          > --- In dogme@yahoogroups.com, "Dennis Newson" <djn@d...> wrote:
          > >
          > >
          > > It is also a very readable though scary account of how to teach
          > English syntax.
          > > I find the idea that you can divorce syntax from content worrying,

          uh, er.. I meant to say a full description of *why* that should be
          scary and worrying...
        • Dennis Newson
          Well, friend Two-cents, I think what worried me about Fish s argument was that: -. He began by saying that students can t write well because they don t know
          Message 4 of 15 , Jun 1, 2005
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            Well, friend Two-cents,

            I think what worried me about Fish's argument was that:

            -. He began by saying that students can't write well because they don't know what a
            sentence is, they don't know the form of a sentence. This was his basic premise.
            - This implies that you can only convey meaning if you get the form right.
            - That's the equivalent for me of saying: "Your thoughts must be conveyed in correctly
            formed i.e. conventionally correct grammatical sentences otherwise they won't be accepted.
            Dreadful. Sack the man. Make him take early retirement.
            - If his article had been about how to teach structural linguistics it would have been much
            more acceptable. "Get into groups a create a new language" is quite a ploy.

            Dennis
          • gagah
            Such a long, fishy, i-have-read/heard-it-a-thousand-times-before joke...
            Message 5 of 15 , Jun 1, 2005
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              Such a long, fishy, i-have-read/heard-it-a-thousand-times-before joke...
            • Russell Kent
              Hi Everyone, I just think that Yoda is proof that the syntax can be all over the place, but the meaning is still conveyed. In fact, considering establishing I
              Message 6 of 15 , Jun 2, 2005
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                Hi Everyone,

                I just think that Yoda is proof that the syntax can be all over the
                place, but the meaning is still conveyed.

                In fact, considering establishing I am, the first "Yoda School English
                of". Where syntax more than leve just a on having fun is.

                Cheers

                Russ


                .
                Dennis Newson wrote:

                > Well, friend Two-cents,
                >
                > I think what worried me about Fish's argument was that:
                >
                > -. He began by saying that students can't write well because they
                > don't know what a
                > sentence is, they don't know the form of a sentence. This was his
                > basic premise.
                > - This implies that you can only convey meaning if you get the form
                > right.
                > - That's the equivalent for me of saying: "Your thoughts must be
                > conveyed in correctly
                > formed i.e. conventionally correct grammatical sentences otherwise
                > they won't be accepted.
                > Dreadful. Sack the man. Make him take early retirement.
                > - If his article had been about how to teach structural linguistics
                > it would have been much
                > more acceptable. "Get into groups a create a new language" is quite a
                > ploy.
                >
                > Dennis
                >
                >
                >
                > To Post a message, send it to: dogme@...
                > To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to: dogme-unsubscribe@...
                >
                >
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              • Dennis Newson
                I think my real point is that although I accept the importance of structure (better because more normal (c.f. norm) communicatively than: Accept I structure
                Message 7 of 15 , Jun 2, 2005
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                  I think my real point is that although I accept the importance of structure (better because
                  more normal (c.f. norm) communicatively than: Accept I structure imortance the of) I just
                  don't think that concentrating exclusively on structure a la Fish, creating a new language to
                  highlight it, and disallowing content - I just can't believe that that is the best way to improve
                  anyone's writing, setting out facts, developing an argument or, least of all, expressing
                  emotion.

                  Dennis
                • Scott Thornbury
                  Russ s yoda-speak inadvertnetly makes the point that syntax has less to with intelligibility than lexis: I was thrown, not by the jumbled word order, but by
                  Message 8 of 15 , Jun 2, 2005
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                    Russ's "yoda-speak" inadvertnetly makes the point that syntax has less to
                    with intelligibility than lexis: I was thrown, not by the jumbled word
                    order, but by "leve" - presumably a typo, Yoda?
                    S.

                    ----- Original Message -----
                    From: "Russell Kent" <kentfamily@...>
                    To: <dogme@yahoogroups.com>
                    Sent: Thursday, June 02, 2005 9:28 AM
                    Subject: Re: [dogme] Re: Syntax without content


                    > Hi Everyone,
                    >
                    > I just think that Yoda is proof that the syntax can be all over the
                    > place, but the meaning is still conveyed.
                    >
                    > In fact, considering establishing I am, the first "Yoda School English
                    > of". Where syntax more than leve just a on having fun is.
                    >
                    > Cheers
                    >
                    > Russ
                    >
                    >
                    > .
                    > Dennis Newson wrote:
                    >
                    >> Well, friend Two-cents,
                    >>
                    >> I think what worried me about Fish's argument was that:
                    >>
                    >> -. He began by saying that students can't write well because they
                    >> don't know what a
                    >> sentence is, they don't know the form of a sentence. This was his
                    >> basic premise.
                    >> - This implies that you can only convey meaning if you get the form
                    >> right.
                    >> - That's the equivalent for me of saying: "Your thoughts must be
                    >> conveyed in correctly
                    >> formed i.e. conventionally correct grammatical sentences otherwise
                    >> they won't be accepted.
                    >> Dreadful. Sack the man. Make him take early retirement.
                    >> - If his article had been about how to teach structural linguistics
                    >> it would have been much
                    >> more acceptable. "Get into groups a create a new language" is quite a
                    >> ploy.
                    >>
                    >> Dennis
                    >>
                    >>
                    >>
                    >> To Post a message, send it to: dogme@...
                    >> To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to: dogme-unsubscribe@...
                    >>
                    >>
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                    >>
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                    >> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dogme/
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                    >> dogme-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
                    >> <mailto:dogme-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com?subject=Unsubscribe>
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                    >> Service <http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/>.
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                  • Scott Thornbury
                    Re-reading my OWN (fairly incoherent) message, I realise that in fact neither syntax nor lexis matter as much as the way information is distributed in the
                    Message 9 of 15 , Jun 2, 2005
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                      Re-reading my OWN (fairly incoherent) message, I realise that in fact
                      neither syntax nor lexis matter as much as the way information is
                      distributed in the message so that it is clear what is the topic of the
                      message as opposed to the comment. I.e. it's all about discourse
                      organization. What I MEANT to say was this:

                      "Russ's "yoda-speak" inadvertently makes the point that intelligibility has
                      less to do with syntax than it does with lexis. I was thrown, not by the
                      jumbled word order, but by "leve".... etc "

                      Ha!
                      S.

                      ----- Original Message -----
                      From: "Scott Thornbury" <sthornbury@...>
                      To: <dogme@yahoogroups.com>
                      Sent: Thursday, June 02, 2005 11:39 AM
                      Subject: Re: [dogme] Re: Syntax without content


                      > Russ's "yoda-speak" inadvertnetly makes the point that syntax has less to
                      > with intelligibility than lexis: I was thrown, not by the jumbled word
                      > order, but by "leve" - presumably a typo, Yoda?
                      > S.
                      >
                      > ----- Original Message -----
                      > From: "Russell Kent" <kentfamily@...>
                      > To: <dogme@yahoogroups.com>
                      > Sent: Thursday, June 02, 2005 9:28 AM
                      > Subject: Re: [dogme] Re: Syntax without content
                      >
                      >
                      >> Hi Everyone,
                      >>
                      >> I just think that Yoda is proof that the syntax can be all over the
                      >> place, but the meaning is still conveyed.
                      >>
                      >> In fact, considering establishing I am, the first "Yoda School English
                      >> of". Where syntax more than leve just a on having fun is.
                      >>
                      >> Cheers
                      >>
                      >> Russ
                      >>
                    • MCJ
                      ... I agree. Discourse is crucial if we focus ourselves on communication rather than correct grammar and syntax. Indeed, communicative effectiveness should
                      Message 10 of 15 , Jun 2, 2005
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                        Scott Thornbury wrote:
                        > Re-reading my OWN (fairly incoherent) message, I realise that in fact
                        > neither syntax nor lexis matter as much as the way information is
                        > distributed in the message so that it is clear what is the topic of the
                        > message as opposed to the comment. I.e. it's all about discourse
                        > organization. What I MEANT to say was this:
                        >
                        > "Russ's "yoda-speak" inadvertently makes the point that intelligibility has
                        > less to do with syntax than it does with lexis. I was thrown, not by the
                        > jumbled word order, but by "leve".... etc "

                        I agree. Discourse is crucial if we focus ourselves on communication
                        rather than "correct" grammar and syntax. Indeed, communicative
                        effectiveness should be our primary measure of "correctness".

                        Omar
                      • Russell Kent
                        ... Yoda a typo make did oops!! Word levy should have been. Russ ... -- No virus found in this outgoing message. Checked by AVG Anti-Virus. Version: 7.0.322
                        Message 11 of 15 , Jun 2, 2005
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                          Scott Thornbury wrote:

                          > Russ's "yoda-speak" inadvertnetly makes the point that syntax has less to
                          > with intelligibility than lexis: I was thrown, not by the jumbled word
                          > order, but by "leve" - presumably a typo, Yoda?
                          > S.
                          >
                          Yoda a typo make did oops!! Word levy should have been.

                          Russ


                          > ----- Original Message -----
                          > From: "Russell Kent" <kentfamily@...>
                          > To: <dogme@yahoogroups.com>
                          > Sent: Thursday, June 02, 2005 9:28 AM
                          > Subject: Re: [dogme] Re: Syntax without content
                          >
                          >
                          > > Hi Everyone,
                          > >
                          > > I just think that Yoda is proof that the syntax can be all over the
                          > > place, but the meaning is still conveyed.
                          > >
                          > > In fact, considering establishing I am, the first "Yoda School English
                          > > of". Where syntax more than leve just a on having fun is.
                          > >
                          > > Cheers
                          > >
                          > > Russ
                          > >
                          > >
                          > > .
                          > > Dennis Newson wrote:
                          > >
                          > >> Well, friend Two-cents,
                          > >>
                          > >> I think what worried me about Fish's argument was that:
                          > >>
                          > >> -. He began by saying that students can't write well because they
                          > >> don't know what a
                          > >> sentence is, they don't know the form of a sentence. This was his
                          > >> basic premise.
                          > >> - This implies that you can only convey meaning if you get the form
                          > >> right.
                          > >> - That's the equivalent for me of saying: "Your thoughts must be
                          > >> conveyed in correctly
                          > >> formed i.e. conventionally correct grammatical sentences otherwise
                          > >> they won't be accepted.
                          > >> Dreadful. Sack the man. Make him take early retirement.
                          > >> - If his article had been about how to teach structural linguistics
                          > >> it would have been much
                          > >> more acceptable. "Get into groups a create a new language" is quite a
                          > >> ploy.
                          > >>
                          > >> Dennis
                          > >>
                          > >>
                          > >>
                          > >> To Post a message, send it to: dogme@...
                          > >> To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to: dogme-unsubscribe@...
                          > >>
                          > >>
                          > >>
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                          > >> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dogme/
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                          > >> * To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
                          > >> dogme-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
                          > >> <mailto:dogme-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com?subject=Unsubscribe>
                          > >>
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                          > >> Service <http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/>.
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                        • twocentseltcafe
                          ... structure (better because ... imortance the of) I just ... creating a new language to ... that is the best way to improve ... least of all, expressing ...
                          Message 12 of 15 , Jun 2, 2005
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                            --- In dogme@yahoogroups.com, "Dennis Newson" <djn@d...> wrote:
                            > I think my real point is that although I accept the importance of
                            structure (better because
                            > more normal (c.f. norm) communicatively than: Accept I structure
                            imortance the of) I just
                            > don't think that concentrating exclusively on structure a la Fish,
                            creating a new language to
                            > highlight it, and disallowing content - I just can't believe that
                            that is the best way to improve
                            > anyone's writing, setting out facts, developing an argument or,
                            least of all, expressing
                            > emotion.
                            >
                            > Dennis

                            ..but this seems to be a far, far more moderate position than your
                            initial response, which if I recall correctly included the
                            words "scary" and "worrying"... have you backed off your earlier
                            remarks?

                            For my part, I think the only real way for an English teacher to love
                            students -- and here the word "love" is used deliberately and
                            advisedly; it is not a throwaway term -- is to teach them to have the
                            most standard and "educated" form possible. Why? because society..
                            every society, as far as I know.. rewards literacy, rewards adherence
                            to the literary norms.. and those rewards can be very painfully real
                            e.g. "employed vs. unemployed." Life has corners and sharp edges.
                            Real love makes people aware of these things, and equips them to face
                            the obstacles they may encounter.

                            PS-- I anticipate responses equating "linguicism" with racism,
                            sexism, etc. I pre-empt such replies with two words: Get Real. :-) We
                            can all agree that discrimination based on race and sex (and other
                            factors; I'm just giving the most obvious examples) is unfair,
                            because it is unrelated to job performance, and it is genetically
                            dictated, etc.. However, not all "discrimination" is unfair
                            discrimination. If all discrimination were unfair discrimination,
                            then all employers would be required to simply choose an applicant
                            for a job randomly...literacy is a skill, not a genetically dictated
                            trait (or) a religious stance (or) some other trait that is unrelated
                            to job performance.

                            Moreover, I would argue that adherence to the socially accepted norms
                            for a given culture and context greatly faciltates communication.
                            Image a CEO sending out job evaluations to her employees in Yoda-
                            speak.. what a storm of pritest that would cause! Everyone would be
                            deprived of hundreds of culturally determined cues that help them
                            understand deeper shades of meaning... and they may not understand
                            even the most surface meaning..
                          • MCJ
                            ... This was the argument for RP and for ignoring or actively suppressing Eubonics and other local or community varieties of English. If dogme is about
                            Message 13 of 15 , Jun 2, 2005
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                              twocentseltcafe wrote:

                              > For my part, I think the only real way for an English teacher to love
                              > students -- and here the word "love" is used deliberately and
                              > advisedly; it is not a throwaway term -- is to teach them to have the
                              > most standard and "educated" form possible. Why? because society..
                              > every society, as far as I know.. rewards literacy, rewards adherence
                              > to the literary norms.. and those rewards can be very painfully real
                              > e.g. "employed vs. unemployed." Life has corners and sharp edges.
                              > Real love makes people aware of these things, and equips them to face
                              > the obstacles they may encounter.

                              This was the argument for RP and for ignoring or actively suppressing
                              Eubonics and other local or community varieties of English.

                              If dogme is about empowering students then surely we, as teachers,
                              should attentive to what students want to learn, rather than to what
                              they, in our opinion, ought to be learning. Unless we are teaching
                              children we should strive to exert as little influence as possible over
                              the direction classroom learning takes.

                              Adherence to "literary norms" is a common desiderata around the world -
                              in whatever language - but it only truly important in societies that
                              depend, first and foremost, on examination success to grant access to
                              social and economic privilege. Our students may or may not be subject to
                              such a system.

                              For my part, most students come to me with a fairly clear idea of their
                              long term goals. My responsibility is to help them reach those goals,
                              and if a student's interest in English is to understand Hip Hop music,
                              to write it and to sing it, then my insistence upon her learning "the
                              most standard and educated form possible" would be, patronizing,
                              intrusive and, quite possibly, detrimental to the achievement of her goals.


                              Omar
                            • Russell Kent
                              I agree entirely with Omar s point of view. We should be teaching to the student s requirements and suppress any prejudices about language norms that we may
                              Message 14 of 15 , Jun 3, 2005
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                                I agree entirely with Omar's point of view.

                                We should be teaching to the student's requirements and suppress any
                                prejudices about language "norms" that we may have.

                                Incidentally, "Yoda-speak" was a tongue in cheek response to an earlier
                                posting. However, I do feel that elements of it are appropriate in
                                certain situations. Surely, if a student reaches a level of English
                                that, to us is "Yoda-speak" but fulfils their communicative requirements
                                (fossilisation), who are we to impose our linguistic beliefs on them.
                                Yes, we can point out the difference of the level they are currently at
                                and, "literary norms", but ultimately it is the student's decision that
                                is important.

                                Russ

                                Russ

                                MCJ wrote:

                                > twocentseltcafe wrote:
                                >
                                > > For my part, I think the only real way for an English teacher to love
                                > > students -- and here the word "love" is used deliberately and
                                > > advisedly; it is not a throwaway term -- is to teach them to have the
                                > > most standard and "educated" form possible. Why? because society..
                                > > every society, as far as I know.. rewards literacy, rewards adherence
                                > > to the literary norms.. and those rewards can be very painfully real
                                > > e.g. "employed vs. unemployed." Life has corners and sharp edges.
                                > > Real love makes people aware of these things, and equips them to face
                                > > the obstacles they may encounter.
                                >
                                > This was the argument for RP and for ignoring or actively suppressing
                                > Eubonics and other local or community varieties of English.
                                >
                                > If dogme is about empowering students then surely we, as teachers,
                                > should attentive to what students want to learn, rather than to what
                                > they, in our opinion, ought to be learning. Unless we are teaching
                                > children we should strive to exert as little influence as possible over
                                > the direction classroom learning takes.
                                >
                                > Adherence to "literary norms" is a common desiderata around the world -
                                > in whatever language - but it only truly important in societies that
                                > depend, first and foremost, on examination success to grant access to
                                > social and economic privilege. Our students may or may not be subject to
                                > such a system.
                                >
                                > For my part, most students come to me with a fairly clear idea of their
                                > long term goals. My responsibility is to help them reach those goals,
                                > and if a student's interest in English is to understand Hip Hop music,
                                > to write it and to sing it, then my insistence upon her learning "the
                                > most standard and educated form possible" would be, patronizing,
                                > intrusive and, quite possibly, detrimental to the achievement of her
                                > goals.
                                >
                                >
                                > Omar
                                >
                                >
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                              • Dennis Newson
                                Dear Twocents, How dare you accuse me of adopting a more moderate point of view? :-) :-) No, I stick by scary and worrying to describe my reaction to
                                Message 15 of 15 , Jun 3, 2005
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                                  Dear Twocents,

                                  How dare you accuse me of adopting a more moderate point of view? :-) :-)

                                  No, I stick by "scary" and "worrying" to describe my reaction to Fish's way of teaching
                                  students to write. As one person wrote here (apologies for forgetting the name) Fish
                                  reminded him of his Latin teacher in, I think, the 70s. By implication at least Fish equates
                                  accuracy with a prescriptive view of the well-formed grammatical sense - content irrelevant.

                                  As for your other point, I believe it is very hard to generalize, learners need English, where
                                  they do need it, for such a variety of purposes. I'd certainly agree that to love your students
                                  means to attempt to provide them with what they really need to be be happy, educated and
                                  successful.

                                  But that "really" in the last sentence - 'really need' - includes trying to convince them that
                                  they don't actually require what they think they do. As in the case of bringing up children,
                                  love certainly doesn't imply simply giving them, unreflectively, what they want.

                                  Boy, the lads on the Guardian dogme stalking list are going to enjoy the introduction of love
                                  into our discussions.


                                  Dennis
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