Tuesday, February 1, 2011

More Amusing Than Mangoes, Oui?

College life and lack of anything more to say than "daily summaries" have prevented me from posting as often as I'd like.

With that said, it's good to be back at York, and with the exception of feeling like your personal preference of human waste this weekend, York being a pain in the ass about scheduling this year's Rhapsody concert, and charging a phantom 60 bucks to graduate (not including the fee for cap and gown), it's been a lot of fun to catch up with good friends and get back in the habits of singing with Rhapsody, DJing for "Fanfare" and "Corn" respectively, and being productive in the way of schoolwork. I've also picked up a weekly NBA column for the school's newspaper. My first article focused on some of the more underrated players in the NBA with a focus on the Clip-Show's Eric Gordon. I feel like it came out awesome.

Obviously, it's a subject matter I really enjoy, but what I think I really like about my articles is that I genuinely believe that no one in the world can present the information like I can. In short, I write sports articles in a manner that makes them at least semi-enjoyable and interesting to even those who don't follow the respective sport. It's this unique style of presentation that makes me believe that I may have a real future in this in some medium on some level.

Two things of note, but not worth a paragraph:

1. Going to see the Knicks play the Sixers on Friday with the Kernel and, hopefully, Gloves. Should be a great time. Both teams are much improved from last season, and the Sixers have really been hitting a stride of late. The Knicks have been a bit inconsistent, but are coming off a nice Mozgov-fueled trouncing of the Pistons.

2. Found some old Rhapsody shirts from about 2003. They're hideous. No wonder there were so many extras. I admit I got us shirts that might as well be sails for sea travel, or a light blanket to snuggle under with your significant other in the summertime, but at least they were fly looking. I think any Rhapsodian would at least grant me that.

Advice of Day: When extolling the virtues of humility, always consider your audience.

Thought of the Day: For my Senior Seminar class, I'm reading a book entitled, The War Against Grammar, by David Mulroy. This book, at least to this point, focuses primarily on why the American educational system has suffered since the adoption of the mindset that grammar is not only unimportant to writing, but impedes the writing process. This is not an argument a necessarily disagree with, but I do take issue with his thoughts regarding the study of Foreign Languages in college. I'll start with one thing he said which I agree with:

1. Efforts to maintain interest in foreign language courses have resulted in content centered more around culture than the fundamentals of that language, and quite honestly, the relatively global grammar rules. This does nothing but perpetuate the perpetuate the problem that actual language/grammar is not being taught and, consequently, learned. (Paraphrased, of course)

However, his reasoning for why enrollments in foreign language courses is as follows:

"My hypothesis is that the problem lies not in the way that languages were or are taught in college, but in the fact that fewer students are given the foundation in grammar in grade school that is necessary to succeed in the later study of a foreign language, however it is taught." (13)

To be frank, I think this hypothesis is totally bogus. Mulroy himself states that enrollments in Spanish courses have remained constant in terms of percentage of total college population enrolled while...

"In terms of absolute numbers, there were 189,032 fewer American college students taking French in 1198 than in 1968 even though the college population had increased by more than seven million. Similarly, there were 127,253 fewer taking German and 16, 905 fewer taking Russian. Between 1965 and 1998, there was a decline of 17,553 students studying classical languages, while the pool of college students increased by nine million." (12)

Mulroy's reasoning for Spanish study remaining constant? "Spanish has long enjoyed a reputation on American campuses as being the easiest of the foreign languages to learn as well as the most usable." (12) Mulroy, in my opinion, implies that Spanish is foreign language of the simpletons and seems to bypass what I consider to be the most important point of his sentence, and indeed, his entire argument. Spanish is the most usable.

As much as the idea that the study of these languages is falling by the wayside is unfortunate and borderline heartbreaking (says the former student of both French and Italian, but before you get too impressed, I'd like to note that was tres mal at French) let's view this conundrum in a practical light.

With the amount of money the average student spends on higher education, he or she is going to invest their time and energy into the study of something that can be useful or lucrative to them in the future (too often those two words come to be considered synonymous). I admit to being no expert, but that essentially means that unless you plan to teach the language or work in the area where that language is prevalent, the languages are rendered monetarily useless. This point of view is quite cynical I admit, but it's also not entirely false. In my opinion, enrollment in Spanish courses has remained constant due to the language quickly becoming more and more prominent as a fixture of American interaction. Becoming bilingual in English and Spanish has become not exactly essential to life in this country, but it is a heck of a feather in your cap in certain areas of the professional world (public relations, police work, and pretty much any other profession that starts with a "p" to name a couple) especially in the south and in metropolitan areas throughout the nation. There's no real use for those other languages in the workplace except for very specific circumstances.

Furthermore, judging by conversations had with business minded peers, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see the amount of American students learning to speak Mandarin increase dramatically over the coming years, as China continues its economic prosperity, and Mandarin continues to become the language of business. The desire/need to learn foreign language is indeed still present in America. However, students today are realistic enough to have a end-game or goal for their foreign language education. A goal that evidently cannot be fulfilled by German, and the romantic languages.

I feel as though Mulroy is overlooking some arguably more important cultural reasons for the decline in collegiate foreign language study.

Song of the Day: Two Step - Dave Matthews Band (The '95 version with the Boyd intro and rockin' Tim jam with more subtle percussive presence from Carter than more recent incarnations.) THAT'S A FRAGMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jazz Song of the Day: You Are Too Beautiful - Thelonious Monk


  1. That book sounds like an interesting read. Does he really focus on learning foreign languages? If you ask me, the most important thing you quoted was: "fewer students are given the foundation in grammar in grade school that is necessary to succeed."

    I'm no grammar whiz, but (and maybe this is Language and Linguistics talking through me) it seems to me that as a country the US is perhaps too lenient with dialects. "American" English is the closest thing we have to a "professional" language in this country, but I've met a lot of people who couldn't speak it if they tried; and their deficiency is structural. They form sentences awkwardly or inefficiently, and it's enough to incite bias.

    I do agree with everything you said about foreign language study, though. I told everyone I took French because I have a big interest in French literature (which I do), but it was mainly because I'd taken three years of Spanish in high school and didn't want to start again at a higher level. Otherwise, it would have been the most obvious choice.

    Also, I love Dave Matthews Band.

  2. I agree about lacking emphasis on dialects being a detriment to the country and its educational system. His focus on foreign language is only a small section of a very broad work. It is an interesting read, though a little dense sometimes. I can't seem to go 25 pages without cleansing my mind's pallet with something else to do entirely. Once I'm done with my work, I'd love to let you borrow it if you dig.

    Thanks a lot for your input.
    You can't go wrong with Dave.