[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=banned+books&iid=3111873″ src=”b/4/1/1/Coo_c082.jpg?adImageId=12600765&imageId=3111873″ width=”234″ height=”161″ /]The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has just released it’s top 10 list of the most “challenged” books of 2009.
“Challenged” is the charming euphemism that the ALA uses for books that are basically censored from schools and libraries in the U.S.:
A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. (source)
Since I usually find that challenged books are well-written, thought-provoking, relevant, and engaging, I like to read as many of them as possible as my own challenge to this form of censorship.
On this year’s list are some perennial favorites (Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, which everyone should read at least once; Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War, which is gritty, disturbing, and brilliant; Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, an important American classic; Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, still one of the great coming-of-age novels, if a little dated now) and some recent books I don’t know (“The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things,” by Carolyn Mackler has to be good with a title like that).
I’m all in favor of age-appropriate literature, but I dispute anyone’s right to tell me what is or is not age appropriate. And if you really can’t stand a book, for goodness’ sake, just put it down and let someone else try it! My two-year-old has already developed a great strategy for dealing with books that are too old for him: he stops paying attention.
If you were curious about the name of the volcano in Iceland that’s causing airline chaos, you probably won’t hear it on many newscasts, for the good reason that it’s quite a tongue-twister:
And you thought English was hard to pronounce? Fortunately, the world’s linguists are on hand to explain how to say it (John Wells on his blog, and Mark Liberman on Language Log, and here again). The BBC’s famed pronunciation unit — of course — has its own advice. NPR in the US has largely given up (with the exception of the intrepid Joe Palca), but offers these renditions.
At least it gives you something to do while you’re stuck at Heathrow
Yesterday, I was excited to receive my copies of the new TESOL publication, Effective Second Language Writing (in the Classroom Practices series), which opens with my chapter: “Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay: A Content-First Approach.”
In my essay — which is far longer than five paragraphs! — I set out the arguments against teaching (only) the five-paragraph essay/theme form, which I have been making for several years along with my former colleagues Andy McCullough and Ruelaine Stokes at Michigan State’s English Language Center. I then describe the sustained content-based writing course Andy and I developed at MSU for the advanced level of the IEP. (Another article we all wrote together appears in this month’s Second Language Writing Interest Section newsletter.)
The volume was edited with remarkable thoroughness and patience by Susan Kasten, and includes a total of 18 chapters on different aspects of second-language writing from around the world. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of it. Come to think of it, it’s so long since I wrote my chapter, I should probably re-read that, too, and see what I said. (This project was launched at TESOL 3 years ago!)
March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, commemorating the patron saint of Ireland. So, I was rather disappointed to receive this email today from CVS:
The “nickname” for Patrick is Paddy not Patty (St. Patricia?)!
The confusion is uniquely American, and I believe it stems from a pronunciation feature of American English. The “d”s in Paddy are pronounced with a “flap” sound (not a full /d/ as in British and Irish Englishes), which sounds very much like a /t/ — compare “ladder” and “latter”: they sound almost the same in American English. So, it’s not surprising that Paddy might be heard and subsequently misspelled as Patty.
But to turn St. Patrick into a beefburger just doesn’t seem right.
[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=chicago+bean&iid=3364983″ src=”d/2/9/7/Snow_Blankets_The_b291.jpg?adImageId=11079764&imageId=3364983″ width=”234″ height=”141″ /] (* I am an alum of Penn’s Graduate School of Education, but they keep sending me the magazine anyway, presumably in the faint hope that I might eventually make enough money to give some of it to the school …)
Scott Brown argues that language plays a critical role in the visual arts:
The client’s brief—a verbal statement—and the building’s social and visual context come first. They may provide merely a schedule of accommodations and relationships, or add qualitative instructions on character, performance, and context. Either way, they raise the problem of creating the physical from the verbal.
I find this especially interesting because this is basically the opposite of most research writing, in which the words come after the research and are an attempt to reconstruct the study for the reader. In architecture, writing appears to be primary: it is the source of the architect’s work, not the report of it.
This again points to the importance of knowing how writing functions in particular professions before trying to teach it to future professionals.
March 4 is …. National Grammar Day! Sadly, ESL teachers don’t all get a day off to celebrate (or, maybe, we should teach especially well on that day?). This is a publicity stunt by the “Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar,” one of many self-declared and self-aggrandizing stewards of the English language. Their website isn’t actually terrible (although you get bonus points for spotting some of their inconsistent punctuation on the home page), but linguists find the idea that English grammar needs promotion or protection laughable. After all, the language has survived — flourished, in fact — without (despite of?) efforts to save it.
And while I’m thinking about it … why National Grammar Day? Does the U.S. need to serve as the world’s linguistic police? Or does SPOGG only promote good American English grammar? Do they fear our friends from the north are trying re-introduce the widespread use of the letter “u”? Or are they afraid of British ex-pats complaining, “It’s ‘Have you eaten yet?’ not ‘Did you eat yet?’!”
So, I unilaterally declare every day to be henceforth International Grammar Day, dedicated to using the resources of language to boldly communicate meanings in whatever ways work!
Climate change or global warming: which sounds scarier? I heard an interesting interview this evening on NPR with Berkeley Linguistics Prof George Lakoff in which he describes the way that language “frames” the way we understand science. His criticism of scientists for not considering the way their words will be interpreted by the general public is well made.
(There’s an amusing typo on the NPR page right now: Lakoff is described as a “professor of linguists” — presumably, then, he studies the curious behavior of his fellow linguists.)
This is one more reason that all scientists should take a good scientific writing course, and that all university writing programs should get serious about writing in the sciences, not just the humanities. And since more and more science is being written in English by non-native speakers, we ESL specialists need to be part of that conversation.
Any thoughts? Do share! Click leave a comment at the top of this post.