Pedants’ revolt aims to protect English from spell of txt spk

New GCSE, old language arguments

Samuel Johnson
Dr Johnson couldn't fix it either: picture from Wikimedia Commons

Hot on the heels of the announcement of the abolition of the QCDA comes publicity for a trendy new GCSE English course that allows the papers to link President Obama with, according to taste, Eddie Izzard (and Jonathan Ross) or Ronnie Corbett (and Ross again). Well done, OCR; as you say, it’s about image (and the students might benefit too):

This is an invaluable opportunity to give learners more control over their self-image and thus their lives. They’ll become more conscious of which registers are more appropriate in which scenarios, making them more likely to succeed when it comes to influencing and negotiating in everyday life, their education and the world of work.

If QCDA won’t protect the country from such stuff, who will? Just in time, the Times announces that ‘an Academy of English is being formed by the Queen’s English Society, to protect the language from impurities, bastardisations and the horrors introduced by the text-speak generation.’ ‘Made up of professionals, academics and self-confessed pedants,’ they’ve decided we need an equivalent to L’Académie Fran├žaise. Furthermore, ‘the academy is not shunning the modern world: it has a website‘. It includes, you’ll be pleased to know, a section on the ‘tragic failure of the British education system (and the teachers that it produces) to meet the needs of our children’. I am a little puzzled, though, that each web page bears a strangely capitalised and punctuated footer: ‘Website Design by “SCOTT”‘ and that Page One is near the bottom of the contents list. Never mind, it’s only ephemera, like text-speak….

Inevitably, the Times article headlines this ‘Pedants’ revolt’. Read it online while you can, before the paywall shuts us out – and the accompanying debate ‘Do we need an Academy of English?‘ between the chairman of the Queen’s English Society and the chairman of the Spelling Society, ‘which aims to promote remedies to improve literacy, including spelling reform’. Enjoy the comments in the online discussion – and don’t stop to wonder why the Times didn’t ask anyone in education or from a university language department about this. That’s left to today’s Guardian, where John Mullan from University College London writes engagingly about the folly of preserving English in aspic. For those who want to learn about the realities of language teaching, there’s a research project on teaching English Grammar, for example, also from UCL – English teachers can find out more about it at the forthcoming NATE Conference.

Thanksgiving – from me, if not from the turkey

Learning about US education at NCTE’s 2008 Convention

Turkey at Lackland High
I didn’t ask them to bring their Thanksgiving Dinner forward a week, though it was flattering to be accorded that honour, even if, as a vegetarian, I was loath to eat the turkey or the pork on offer. The photo shows a victim (it’s not the bird that gives thanks, we assume) with Suzanne Dreyer and me in the library of Stacey High School at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas. Suzanne is Instructional Technologist at Lackland, which involves supporting technology for learning ‘K-12’ (that is, from Kindergarten to the end of high school) – and being a kind of ‘super-teacher’ as well. The tour of the school was an invaluable introduction to the whole range of US schooling – though I was told Lackland isn’t really typical and I could see that Suzanne is exceptionally committed to making the most of the technology.

Welcome, trespassers!The Annual Convention of NCTE (which is the US equivalent of NATE) which Julie Blake, Tim Shortis, Andy Goodwyn and I attended for the next four and a half days, merits more than I have time for tonight. Suffice it to say that we were warmly received and were able to engage in a fascinating exchange of ideas. Chris Warren’s collapsed text idea has now appeared on the US website, LitArchives.com, created by Allan Webb of Western Michigan University. And just to make it clear that despite the notice here, we received a warm welcome wherever we went!