Focusing on Words Newsletter #09

(the ninth newsletter of a series that was formerly presented to subscribers by the Sr. Scribe, a.k.a. John Robertson)

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The Senior Scribe is trying to find more info for his project.
Nouns now are morphing into verbs
With unrelenting zeal.
We're "lawyering" our words,
I've heard,
And "brokering" a deal.
We're "doctoring" the truth, and yes,
"Sandbagging" evidence.
Still other nouns, it is my guess,
"Will make the future tense."
—Doris O'Brien
U. S. Teachers and Cheating

A few articles about recent trends in U.S. education caught my attention in the last few weeks that represent a SAD turn for our modern educational system. I am including a few snippets for you to consider.

    "In American Schools Today, Everyone Is in the Top Half" by Jeff Zorn from Santa Clara University near San Francisco, California, as seen in the June 2, 2000, issue of the International Herald Tribune gives one example of educational deception in the U.S.

  • Among other things, he said, "At least I know I inflate my grades. Younger colleagues don't remember when B was an honor grade, D's and F's hardly the rarities they are now. Today, if students complete assignments, however shoddily, the instructor finds a way to stick a C on their transcripts."
  • At the end of the article, Mr. Zorn concluded: "Academic under preparation is the American norm today. High schools and colleges expect less from students, and students respond accordingly. On tests administered internationally, U.S. students score low but assess their own abilities high; higher than any other country's kids."
  • "In colleges across the United States today, straight-A high school graduates need remedial work in courses less demanding than those I took in Class III at Latin School in 1920."

Educators Attempt to Find "Educational Success" by Cheating

"To Raise Test Scores, Schools Pressure Teachers to Cheat" by Jay Mathews and Amy Argetsinger as seen in the June 3-4, 2000, issue of the International Herald Tribune.

"Barbara McCarroll was already puzzled and a little upset about her fifth-grade students" low test scores when her boss at Eastgate Elementary in Columbus, Ohio, approached her. How was it, the principal snapped, that the same children had done so much better on standardized exams the year before?"

"After eight years of teaching, Ms. McCarroll knew it paid to be frank with children, so she asked them. She was not prepared for the answer: 'Well, Ms. McCarroll, that's because they gave us the answers and you didn't.' "

"At a time when superintendents are under pressure to increase test scores and hold principals and teachers accountable for student success, talk of cheating dominates the conversation in education circles."

"In New York City, cheating was found to be so rampant that it led to the resignation of the schools chief. A special investigator found that one principal had students fill out their answers on scrap paper. Only when they came up with the right answers did she give them the official answer sheet to fill out."

And the concluding paragraph: "At another New York school, a seventh-grade teacher allegedly left answers near the pencil sharpener, then urged her students to sharpen their pencils."

Some Schools Change the Meaning of "Top 10%"

In an article titled, "College Entry in U.S. Inspires New Calculation Some High Schools Cram Kids Into Top 10%" by Daniel Golden in the May 16, 2000, issue of the Wall Street Journal Europe, shows another form of educational deception.

"Everything is bigger in Texas, even 10%"

Prominently displayed in Shirley Faske's office at Westlake High School is a notice advising students that they must rank "in the top 10%" of their graduating class to gain automatic admission to a Texas public university.

The writer continues, "But last year, suburban Westlake crammed 63 of its 491 seniors, or 12.8%, into the top 10%, violating the laws of mathematics - and of the Lone Star State."

"Such finagling threatens to undermine the movement in the U.S. to link college admission to high-school class rank."

Is this more of Dumbing Down our Kids (1995, St. Martin's Press) as presented in by Charles J. Sykes in his book of the same title? The subtitle is, "Why American Children Feel Good about Themselves but Can't Read, Write, or Add".

A few of his points include:

"The dumbing down of America's students is a direct result of the dumbing down of the curriculum and the standards of American schools —the legacy of a decades-long flight from learning."

"American students are unable to effectively compete with the rest of the industrialized world, because our schools teach less, expect less, and settle for less than do those of other countries."

"Even as evidence mounts that American students are lacking in basic academic skills such as writing, reading [including vocabulary skills], and mathematics, schools are increasingly emphasizing so-called 'affective' learning that deals with the feelings, attitudes, and beliefs of students, rather than addressing what they know or can do."

"As both standards and achievement have fallen, American schools have inflated grades, adjusted or fudged test scores, or dumbed down the tests altogether to provide the illusion of success. When those measure have been insufficient, they have changed their definitions of 'success'. "

"In the name of 'equity,' 'fairness,' 'inclusiveness,' and 'self-esteem,' standards of excellence are being eroded throughout American education. Educational levelers have become increasingly aggressive in their attacks on ability grouping, programs for the gifted and talented, and distinctions, such as graduation honors, for the best and brightest students."

Do the contemporary articles produced above show any relationship to Charles Sykes' book?

So what does the foregoing have to do with this newsletter and the Latin-Greek Cross References?

The point that I would like to make is that if you were deprived of a proper education; especially, in the rich contributions of Latin and Greek elements in English, then you may take advantage of the sources provided in the Latin-Greek Cross References located via the links at this URL: Word Info.

If you did learn Latin (and Greek) in school, then you will have an even greater appreciation of the family arrangements of the English words that are derived from the many Latin and Greek sources.

You may go to the Focusing on Words Newsletter index to see other newsletters.