Editing Fail

Forget bloggers and the economy; this is why newspapers are going under left and right. Go on; try to count the grammatical errors. (Try not to be distracted by the incredibly scuzzy Uncle Sam figure or the strange logical errors.)

If the reader has to have a good understanding of a topic to comprehend a news outlet’s garbled reporting, the outlet isn’t reporting – it’s just selling advertising and tangible proof of the failure of our educational institutions.

Edit: This image originally appeared on the NY Post website at http://www.nypost.com/seven/04192009/photos/web_tax.jpg, but is no longer available at that link as of July 2014, per the comments below.

In Praise of Logic

Sometime in the last few generations, logic started getting short shrift. I don’t mean logic as a concept; plenty of people can, and do, invoke “logic” as a defense for completely absurd arguments. No, I mean LOGIC, the formal subject of study, the one involving formal concepts like “and,” “or,” and “xor,” as well as fancy Latin words for various fallacies. Logic has gone missing, and we’re all of us the worse off for its absence.

When I was young, I had to do lots of logic games. These were the type involving a grid (or several grids) and a bunch of Xs and Os as the problem solver tried to determine which statements or pairings of entities were correct and which were not. For example, a problem might center on allocating livestock to farmers or favorite subjects to school students, given sufficient but incomplete facts. There were a lot of variants, but these are the ones I remember most.

My complaint is not that I did this and “kids these days” don’t. My complaint is that most kids didn’t do problems like that, then, either. See, I only did those games because I was assigned to the school’s “academically gifted” or “gifted and talented” programs (the name changed at some point for political correctness reasons). The rest of my classmates got the chance to do exactly one of these problems during my elementary school years, as I recall. Only a few of us did them regularly.

Continue reading “In Praise of Logic”

Further Proof…

… that about half the population will vote for about anything: the Miami-Dade County School Board voted 5-4 to fire six teachers and accept the resignations of 26 others. The teachers in question had all paid to obtain continuing education credits, rather than taking actual courses, and then lied about the credits by representing them as legitimate. Why this kind of vote comes down to a 5-4 split, I do not know. One of the dissenters is quoted, saying it “baffles” her why this should interfere with classroom education (presumably in the classrooms of the teachers who lost their jobs). I don’t see how it can’t. If the state department of education or local school board deems to impose continuing education requirements, allowing teachers who have committed fraud to meet those requirements to keep their jobs undermines the entire teacher accreditation system and sends a very bad message to students: “Lie, pad your resume, disobey your supervisors, and get ahead.” As it is, the message is pretty mixed. Granted, the real worth of these credits is highly debatable, and I for one doubt that worth is very high, but it’s a question of principles.

The moral: throw out almost any idea, whether it’s a proposal to fire teachers, a method of interpreting the Constitution, or a plan for war, and 40-50% of any relevant group of people (school board members, voters, etc.) will back it, at least initially. Throw in a slick presentation and good campaigning or lobbying, and you just might have a winner.