Sunday, September 15, 2013

Language Bullies & School

Some thoughts on some of the articles I've read recently:

Language bullies certainly are extremely annoying, and I aspire never to be one, despite my profession. (My boss at one previous job was ridiculous this way, hyper-correcting me unnecessarily. In a former life she been a newspaper editor and English teacher, but she hadn't kept up with the changing language trends - what was correct at that moment in time, to her mind, was "the right way" - and she often insisted on something that wasn't actually correct; the standards had changed. Which, to my mind, if you work with language, you should realize.)

On the other hand, what does frustrate me is when people overuse "honestly" and "literally" to emphasize their point. Overuse does not add to your sense of credibility. If you keep having to tell me that something something "honestly" [happened to you/you're thinking of doing/fill-in-the-blank], or that something "literally" happened, or that you "literally" had that reaction, I'll actually believe you less. I can tell if you're utilizing hyperbole or metaphor; you don't need to make sure I understand by consistently reminding me that something "literally" happened.

Then there are the folks who believe that all parents should send their kids to private school, otherwise they're bad parents. There are, erm, some flaws in this argument.

(This is like saying that we should all go to community colleges, or private universities, or state universities, or one of the Ivies, or a large university, or a small college, otherwise your kids won't have a comparably cheap education where they're meeting lots of different types of students [at community colleges or state schools] or quality education and rubbing shoulders with elite students with certain backgrounds [who can only be found at an expensive private school or one of the Ivies].)

How about parents who homeschool - are they bad people too? (That's a rhetorical question.) Insisting that all kids go to the exact same type of school of just silly; one needs to find the best school for one's kid based on any number of factors. Sending your kid to a private school doesn't make you a bad parent, nor does it make you dismissive of other methods of education, nor is it indicative of your kid being any degree smarter, nor does it mean you think public school teachers worse than those who teach in private schools. Send your kid to the school that best meets their needs, and do the best you can to support your kid no matter where she goes to school.

A few months ago I came to the conclusion that I might like to send our kids, if we ever have any, to a Catholic school. Ed and I had talked about it previously (Ed having gone to a Catholic elementary school himself), but we didn't really make up our minds, figuring we'd make that decision once we actually had a kid. (Why make decisions for a hypothetical kid? Besides which, if we can't afford it in the future, that negates the decision.) Back in May, though, I had a brief discussion with our parish youth group leaders, a recently married couple who's about our age; the husband was a recent convert to Catholicism from a Protestant denomination. He said that he'd had so many great memories of his own very active church youth group growing up that he wanted to recreate it for the kids in our parish, and how helpful it is for kids to have friends whose (religious) beliefs are similar.

It's true that Catholicism doesn't have the same history with active youth groups as I think so many Protestant denominations have; many Catholic parishes have youth groups, but they may be small or not especially active. There are so relatively few Catholics in Utah that, at least in our parish, the kids  just didn't have any, or very many, Catholic friends. They knew a lot of LDS kids, but the LDS kids all stuck together and socialized together, quite possibly because they were in the same wards and were likely also to attend the Seminaries that are attached to all the schools. (Seminary is not a requirement; it can't be made a requirement, thankfully, since of course not all kids are LDS, nor can the seminaries be on school property, so they tend to be across the street or on adjacent private property.) This wasn't necessarily done with malice or forethought, but they wanted to hang out with the kids they knew. In any case, at least the kids in our particular parish often felt excluded and isolated because of their religion; they were being overlooked or ignored.

I realize the irony of sending my kid to a Catholic school so that she'll be surrounded by kids who are quite likely to be in the Catholic majority (although Catholic schools also accept students who are of different faith traditions, or of no faith tradition). Yet although we're in the extreme minority when it comes to our faith, I suspect our kid will also meet and interact with many LDS kids - as they should; I want my kid to meet as many different types of kids as possible, with as many different backgrounds as possible (somewhat hard to do, considering where we live), but also have friends whose religious backgrounds are similar to ours. It's hard to raise a kid with specific beliefs if they don't see anyone else their age with those beliefs.

This article is more of a response to careers in Silicon Valley and its alleged meritocracy based on attendance at specific universities - in this case, Stanford, Harvard, or M.I.T. I can't speak to that argument, but I'm frustrated by the notion that a prestigious college education will automatically get you a lucrative, and therefore "successful," career. I wish the definition of success were broadened to mean a career that allows you to support yourself, that allows you to maybe give a bit back to society, and - most importantly - makes you happy. One isn't going to get all these three things in a job all the time, but I refuse to minimize the contributions of others because they hadn't attended to a top ten school or earn six figures.