Myth Matched – A Blast from the past post from December 2015

Myth Matched – A Blast from the past post from December 2015

Every culture has myths. For instance, I grew up in a culture where I knew (not thought, mind you, knew) that if you took more than one aspirin at once, you’d die.

Proven?  You don’t need proven.  Everyone knew this.  Why would you test something that could kill you?

So my first week in the states, when I told my host mother I had a headache and she said “just take a couple of aspirin” I thought she was trying to kill me.  She had to show me the instructions on the bottle.

This trivial incident was my first exposure to the idea that “what everybody knows” can be wrong.

Progressive culture in the US, having been the dominant culture in media/entertainment and the news for the last 100 years at least (not the dominant culture in the country, necessarily, but the dominant culture in the classes that controlled these intellectual products and which were consolidated/made uniform by the “mass” aspects of communication since at least the end of the nineteenth century) has lacked challenges to its internal myths, which means it ended up with as many unfounded “everybody knows” as a small village in Portugal where aspirin was still a miracle drug and a little scary.

I normally don’t pay attention to what Bernie Sanders says, and pay Hillary only the attention necessary to roll my eyes at the things that come flying out of her mouth.  (Like, for instance, that Republicans don’t know that terrorists use guns to kill people.  Oh, lady, we know, that’s why we want guns of our own to defend ourselves, because the terrorists, you know, aren’t likely to obey gun regulations.)

But yesterday Mike Rowe went after Bernie Sanders.

At first I just read it wishing that popcorn didn’t have so many carbs.  Then I went back and read the tweet that inspired Mike’s take down. Here it is in its full glory:

“At the end of the day, providing a path to go to college is a helluva lot cheaper than putting people on a path to jail.”

Mike got seriously upset — as he should — at the notion that not going to college is the same as being condemned to becoming a criminal, and he went after it, as well as after the fact that absent a few professions (and the only reason my kids are in college is because they’re aiming for two of those professions) college really doesn’t help.  (Make an informal count in your head.  How many of your friends with degrees work at anything even vaguely related to their degree?  And don’t tell me “but they learned to learn” because this is another thing altogether and you might have confused cause and effect.)

But there’s more than that in that tweet, there are at least three warring myths, all of them so central to what liberalism once was that the current progressives aren’t even aware most of them have been disproven by the real world tm.  These are things “everyone knows” and why would you question something everyone knows?

The thing is outside their world, where no one gives a good goddamn about their myths, these things are disproven, and most people only don’t realize it because of the entertainment news industrial complex repeating them so often and acting like they’re proven.

The first and most basic myth, and one of which, once upon a time, I was an ardent proponent, is that education is transformative.  This goes along with the myth that man is infinitely perfectible.

The liberal project — back when liberal meant classical liberal — as undertaken by our ancestors, hinged on the idea that education would transform everyone into individual thinkers and philosophers like themselves.  It would make them more moral too and improve them to be onto like angels.

They had a point of sorts, in their time.  Most of the people who weren’t learning weren’t learning because they were underfed, too busy making a living, sick with a million little illnesses that made them not function well intellectually.

I saw this in action in the village, which is why I was an ardent believer in this myth.  Giving people education truly uplifts them if the people giving the education also provide a meal and clothes.

The thing is, it’s one of those things that has huge gains up front.  “Teach everyone to read” makes a huge difference.  And yes, can make for a more moral society, if the education has a moral component.  This is important as “education” is not a neutral value.  It can be adaptive or maladaptive to reality.

However just about every country in the world that isn’t in dire crisis or doesn’t belong to a religion that forbids secular education has free education — yes, even where I came from, though often the kids were taken out of fourth grade to work in factories.  This was strictly speaking illegal, but you could always find a doctor to sign a paper saying your kid was educable mentally retarded and couldn’t learn any more “abstract stuff” but could learn to be a factory worker) — at least through 9th grade and often through 12th.

I’ll pause here to point out that when I was little, someone with a 9th grade education was accorded the respect here given to people with Masters Degrees now.  They were learned and performed work of the mind, and didn’t dirty their hands.  This I’d guess is true for most of history.  The level of a 9th degree education allows you enough to explore and learn just about everything that doesn’t require hands on training or specialized tutoring only administrated by professionals.  (I’ll not specify which trades because it varies per learner.  I can’t learn languages outside a classroom, at least a virtual one.  I also have trouble with art by myself.  I’d guess there’s the same problem with most things requiring labs to learn.)

So, are people made more moral?  Snort giggle.  Hardly.  The causes for this are complex and a lot of it has to do with how wealthy our society is.  Wealthy people have always had more time to get funny on morality.  Other parts include a morally neutral or worse education (when the purpose of education is to deconstruct the culture that made more people wealthy and healthy than any other culture in history, while praising cultures that mutilate women, kill gays and enslave children, it is worse.)

Are people individual little philosopher kings, for all these years of education thrown at them?

I read something in a book I can no longer remember the title of, when I was researching Shakespeare.  The number of people who are fluent enough readers to read for pleasure in our day is the same as in Shakespeare’s day.  When they didn’t have free education, much less 12 years of it.

The idea that if you gave everyone enough food and time and free schooling they’d all become erudite and thinkers can be disproved by a stroll through your local Welfare hub.  Go on, I dare you, go down and start a little discussion on Kantian philosophy.

But it’s an idea that remains a myth on the left which has lost all other classical liberal ideals (like, you know, individual freedom) but holds fast onto this idea that education will somehow make a progressive out of everyone.  (Patently ridiculous as they’ve been indoctrinating several generations now, and it still won’t take the way they want.  That cold slap of reality counteracts it.  Which is why they advocate more cowbell.)

The other myth in that statement — and the only way to make sense out of that linkage between education and prison — is actually several linked myths:

1- that people turn to crime when they’re poor  (an insult to every poor but honest person ever.)

2- that without a college education you’ll be poor (Mike Rowe ably disposed of this one in the linked article.)

3- that if the government won’t pay for something it’s unobtainable because there is no private charity and also people can’t lift themselves up by their bootstraps.

All of these are nonsense.  Sometimes I think people like Bernie Sanders watch Les Miserables (a piece of propaganda even when it was written) and say “it’s true, it’s all true” and then see the world through that lens ever since.

Being poor doesn’t lead to crime.  Wealthy people can and do commit crimes, not all of them white collar (in one of the stunning contradictions that would make their heads explode if they paused and thought about it, progressives also assume that all rich people are criminals, since economics is a fixed pie (giggle-snort) and to have more you have taken “more than your fair share.)

Lack of a college education doesn’t make you poor.  I’ve yet to meet a poor, competent plumber. And I sometimes regret I didn’t learn more carpentry from grandad, instead of going to college.  We knew someone who built cabinets by grandad’s method (think all manual tools) in reproduction of colonial furniture.  One of those cabinets which he could build in 3 months, sold for what my husband was making at the time, as a computer programmer. I’m fairly sure anyone who knows one of those trades really well is raking it in.  We’ve become a nation of do-it-yourselvers not because we enjoy it, or want to save money but because finding a competent tradesmen takes longer than just doing the best you can.  (Been there, done that, have spackle on my t-shirt.)

People have managed to be educated beyond their relatives and parents without any government intervention (in fact until government stuck its nose and quotas in, there were a lot of merit scholarships.  My husband did his college with them and a part-time job.)

Once you realize those myths ARE myths, Bernie’s prescription to end crime makes about as much sense as saying something like “Hit yourselves on the head with rubber mallets, increase the production of wheat.”

In fact, someone came trolling a share of this post trying desperately to keep the two things linked by yelling that it was a shame we spent more on jails than education.

Again, with the what?  Nothing our government does makes much sense, but this makes as much sense as “Abolish the helium reserve. Subsidize canneries.”

What we’ve found since the classical liberal times when we thought education would uplift everyone is that education and proper nutrition and proper civic instruction does uplift some people.  Yeah, there are a percentage of people out there who could/would do much better with a little help.  I don’t know about you, but I make it a point, on my own, to identify such people and such situations and intervene and help when I can.

But you can lead a student to school; you can imprison him/her in it for 8 hours a day for 12 years: what you can’t do is make them learn.

The same person who was whining about that horrible discrepancy between jail spending and education spending said that you know, most criminals stop learning in grade school.  I think he meant they dropped out.  This is probably true, although I’d bet the reverse, that if you dropped out of grade school you’re likely to be a criminal isn’t true.  It’s also insulting to claim so.  For this he advised more cowbell… er I mean more free education.

The sad fact is that we’ve continuously not only dumbed down education, but tried to make it “fun” (listen, if you’re learning a language, there’s no way to make it fun.  To be fluent, you need to start by memorizing vocabulary and studying grammatical structures.  Neither of those is fun.  Useful. Needed.  Not fun.) to the point that a High School diploma means nothing, which is why the new push to put everyone to college, as if more of the same will fix the problems.

There are people who don’t learn because they have no interest in learning.  Some of them might be very good at things — engines. Carpentry — that would baffle phds who are not put together that way.  There are people who don’t learn because our educational system, barring active teaching at home after class, is put together NOT to teach but to keep the masses from rebelling in their pseudo-scholastic prisons.

Lack of book learning doesn’t make anyone a criminal.  It doesn’t make them poor either.  I think my dad’s dad had a third grade (might be fourth) education.  Like younger son when he was younger, he had problems with verbal expression, and issues writing a legible hand.  In those days this meant “stupid” or at least book stupid, so his caring parents apprenticed him as a carpenter.  He supported his family in (for the village — grin) a more than middle class lifestyle, never that I know so much as stole a stamp, and raised sons and daughter who did better than him, and grandchildren who — weirdly — all have college educations, almost all of them (except me) in useful fields that actually make things or cure people.

The left is so wrapped up in their myths that they don’t understand “subsidize more education.  You’ll need fewer prisons” makes about as much sense as “eat more fiber. Control garden pests.” Worse, they legislate based on these myths, without the slightest qualm.  And then are shocked and posit bizarre theories (the GOP is holding back solar energy! The oil lobby! Eleventy!) for why it didn’t work.

And this is why our monoculture of progressivism hurts every field in which it is in fact a monoculture: education, the arts, entertainment, politics.

This is why diversity of thought is important. And why the progressives’ crazy attempts to shut down opinions they don’t agree with are … well… crazy.

In the safe space everyone believes as you do.  And that’s the problem.  Human beings aren’t built to be safe.

It is in the rubbing of thought against thought, in the contest of vision against vision that the truly ludicrous is eliminated and that, at least, we avoid the worst errors.

It is in not being locked up in a tiny intellectual village that real progress is made.  Not the “progressive” of progressives, which fills mass graves with those humans who weren’t infinitely perfectible, but the progress that fills bellies, raises humans above poverty and makes it possible to aspire to the stars.

Real progress comes from strife and work.

Which is why they’re acting more and more like isolated, illiterate villagers in a land where myth is more important than evidence.

And why in the end we win, they lose.

111 thoughts on “Myth Matched – A Blast from the past post from December 2015

  1. You colonialist oppressor! How dare you advocate for such things!?

    On a loosely related note…

    One thing that I find interesting is that the right has consistently offered the left good advice for the election. We’ve consistently warned them which specific policies were likely to blow up in their faces and get them booted from office. They ignored us. And now everyone – including all but the most closeted lefties – know what will happen next week wherever people vote.

    We tried to save them.

    1. It’s going to be interesting to see how many of these races that are within the polling margin of error or not far from it swing one way vs. the other. And what happens afterwards. Keeping my fingers crossed.

    2. Look at the steal in Brazil, which the US bragged about doing in advance, and tell me you’re sure we will have a legitimate election…

      1. Bolsanaro lost, but his party gained seats. Or in other words, the fraud was largely affecting the national race. It was the same here in 2020.

        But there’s no national race this time. Voters in San Francisco don’t influence the outcome of candidates on the ballot in Springfield.

        1. Except by pouring money into other races (Texas, Georgia, a few others). Look, I was NOT a Harry Reid fan, but I kept my money at home. Would that others tended to their own gardens first.

            1. Yep they beg horribly. I got SO many texts from Val Demmings (opponent for Rubio) that it was really beggining to irk me. Every time I’d block the number and a text would show up from a different number. I wanted to reply that Ms Demmings ought to take a hint from the fact that her alleged constituency weren’t ponying up the money, but I felt radio silence and enjoying the schadenfreude over how Rubio (admittedly not a favorite of mine, but even a RINO is better than ca full bore commie Democrat type) was going to beat her like an old rug a better choice.

              1. Somehow my wife gets a constant stream of emails from Trump and related PACs, but I get none. She hates Trump utterly and irrationally and generally votes D, but maybe they’re casting a wide net to people who are known to be the donating type, which I ain’t. (I do have yearly “memberships” in the SAF and FPC, but that’s as close as I get.)

            1. Does it wobble to and fro?

              Can you tie it in a knot? Can you tie it in a bow?

              Can you throw it over your shoulder like a Continental Soldier?

              Does your Chad hang low?


        2. Tucker Carlson said they’re still wrangling over the vote count and questionable ballots, so, apparently the corpulent birthing-person has yet to vocalize.

          As we all know, it ain’t over till then.

  2. I was going to say “but music makes language fun!” then I remember the joke about the hymn “I don’t know what I’m singing but it sounds pretty in slavonic”…

        1. Oh, you can learn to speak and understand a language, after a fashion, through immersion; that’s how babies learn it and how I (sort of) learned French in 3 months in Marseilles at the age of 12, by spending all my time with my non-English-speaking cousins. What you can’t do threough that sort of immersion learning is become literate.

            1. No argument from me; I did say “after a fashion”. And it can be corrected, but only by constant correction by native speakers on a daily basis; takes a lot of patience on both sides (or cousins willing to slap you upside the head on second-time errors, of which I has plenty and made plenty 🙂 ).

    1. B*llshit. With bells on. Ask me how I know.
      Really immersion is IMPOSSIBLE in a classroom. What you teach is kids to parrot sentences without knowing what they’re saying.
      Okay, then. How about you put the people in the country? Yeah. This is how illegals have SOME of the best ESL around. No? OF COURSE NOT. What people learn, without rules is a patois of the foreign language.
      Now, if you spend two-three years giving people the basics then immerse then?
      THEN they learn the language perfectly.
      Sorry, Ian, I both learned and taught languages. The “Immersion” thing is bullshit by teachers who don’t want to work and want language learning to be painless. It’s also responsible for the fact Americans think fluently speaking a foreign language is impossible.

      1. And I have SMEs to draw from as well…..

        But more to the point of the post of Myths vs Reality; in the world you are describing no child learns to speak until they’ve been in school for a few years.

        1. No. Be serious. You do have a facility for picking up language by total immersion…. That stops at …. around three?
          After that you have one structure for language in place. You can learn the next language if structure similar to your own, or if you get (I think in the US army it’s parallel) instruction in rules and grammar part of the day.
          Seriously. I have tried this. You can’t teach a language by immersion without people having a handle on rules and grammar for that language. I saw exchange students who came over with not even a glimmer. At best, by the end of the year, they spoke pidgin.

          1. You may already know this, but in the Mormon missionary training system (at least last time I checked, years ago), they do intensive language instruction for 3 months, then drop people out into the mission location, sink or swim. But every missionary starts with a senior companion who’s been in the field for a year or more and is already fluent, so they get foundation/structure, complete immersion, AND someone who recently went through the same thing and can help. They say it works amazingly well.

            1. Yep. But intensive instruction first. Is needed for adults.
              The way I uh…. launch myself into languages is take a year of classroom, the traditional way: memorize basic vocabulary, study grammar.
              Then start reading in the language, allowing myself to translate words I don’t know when I hit them.
              I SHOULD POINT OUT I HAVE ZERO TALENT FOR LANGUAGES: So my method is for people like me. I learn languages with difficulty, and lose them astonishingly fast.
              Yes, there are people who can learn it well by immersion. From having watched both students and exchange students in the US, they are a minority.

              1. Yeah, pretty sure I couldn’t learn by immersion without any prep beforehand. And since people in general can’t, that’d be why the Mormon method does brief but intensive instruction first, THEN complete immersion. And living with a fellow nonnative speaker who’s fluent and can guide you has to be a huge help.

                I very much enjoyed learning ancient Greek — grokking the structure was difficult, and there was some tedium to the memorization, but on the whole the challenge was a hell of a lot of fun. For me, at least…but I’ve been told I’m not normal. Odd, you could say. 🙂

                Didn’t enjoy learning Spanish at all; “practical” considerations like actually speaking to people didn’t motivate me. I think I enjoyed Greek so much because it was reading-based, and I was super excited about reading things like the New Testament and Plato in the original language. (I even got paid to translate passages from Plato for a poli sci professor.) Plus Latin and Greek help you understand English vocabulary and spelling at a whole nother level.

                I don’t remember any of it by now, of course. It all went away pretty quickly.

        2. Yeah there are very rare people who retain the ability to pick up a language with no map their whole lives. My brother. You could drop him naked in the Amazon and he’d come out speaking the tribal language in two weeks.
          BUT that’s maybe 1% of the population.
          Basic rules and grammar work for everyone (over 10 or so.) And then immersion.

          1. I think I was able to do that, with somewhat of a map, until I was somewhere between 18 and 20. Now, even with a map, I seem to have to do it the hard way. I remember losing the capability.

              1. A lot of polyglots have developed a strategy to learn languages quickly, either consciously or unconsciously. But I don’t know how that works with agglutinative languages, etc., and they do ask questions and get themselves taught. They just don’t do it in school.

        3. you’re reminding me of the chick who tried to teach older son to ride a bicycle by putting him on it, on a slope full of pine needles and expecting him to just start doing it.
          “But that’s how I learned.” Well, uh. Yes. And like maybe 2 or 3% of people can learn that way.

      2. Gotta have the vocabulary first. You can learn structure in a classroom, but you can also learn it by listening to native speakers. My hearing is bad enough that inflected languages are absolutely horrible for me to hear and understand correctly.

        1. It also helps a lot in my experience to understand your own languages grammar and usage. When I learned Latin I had to go back to thinking about English like my 7th&8th grade English teacher with diagramming the sentence. without that conscious thought to start with mapping your mother tongue to another language is hard.

  3. There’s so much truth here. Students not caring, their families not caring, having bad teachers, being too abstract and not focusing on results of political and economic philosophies… all of these things can make an education a waste of 13 to 21 years in a classroom.

    I think Louis L’Amour has done more to educate people on philosophy, economics, and foundational principles of civilization than most academics in the last thirty years combined, simply because the man could write an engaging story that boiled philosophy down to a fifth-grade level and tied it to practical human applications.
    Having read “The Walking Drum” was a better preparation for dealing with Pashtun tribal leaders in Afghanistan than most of the training the Army ever gave me.

  4. Real immersion is going to that country and living there for awhile, and that works…I regained my spoken French quite rapidly, and more colloquially, when we spent a month there..

      1. Kids learn a 2d spoken language pretty rapidly without knowing those things…the written language would require them…

  5. Total non sequitur: I was in the office for the first time in about 31 months and was walking through one of the bays at lunch time and noticed somebody browsing Instapundit, skimming some of Sarah’s items from earlier.

  6. Hey, I’m working in my degree field! As an English major, no less.

    Thinking about whether it was necessary for me to have a degree, let alone two (bachelor/master), to work skillfully in my field…no. Not at all.

    That’s not to say it didn’t help. I got a lot of practice in putting words and meaning together. Still, there are many ways I could’ve done the same thing much less expensively (for free, or even for pay) and more efficiently. And as I think back on my education, the two most indispensable things I learned, which I still lean on to this day, I learned in 9th grade and 11th grade English. And could’ve learned much earlier.

    My 9th grade teacher was a young woman who was a real old-school stickler at heart. We diagrammed sentences, had spelling tests and spelling bees, spent a lot of time learning about logical (rhetorical) fallacies and how they’re used to manipulate people, and also did a poetry unit on both Coleridge’s and Iron Maiden’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

    My 11th grade English teacher was another old-school stickler (and also just old; she would literally kick kids in the shins, and lamented that hitting pupils with yardsticks was no longer allowed). She was appalled at our complete inability to organize thoughts on paper and abandoned loftier goals to mercilessly drill the five-paragraph essay into us. Write a five-paragraph essay. Thesis statement, topic sentences, supporting points, conclusion, all in proper order. For everything. All year long.

    Those two teachers gave me a foundation that served me well through grad school and beyond, and in far more than just reading and writing.

    1. My initial post BSEE degree matched what I studied, for about 3 months. When that recession hit, there would have been a surplus of semiconductor process engineers in our department, but they needed a product engineer, and I was the fish in the barrel. Stayed a product engineer (mostly), though test programming became my focus eventually.

      The MSEE was almost, but not completely useless, though my employer (Hewlett Packard) paid the bills after each quarter. I actually got the most use out of a few targeted extension classes; could never get a course in the C language during the MS period, but UC Berserkly offered an extension course that did the job. I’m not fond of trying to pick up computer languages via RTFM, though I’ve done so once or twice.

      My German is seriously out of date; had 3 years in high school, then spent three one-week stints in Deepest Bavaria 25 years later (not in the Anglophone-friendly tourist areas), and got by with a bit of point-n-pay and some charades. The clients had decent English, though we ran into some terminology snags that had to be unscrewed. (Our definitions of a “concept” vs a “proposal” were diametrically opposite from the client’s. That was a lot of fun until we understood each other. This was also in the era where computers had the EISA vs ISA motherboards. Took a moment’s thought to realize that the German pronunciation of “EISA” as a word was the same as the American “ISA”, and vice versa. Whee.)

      1. I’m not fond of trying to pick up computer languages via RTFM, though I’ve done so once or twice.

        How the CS classes worked “Here is the ‘project’ being made this term to illustrate the concept. You will be using XYZ language tool …” brand new tool. Hated it. But I could deal because by then I’d had extensive learning for the old languages (Cobol, RPG, Fortran, Pascal, old Basic, etc.) through the programming AA degree.

        My preference to learning a new programming language, is to book learn and try, for a bit anyway. Then take a week long seminar. Invariably the seminar would bring up stuff under “you won’t find this in books or manuals …” that I would be stumbling over. Only work tool I didn’t get to do that with was Delphi. Delphi is a UI wrapper around Pascal (which I had, had). I had 6 others I could go to if I needed help, which in 12 years had nothing to do with Delphi itself, most the time involved the “rubber duck” type help.

    2. Diagramming works for SOME people. My husband swears by that method.
      I got nothing – zilch – out of a year in 9th grade English, diagramming sentences. Still cannot “get” the whole process.
      But, I have what my husband does not, an “ear” for English. I can “hear” when a sentence is awkward, and figure out a way to re-write it in Standard English. Just cannot explain why the first sentence was wrong.

      1. I’m in the both/and category here. Looking at how the gears meshed was pretty fun and surely did help, but I’ve also always been able to just make the written language do as I wished without really thinking about how it works. Forgot how to diagram sentences a looong time ago and don’t remember the names of the parts and pieces either, but I can make ’em sing anyway. 🙂

  7. I am ridiculously overeducated, because I like structured learning and the Vietnam era GI Bill paid for two unrelated masters degrees. Neither is more than a tangential, occasional help in any of the jobs had/have. Salesman. The padded resume got me in doors, the rest is performance. I don’t often mention them, even, because what’s the point?

  8. I have a son and a daughter who are both linguists. Son is a retired language analyst for the military and was certified in Mandarin, Somali, Burmese and East African French at one time.

    Daughter worked as translator for Turkish, Japanese To ‘ Ohno (sp) and Spanish languages. She’s a botanist now so she’s working on her Latin and Greek.

    They have studied other languages as well as their target languages.
    They both said that learning a second language was a lot of work, the third was easier and after that it was even easier because by then you “knew how languages work what you needed to learn to learn another language.” But both of them said that if you wanted to be fluent you absolutely needed to study grammar first and learn the rules, which is easy for most languages other than English because English doesn’t follow it’s own rules very well. Then you need to learn vocabulary at least up to the 8th grade level. Which varies greatly among languages because they don’t all have as many words.

    Then there’s writing systems. Japanese has 3, for instance. Somali didn’t have a written language until the 70s so it is fairly simple.

    Learning a language is like math. Some people are instinctively going to “get” it. But to actually learn math you have to study it.

    1. English does follow its rules — it’s just that English has picked up a lot of rules over the centuries and sometimes they conflict. Sometimes violently.
      English doesn’t borrow words from other languages; it follows other languages into dark alleys and mugs them, takes their words and then goes through their pockets for loose grammar.

      1. Then there is the stuff that English teachers make up over the years like “Never end a sentence with a preposition”. No real reason for that at all. They just do that to give red marks on papers.

        My story and I am sticking to it.

          1. Nah, it was invented during the Enlightenment. Same folks as splitting an infinitive. Monks were not so enamored of Latin as to think English should imitate it.

          1. Ending, or even beginning, a sentence with a proposition can put you in serious trouble. Unless you’re already into price negotiation, of course… 🙂

        1. Yeah people overdefining the grammar. A preposition is something you should never end a sentence with. Similar with split infinitives (to boldly go…).

      1. I also think people confuse having an ear for pronunciation with actual fluency.

        Some people can parrot the sound of a language very well but have abysmal vocabulary and grammar skills while others can converse at a graduate level but retain a thick accent all their lives.

        1. That has to do with when you learned it. There is a chance if I’d stayed here at 18 I’d have lost my accent. At 22 it was too late. That line is invisible, and individual.

      2. I wish I had a gift for languages, but I really don’t. I sometimes think I have the opposite.

        I spent five years failing to learn Spanish in junior high and high school. In college, for a bit of a lark, I decided to take a small Welsh class. I was in the medieval history club on campus and half a dozen of us were all in the same class. We badgered the teacher to give us the verbs for pillage and raid and things like that. To my immense frustration, when I tried to converse in Welsh with my fellow clubbies, what came out of my mouth? The spanish that had failed to come out for five long, frustrating years.

        I still retain enough spanish to ask people if they need help, that sort of thing. But my accent is good enough that even after my otherwise halting question I get a torrent of rapid-fire relief and (to me) unintelligible explanation of the problem. Then I have to back up and ask them to go slow and simple, or lead them gently to the nearest fluent person. I’ve reached the point where I tell people that I only know ‘church spanish’.

    2. I once did English to English simultaneous translation between a guy from Brooklyn and a guy from Glasgow. Bizarre day that was.

        1. Eh. I’ve done this type of thing. THough I’m usually ATROCIOUS with accents. Which yes, is very funny.
          I tried to record myself to type later.
          I don’t understand my own accent. (Sad geek noises.)

          1. I’ve always confused the Portuguese accent, especially Brazilian, with Slavic. I suppose it’s the nyah and honk.

            1. uh. Brazilian doesn’t sound incredibly slavic. Brazilian is Portuguese spoken with an Italian accent.
              Portuguese from the continent particularly from North sounds Russian to most people.
              You see, we were raided by Vikings. SPECIFICALLY the RUS. We share with the Russians the “Varengian consonants” (not the vowels.)

        2. Most of the time I have a fairly bland but still recognizable New York accent. When I’m talking with people from the neighborhood, I sound like a baritone bugs bunny. My kids get the greatest kick out of it.

  9. “if you’re learning a language, there’s no way to make it fun. To be fluent, you need to start by memorizing vocabulary and studying grammatical structures. Neither of those is fun. ”

    It’s not fun? Making all the little connections? (If Sunday is Pazar and Monday is Pazartesi and Friday is Juma what do we think Saturday might be? Oh, and turns out Pazar is a Persian loanword; in fact, all the Turkish days of the week are Persian except for the ones that are Arabic)

    Admiring the variety of structures? (I can deal with SOV instead of SVO, but my brain went Tilt! on discovering that Turkish puts the indefinite article between an adjective and a noun. That is peculiar a language.

    My husband gets to hear little insights like these all the time and…. oh. Oh, I get it now. It’s not fun for him.

    But I’m having a blast!

    1. Honey, it’s lots of fun that way. But the teachers try to make it fun by having the kids learn french songs with no translation, or cut out pictures from French magazines. Then are SHOCKED the kids don’t know French.
      I find comparing languages fun, and will laugh for hours at a mental twist a construction induces. BUT …. well…. it’s possible — just barely mind — we’re not average high school students?

      1. Good lord. I had no idea elementary language instruction was so bad, but I’ll take your word for it. I guess I got lucky; the only languages I studied from scratch in public school were German and Latin, and both the teachers were old-school ladies who had no particular desire to make the process “fun.”

          1. Number two son is doing Greek now, he could have gone through the front door like his brother and sister and had competent instruction, but nooooo,

            My daughter loves Latin but didn’t like Greek, number two son hated Latin but really likes Greek, go figure.

            Number one son positively delights in languages. He did Japanese to read manga and is doing Spanish now. I think he’s up to seven not including the paper he wrote in elvish when he was an undergrad. Did I mention he’s on the spectrum?

            I did Latin and French in school, with a bit of a German later. I then spent the best part of my career working in and around Asia. Sigh.

      2. My daughter, the Latin teacher, runs into this from time to time. There’s a popular Latin program that essentially skips all the grammar. Works fine until it doesn’t, usually too late to do anything about it.

        1. Yes. My German has always been a patched up job. BECAUSE THE IDIOT FIRST TEACHER HAD US MEMORIZE responses No translation. No Grammar. By the time I realized I was just parroting things (one year in) I was playing catchup. I eventually became fluent, but lost it really quickly, because I had the glued on grammar atop the parroting.
          THIS is why I get so vehement.

          1. Some professional associates think I speak a bunch of languages because I can

            A) greet or ack in a bunch of languages with memorized phrases and when to use

            B) mimic accents quickly

            C) swear convincingly, often mixing two or more languages in one go.

            It’s “parrot”, not speaking, but apparently I am “African Grey” or better on the spectrum.

            The Red Macaw at a local pet shop decades ago thought I was fun as we mimicked back and forth, she in English and me in bird. “Graaaawkh!! Tchct!”

        2. It might work to teach Latin that way if you were coming from another case language like German. But English? What the heck?

          But based on the abysmal teaching of English these days one should not be surprised that we aren’t teaching other languages any better.

          1. Both Cambridge Latin and Lingua Latina work on that basis. It’s see and say for Latin and works even less well than it does for English. My daughter used Kennedy’s Latin Primer in school though I’m trying to get her to move to Foster’s Ossa Latinitatis, which I like a lot better.

      3. the teachers try to make it fun by having the kids learn french songs…

        Do (actual, authentic) drinking songs count?

        Chevaliers de la Table Ronde,
        Gutons voir, si le vin est bon…

        [“Knights of the Round Table, let’s see if the wine’s any good” — except stuff like this is flatly impossible to translate adequately, you have to hear / read the original. And yes, I could still sing the whole song today, it’s that good an “aide-memoire.”]

        But of course, this was in Junior High/High School, ca. The Reagan Years or a bit before; so there was plenty of grammar, pronunciation rules, etc. In fact, I learned the names of all the English verb tenses, in English, purely in French class… “English class” was that far gone into its version of New-Math-ism even in those days.

        Many moons earlier, pre “The Eagle has landed” back when kindergarden was an optional extra, they taught us something called “phonics” — as in, analyzed intel on the otherwise unorganized mess of phonemes you’re about to be assaulted with. Maybe I was young enough then to figure it out, anyway, but… “your homework is to re-invent the wheel, no cheating, now!” springs to mind.

        Which is what makes so-called “whole language reading instruction” such a faddish atrocity… figure out English (!) phonetics, without the cheat sheet. (Such people ought to be forced to figure out, say, how to pronounce Scottish or Irish without the “broad vs. narrow vowels” hint, or any of the rest. On pain of getting dunked in a tank of icewater whenever they get it wrong.)

      4. “…the teachers try to make it fun by having the kids learn french songs with no translation, or cut out pictures from French magazines. Then are SHOCKED the kids don’t know French.”


        A few years ago my oldest kids were in a Junior High Spanish class. I suspect that the old Regent’s Scholarship made it so that the first two years of foreign language classes were wasted in the public schools, because it required two years of foreign language. The ignorant masses, therefore, flung their kids into two years of language, and had there been any academic rigor, cries of “How DARE you flunk my kid?!” were flung at the teachers en masse.

        The first two years of Spanish, therefore, consisted of language training slightly above the level of a Teletubbies marathon.

        Outraged, I spent the next year dragging my kids out of bed at five o’clock every morning for an hour of scripture study in Spanish, to include grammar and vocabulary. You haven’t suffered through language study until you’ve studied Isaiah in a foreign language in the early morning at 14, apparently. My older kids are still emotionally scarred LOL.

        The result?

        My oldest passed the test for AP Spanish and did two more years of concurrent enrollment; she received an endorsement for Spanish on her High School diploma and is Minoring in Spanish along with her degree for Mechanical Engineering. The second oldest is on track to get the same endorsement on her diploma as well and is planning on Minoring in Spanish in college. All the rest of our kids will be learning Spanish throughout school as well, as much as I can arranged to be crammed between their ears.

        If you’re older than about ten, I can attest through my own experience and through guiding my kids, grammar and vocabulary should come before immersion (or at least simultaneous to it).

  10. I took Japanese in college – it was the 1980s, Japan was going to rule the world, if you recall. I despaired when one of the textbooks was The 1850 Most Essential Chinese Characters. I’m not sure what it says about me that I still have it.

    I have co-workers in Eastern Europe. There were a bunch of them who thought they were so much smarter because they spoke their language and English. I studied their language for a year, flew over there, managed OK at a tourist level (I’m quite proud of the fact that I disputed a meal check), then came back and promptly forgot it all because I have no desire to speak it. I had made my point.

    I loathe languages. They can’t go extinct fast enough. Humans are fractious enough without language barriers between them. I’ll happily learn whatever is left standing.

    1. As long as it’s not Esperanto. I’d sooner live in a world that only spoke Klingon, or Elvish.

  11. I had Spanish, both general and Castilian, 4th grade through senor in HS. With a reading literature class in college. (Pass/no-pass, needed a filler class during when enrolled in the “big” senor project degree class. I passed without much effort even though it’d been 4 years since HS Spanish; our HS instructor was very Good … I know I went to that college class, always left few minutes early because timing, but given the intensity of the “big” class, don’t remember the class well. If that makes sense.) Never was very good speaking it. Could read it years later. Cannot now, not a chance.

  12. Had an excellent high school French teacher. Back when the glaciers were just receding, got 730-something on the French subject exam. That seems to have been mostly grammar and vocabulary, so I had that preparation when I was 17.

    Didn’t work on French for a couple years, thought I’d take a filler in college, found I had lost nearly all my vocabulary; could not participate in class, had to drop it. Kind of a combination of frustration and embarrassment.

    Went to France this summer (2022). In preparation, I enjoyed the DuoLingo online French class for most of a year. Built the vocab back up, but found the nice French people would hear my accent, and prefer to use whatever English they might have! Evidently I have no future as a mimic.

    1. My wife took five years of French in school, and I’ve been gradually picking up French at work for the past few years.

      Apparently, according to her, my impression of what it would sound like if Larry the Cable Guy were to start learning French is NOT FUNNY. NOT FUNNY AT ALL. Last night, reading between the lines, I think I was being threatened that if I continued to make her ears bleed with that gag, she’d make MY ears bleed with her fingernails.

      Good thing I’m a light sleeper, I guess. LOL

  13. I took one semester of Japanese as an undergrad, but the class was designed to fail. Not just fail the students, but fail as a class.
    The “teacher” was an engineer, working for Toyota, who was almost illiterate in Japanese, (I saw him using a Kanji calculator to write a letter to his parents), whose first non-Japanese language was Brazilian Portuguese, who learned English from a native speaker of Portuguese, who also spoke English with a Southern /Kentucky accent, and who couldn’t teach a starving wolf to eat meat.
    Then for two weeks we had the substitute teacher, (female) who insisted that he was doing it all wrong, because he was not teaching the female-specific words and sentence structures for all uses.

  14. I had five years of Latin in junior high – high school. I could read Latin prose and poetry fluently out loud. I could even translate it given enough time and a Latin-English dictionary. I passed the class all five years because it was taught as a written language.

    I took two years of German in college. Had no problems at all with the grammar, sentence construction, etc. Even learning the vocabulary was doable. But it was taught as a spoken language, and I simply could not “hear” it. The listen-and-translate exercises were almost impossible for me to do. I could speak it. But holding any conversation beyond “Good morning, how are you?” was just beyond my capability.

    Does anyone else here have that difficulty with a foreign language? Or with understanding call-center accents? I often have to ask the person to please speak very slowly because otherwise I cannot understand them. The good ones make an effort. And at least one company I have dealt with has two questions on their after-call survey. 1) Rate how well the person solved your issue. 2) Rate how well you could understand the person.

    The interesting thing is that I have no problems hearing music and repeating it back. 😉

    1. Does anyone else here have that difficulty with a foreign language? Or with understanding call-center accents?

      Guilty. I am horrible with call center accents. I utilized online real time Chat if I can’t go in for help. Even gotten a chuckle a couple of times I’ve gone to a Kiosk location of the company even when I know they are going to have to call support. I’ve done phone support (not call center support), I know how hard it is to do when you know the product from the inside. My comment when I talk to the person at the store/kiosk when they say “I need to call support …” (implying I could call) is “Figured. I don’t want to. That is why I’m here”, smile, and “sorry for whining”. Cue chuckle.

      Sigh. I do not have the same musical ability.

      1. I’m terrible at hearing the first few words of someone speaking a different language — I can’t “make it out” until I figure out mentally what I’m listening for.

        Even if I know the language, it seems to use up a lot of processing speed to understand what I hear. Not always — some phrases really stick, if I’ve heard them a lot on TV shows — but most of the time.

        I’m pretty good at understanding various English accents, though, as long as I’m sure it’s English. We get a wide variety of accents at work, and of course when I worked at the call center.

        I am totally terrible at speaking foreign languages and having conversations. I can pronounce things correctly, and my accent is okay, but my mind just blanks. I do a better job if I’m half asleep or feverish or drinking, so… yeah, it’s a psychological thing.

        But I am good at singing songs in foreign languages, and often at learning them by ear. Go figure.

        1. > “I do a better job if I’m half asleep or feverish or drinking, so… yeah, it’s a psychological thing.”

          That sounds like the sort of thing that could start a fight. “Sorry pal, I’m just not drunk enough yet for you to make sense.” 😛

    2. Yes, to some degree. Auditory language processing is not that strong; I speak very slowly and have trouble deciphering strong accents. When I worked in a call center long ago, talking to people from the Deep South gave me fits. Learning Ancient Greek was MUCH easier and more enjoyable than Spanish because it was all reading and translation. And also I do have a good ear for music…good enough to let me hang with people who are much better musicians than I am, anyway.

      I wonder how many of us there really are. It seems to be a common trait in my extended family, but I’m very much a minority in the marketing communications field, that’s for sure.

  15. French is required across Canada from public school to at least Grade 9 high school. Has been since this old man was in Grade 7. From the late 1960s onward.

    French makes up half the space on all packaging. English is forbidden from public signage by law in Quebec.

    Nobody outside Quebec (or Federal government service) speaks French. Everybody in Montreal pretty much speaks English these days. You do hear French in passing, but you don’t need to speak it to get by except waaaay out in Farmer Jacques country.

    That’s the total value of French language education in Canada. A whole nation shrugged and refused to participate.

  16. I find I must comment further.

    “The first and most basic myth, and one of which, once upon a time, I was an ardent proponent, is that education is transformative. This goes along with the myth that man is infinitely perfectible.”

    Ah yes, the Tabula Rasa, my favorite Lefty thing and the most easily disproved. Their blind faith in this is what got E.O. Wilson in so much trouble in the 1970s. He proposed to study the basic, biological underpinnings of social behavior in animals and insects, and the Left lost their collective minds. Wilson’s was the first major “cancellation” I recall in the Ivory Tower.

    Don’t ever suggest Humans have a Human Nature to a Lefty, they’ll go whackadoodle. (Well, unless you -want- to see them scream, cry and lose their Schlitz. Then it’s okay. >:D )

    Speaking on the notion that education is transformative, I have noted that it isn’t.

    You can educate a Leftist all day long on the facts regarding firearms. You can show them 100 debunked anti-gun studies that PROVE gun control is a lie. You can show them the gun, teach them to shoot it, to clean it, how to store it, demonstrate that there is no Miasma Of Evil emanating from the gun or the ammunition. You can show them crime maps of exactly who is shooting who and where and when, in the USA and Canada. (Notice you never see those maps in the media?) You can show them the history of firearms, who made them and why. You can lead them by the hand through the history, philosophy and practicalities of personal self defense, starting with the empty hand and progressing to armed combat.

    None of that will touch them. Their false beliefs will not be moved. You will not even scratch the paint. (But let them be mugged, and suddenly they will be the fiercest pro-gun hawks you ever saw. Remember 2020/21? So many Lefties freaking out about plague and frustrated they couldn’t buy guns in Cali and NYC because of all those gun control laws they voted for.)

    We will be treated to a whole bunch of this in January when Larry Correia’s gun book comes out. We will all be able to witness the failure of education, logic and Reason to move the human spirit in real time, as the Lefties recite their false catechism in unison to drown out Reality.

    I’ve never understood this type of behavior, personally. For me, if I learn a new thing I adjust my worldview to accommodate it. I don’t -like- doing that, but if the facts are against me, perforce I must change my views.

    Some people, I’ve come to understand, will insist that Reality and everyone in it change to accommodate them. They seem to make it work somehow, but I must say I don’t have much respect for them. It isn’t enough that they lie to themselves, they demand that I lie as well.

    1. You can also blow their minds by educating yourself into an opinion they don’t hold.

      One guy became incoherent when I told him that contrary to his assertion, I liked Arab culture less the more I learned and understood about it. I’m glad that the more liberal aspects of their culture preserved and advanced knowledge in the Middle Ages. I also know why the Crusades were necessary. And I’ve also read enough of the Koran to know that a culture steeped in it is inimical to my own.

      I used to be reflexively pro gun-control. Then I educated myself and bought a.22 rifle. In fact, that’s what started the dominos falling. Lie after lie after leftist lie, down they all go…

      1. Once upon a time when I was younger, and Canada had a three digit national annual murder rate (yes, we really did) I thought that a little gun control might no be a bad thing. Keeping loonies and career criminals from buying guns, it seemed reasonable. The government wouldn’t do anything shifty in Canada, right? We had great faith in the goodness of government officials once upon a time.

        But then I found out (30 years ago!) that yes, the government of Canada IS shifty, and getting worse with every passing day. You can’t witness the contortions of the Liberals (and the Conservatives!) of the early 1990’s without smelling rot. They just lied, plain and simple.

        Fast forward to now, and the corruption fairly drips off them. Even Lefties can’t get behind the Liberals now, what they’re doing makes no sense at all. Unless you assume they are A) stealing the money and B) punishing those citizens who don’t vote Liberal. Then it all makes perfect sense.

  17. Education is transformative …

    1) If you have a good teacher and an eager learner, or a manipulative teacher and a gullible learner. I mean, it’s undeniable that grooming is transformative. Evil and creepy and wrong, but it does work on a lot of kids.

    2) If the teacher gives fairly strong incentives for learning, and makes virtuous transformation seem attractive. (And again, there’s an evil version of that, which also works.)

    But it definitely takes two to tango.

    And somebody who’s good at X subject can still be horrible at Y virtue and Z practical skill.

    1. I forgot to say that St. Gregory Thaumaturgus’s valedictory/farewell speech to his teacher Origen talks a lot about how Origen taught him and his brother, and why the experience totally changed them.

      The original plan was that they were going to Berytus (Beirut) law school to become rich Roman lawyers, but they needed to get up to speed on Latin (the law language — they were Greek speakers) and general university subjects. And they had money, and Origen seemed like a cool guy despite being Christian, so they hired Origen to tutor them while they were living in Berytus. (Origen had moved away from Alexandria to Berytus by then.)

      So he started by teaching them Latin and natural philosophy, astronomy, and mathematics (the non-divinatory kind), and ended up connecting the STEM subjects to the philosophy of God.

      And partly because they saw Origen as a virtuous guy to look up to, they ended up converting to Christianity, and then he taught them Scriptures and theology, and they ended up becoming priests and bishops.

      Basically, the Greek idea was that you really should admire your teacher, especially a teacher of philosophy, and want to become like him. (Which again could go toward good or evil.)

  18. Sugata Mitra [hole in the wall project in India] proved that children mostly teach themselves and each other. There is not nearly as much requirement for ‘teaching’ as our leaders would have us believe. I’ll also note that as the not-so-proud owner of two useless degrees that what I do now for income has nearly nothing to do with what I learned in either twelve years of enforced schooling, four years of a BA, or two of an MS. Now I’m a message therapist, landlord, handy person [which I mostly learned via Youtube and screwing things up] [And i only use those skills on my own property] and most recently, writer of fiction.

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