Wednesday, August 23, 2006

History now more than ever? How about a speech class before it's too late!?

At the onset of my American History class yestarday, the professor threw out the single most over used question in the history of studying history: is studying history important?  Can it show us anything from that past that will help us shape the future?

We all know that answer is yes.  What I did not know, however, was just how much we have to learn from the past.

A student in the back shot his hand up before the professor had even closed his mouth following the question.  I knew from the way he started his response that it was going to be quite a point he had to make.  Allow me to paraphrase as accurately has possible:

Yea, yea.  Sure.  It's super important that we study history to learn the future from the past. Like, ok, I don't really want to make anybody mad, but, like, right now more than ever.  'Cuz Americans are so stupid.  'Specially the ones in our government leaders.  'Cuz, like, we all remember--well we don't remember 'cuz we weren't there, that during World War I we put all the Japanese in concentration camps and, like, if our stupid government would learn that, they might not put people in the concentration camps in Abu Gaharabi.  You know what I mean?  We have all this innocent people in Abu Gaharabi in Cuba, you know, just sitting there.  And that's wrong. 

The professor didn't bother to correct his mistakes.  He just sort of shook his head and said, "Well, thank you for that, uh, insight." 

It's just sad, really, the way most of my fellow college students think.  Aside from the obvious mistakes (like, um, for example, like, that the Japanese were in internment camps during World War II or that Abu Ghraib is a prison in Iraq, not a Cuban concentration camp--which we all know is not a concentration camp at all, but rather a club for bad boys and girls that we just aren't sure what to do with yet--or that these folks in Abu Ghraib or the seemingly accurately nick-named 'Club Gitmo' aren't innocents but rather folks seeking to destroy us), this guy just lacked basic grammar skills.  What happened to the days when people actually spoke English?  I mean REAL ENGLISH!  Folks like this are going to graduate from schools like Shepherd and go into the real world speaking in this jumbled tangle of words and try to make something of themselves. 

I think it was the way he articulated his comment, not the comment itself, that bothered me most.  Chock it up to me being a 92 year old man stuck in a 20 year old's body, but I just feel like by this point in our lives, we (people my age) should have a solid mastery of the English language. Even in a (possibly) stressful situation such as speaking in front of a large group, there has to be some standard by which we speak.  Or maybe we've passed the days of eloquent speeches and are instead in some period of grammatical devolution whereby we shall return to pointing and grunting (and, of course, sending text messages) for all our most important communication? 

Americans need history now more than ever?  How about an honest-to-goodness speech class before all hope for saving the English language is lost forever. Just a thought...

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