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I guess it would be asking too much...

...for our teachers to at least be proficient in English?

Apparently, in Lowell, Massachusetts, it is.

Several years ago, in a rare fit of sanity, Massachusetts passed a law requiring school teachers and administrators to pass a test proving that they had a level of fluency in English. Those who flunked the test were given several opportunities to retake it, and only after repeated failures were they dismissed. (This led to the hilarious result of the superintendant of the Lawrence School System -- teetering on the edge of failure and collapse -- to fail it twice before he passed with flying colors in a secret third test, announced only after the results were in.)

Well, in Lowell, 3 teachers were fired, and promptly sued. Their lawyers won, and the three have been reinstated with back pay, back insurance coverage, and any record of their dismissal purged from their records.

There is no word on how well they speak English now.

This is one of those times when I wish I was a judge. I'd simply ask each of the teachers to stand up in court, read aloud their own lawyer's briefs on their case, and then explain the crux of the arguments within. If they can do that, then they get reinstated.

And if they can't even spell out why they say they deserve their jobs back, in plain English, then I'd rule against them and fine them for wasting the court's time.


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Comments (21)

You don't gotta right that ... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

You don't gotta right that good to teach them youngsters, just give 'em book and play the video. Besides, nobody don't gotta know grammer in their jobs no more.

Can we make a similar test ... (Below threshold)
snurfle:

Can we make a similar test a requirement for:
Police Officers
911 operators
Tech Support phone rooms
Customer service centers
Rescue workers
Anyone who purchases a gun
Doctors
Nurses
Anyone else in a hospital or doctor's office
Health insurance operators
All professions requiring the use of a telephone

Immigration issues are comi... (Below threshold)
acassa:

Immigration issues are coming to a boiling point right now. Along those lines, I have a feeling that we are going to start seeing demands across a wide swath of the population to make English the official language of the U.S.
Then again, maybe not, since most people are unaware that this country has no official language.

Yes snurfle, you get my sup... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

Yes snurfle, you get my support.

Recently, I've been dealing with law enforcement and hospital/doctor office staff on a regular basis. None of the morons understand plain English.

acassa:California ... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

acassa:

California did it's part. From the California Constitution, Article III, Section 6:

(a) Purpose.

English is the common language of the people of the United States of America and the State of California. This section is intended to preserve, protect and strengthen the English language, and not to supersede any of the rights guaranteed to the people of this Constitution.

(b) English as the Official Language of California.

English is the official language of California.

(c) Enforcement.

The Legislature shall enforce this section by appropriate legislation. The Legislature and officials of the State of California shall take all steps necessary to insure that the role of English as the common language of the State of California is preserved and enhanced. The Legislature shall make no law which diminishes or ignores the role of English as the common language of the State of California.

(d) Personal Right of Action and Jurisdiction of Courts.

Any person who is a resident of or doing business in the State of California shall have standing to sue the State of California to enforce this action, and the Courts of record of the State of California shall have jurisdiction to hear cases brought to enforce this section. The Legislature may provide reasonable and appropriate limitations on the time and manner of suits brought under this section.

We may not have an official... (Below threshold)
Dave in W-S:

We may not have an official language, but by statute all immigrants are required to have an ability to read, write, and speak English.

Of course, that is not normally enforced. Which is why we have some citizens who can't communicate in our common language.

snurfle,If people ... (Below threshold)
Dave in W-S:

snurfle,

If people in so many different jobs are deficient in spoken communications, could that perhaps be traceable back to the teachers?

Heck no, don't fire them! D... (Below threshold)

Heck no, don't fire them! Deport 'em to a country where they can speak the native language...

*heh*

(Of course, "Zirconia"--homeland of Moonbat Podpeople--is on the planet Numbskull, so deportation would have to be through some sort of wormhole. Those who qualify would probably fall for that... "Wow! A trip through a wormhole! Where can I sign up?" Dennis Kucinich could lead the pack, followed by educrats, school administrators and about half the pubschool "prisons for kids" teacher population... and hopefully most of our congresscritters.)

how depressing. I think th... (Below threshold)

how depressing. I think they SHOULD lose their jobs!! We have to pass those kind of tests to become teachers in the beginning-why not exprect that we can STILL use our education years later?

Regarding JT's proficiency ... (Below threshold)
astigafa:

Regarding JT's proficiency in English:

"Several years ago, in a rare fit of sanity, Massachusetts passed a law requiring school teachers and administrators to pass a test proving that they had a level of fluency in English."

I find the personification of MA as a person having a "fit of sanity" to be particularly sophomoric and clunky. But wait, there's more!

"Those who flunked the test were given several opportunities to retake it, and only after repeated failures were they dismissed."

How many passive constructions can you use in one short blog? Will you be going for the record soon?

"(This led to the hilarious result of the superintendant of the Lawrence School System -- teetering on the edge of failure and collapse -- to fail it twice before he passed with flying colors in a secret third test, announced only after the results were in.)"

1. By "superintendant" do you mean "superintendent"?

2. Is the "superintendant" teetering on the brink here, or the Lawrence School System? Gosh, this is confusing.

3. Please graph this sentence for us, without the rabbit trail: "This led to the hilarious result of the superintendant of the Lawrence School System...to fail it twice before he passed..." Could you make this clumsier, somehow?

"Well, in Lowell, 3 teachers were fired, and promptly sued."

Really? They were fired and then sued? How awful.

"Their lawyers won..."

*sigh*

"...and the three have been reinstated with back pay"

Strange method of reinstatement. Use commas much?

"There is no word on how well they speak English now."

Yeah, well, waiting to hear from you.

"This is one of those times when I wish I was a judge."

You've already made reference to time; "when" is superlative. Lose it.

"I'd simply ask each of the teachers to stand up in court, read aloud their own lawyer's briefs on their case"

Would that not be "lawyers'", given the reference noted above?

I hate to keep repeating myself, but, God, is that clunky writing. "...their own lawyer's briefs on their case" -- you could write for the Department of Redundancy Department.

"and then explain the crux of the arguments within."

Egad.

"If they can do that, then they get reinstated."

Lack of parallel development. Or is this a transcript of a prison-yard conversation of some sort, Louie and Cheech discussin' the ballgame?

"And if they can't even spell out why they say they deserve their jobs back, in plain English, then I'd rule against them and fine them for wasting the court's time."

Ouch. "They can't even spell out why they say..." Are you really getting paid for this? Seriously, I would advise you to keep your day job. And don't drop anything into the Fryolator.

And I would stop passing judgements on anyone's use of English in any public forum -- anywhere, at any time, in perpetuity througout the universe.

"A Swell Time Is Guaranteed For All"

Hey "Astigafa":Tha... (Below threshold)
astigafa:

Hey "Astigafa":

That would be "throughout," you dolt. Still can't spell, can you? And that split personality thing -- OMG!!!!!!!

Skitt's law: "Spelling or g... (Below threshold)
JGrams:

Skitt's law: "Spelling or grammar flames always contain spelling or grammar errors." No one escapes this, of curse.

English is a language, blen... (Below threshold)
nitpicker:

English is a language, blending, lifestyle, culture, and universal ( the last one relates to commerce ). Communication is achieved by being able to interpret the message of someone else and be able to create your response in a format that others can conceive and respond to.

Spelling and penmanship often follows strict rules,for ease of use. Yet despite the many rules that exist for us to follow in our common languages, there still exists a gray area. The area of what does it sound like. Accents and "hearing how it sounds" can skew the perception of a word. My personal favorite is GHOTI myself. As such, the importance of communication isn't so much in the spelling and diction as in the words chosen and the message within. Often a misspelled word can be overlooked in CONTEXT.

As such, I read JT's work and ironicly didn't have any issue at it because of the intent of the message outweighed the medium.

And it wouldn't supprize me if the things pointed out in astigafa analysis were left to show how important it is to be exact, less others lose sight of what the purpose was, by belittling the messenger

Olson Johnson "Now who coul... (Below threshold)
wave_man:

Olson Johnson "Now who could argue with that?"
Gabby Johnson "Rahrvit!"

Wave_man is on to something... (Below threshold)

Wave_man is on to something.

Let's just make "Frontier Gibberish" the official language and be done with it.

What I find difficult about... (Below threshold)
plum:

What I find difficult about this is that Lowell (and Lawrence) are still -- believe it or not -- slightly majority English speaking cities. Do all the citizens send their kids to parochial schools? Or to one of the neighboring towns under school choice? I can't imagine sending my kid to a school where the teacher wasn't proficient in English.

You've already made referen... (Below threshold)
chris:

You've already made reference to time; "when" is superlative.


that would be superfluous, not superlative, would it not?

astigafa:You are a... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

astigafa:

You are absolutely right. Based solely on this single example of a first-draft essay I wrote in 15 minutes, I am not qualified to teach higher English in Massachusetts schools.

Good think I'm not interested in that position.

More to the point: judging by the discussion of those commenters not afflicted with cranio-colonic convergence (meaning everyone but you), the essay itself fully met the criteria of being clear, understandable English, and as such quite likely beyond the abilities of the teachers in that article to create.

Feel better now?

J.

God, I love you, JT. ... (Below threshold)
astigafa:

God, I love you, JT.

May your thickness ever serve as a beacon for the GOP and all those who think likewise.

I wouldn't be lurking here, BTW, if I didn't completely enjoy the show. It's like a front seat at a circus -- the clowns, astride their tiny intellects, shooting old Republicah jujubees into the audience with abandon, the mountebank politicos and their dippy dittohead pronunciamentos -- the left will never be this funny.

I speak fluent Gibberish, b... (Below threshold)
astigafa:

I speak fluent Gibberish, btw -- which is what brought me here. Bring it on.

sorry astigafa, your correc... (Below threshold)

sorry astigafa, your corrections are not merely pedantic, some of them are wrong. Personifying the population of a geographic area, for example, is centuries old in English. As a second example, note the use of commas has been diminishing over the last few decades. Some of us still use the older punctuation style, including the Princeton/Oxford comma, but it can no longer be insisted upon. I take you point that fault can be found with nearly any writer's expression, and people in glass houses...

To the main point: it is of course possible that the test is poorly-designed, and the teachers in question might be able to make themselves clearly understood. JT's informal test in front of a judge might be a more accurate measure. It would be intriguing to look at the test. Non-native speakers can certainly be clear (and memorable) even if their constructions are not Standard. I am reminded of an Italian teacher of algebra who would glower and state angrily "What I said?" when a student wasn't listening. Perfectly understandable, and damaging to no one's education.

But I suspect that JT's assumption is more likely to be true. Because teachers give tests, they should be able to adjust to minor shortcomings in design of the test in question. They should also be aware of Standard Written English if they teach any subject which requires it.

Had the principal in question given a lucid exposition on why the test does not measure what it purports to, I expect most of the citizens of Lowell would give him a pass.

I would also lay down money that the teachers who failed the test could nonetheless give you a clear definition of "work-to-rule," "tenure," and "step increase." It's all in what you find important.




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