Bring It Back The Other Way

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The teacher stands in front of the class, but the lesson plan he can’t recall;
The students’ eyes don’t perceive the lies bouncing off every fucking wall.
His composure is well-kept, I guess he fears playing the fool;
The complacent students sit, and listen to that bullshit that he learned in school.

– Rage Against the Machine, “Take the Power Back”

Today in the Inquirer, Antonio Calipjo Go writes an article about the 500 or so errors that there are in a recently-released public school English textbook, entitled “English For You and Me.”  The book is authored by Elodie A. Cada, published by Book Wise Publishing House Inc., and is printed by a publishing company in Thailand.  Some of the errors Go points out are listed here; my reactions in italics:

  • To Heal Earth Yourself, Start with Your Cat.  (Meow.)
  • Delicately: done with fragility.  (When’s the Fall Out Boy concert again?)
  • The Badjaos are mostly found along the Coast of Jolo, Subuti, Sitangkal, Tawi-Tawi islands in Mindanao.  They are regarded as cultured because they are hardworking and peace-loving.  (So everything I was taught about what constitutes “culture” can be boiled down to slambook dedications?)
  • The students busied themselves drinking thirstily.  (I will now proceed to “thirstily” drink water.)
  • The people observed keenly the pulsating chest of the animal hiding in the bushes.  (Is this supposed to be educational or erotic?)
  • At my age, swooning to Martin Nievera is far from my age level.  (Now that’s showbiz.)
  • Yet life will continue to pour the best.  There are people who stare.   (So… what am I looking at again?)
  • The authorities were intimately bonded with the constituents because of the humanitarian project.  (I bet you a politician wrote this.)
  • A stain-smooth piece of driftwood.  (I never heard of anything “stain-smooth” before.  Maybe they’re teaching koan.)
  • The janitress tried to clean the spume of the water underneath the tree.  (OK kids: the word for today is “spume.”)
  • “He’s not here!” Miss Racelis told at them.  She told them to go out the room.  (Methinks it’s menopause: “telling at” people, no good reason to do anything… see what I mean?)
  • Media people are afraid that information may be churned by the leftists.  (Whoa, whoa, whoa!)
  • “Abracadabra, sssh!  Boom!  Make some magic for me!  Abracadabra, sssh! Boom!”  Bobby shouted.  He ran to his uncle.  “Looked here, Uncle,” he said.  His uncle looked like an invisible man.  (Is that a Zen tale, or the script for the newest 98 Degrees music video?)
  • Mr. Reyes carried his suitcase together with his son who was holding onto his neck tightly.  (Damn, that has got to hurt.)

Here’s the best part: Instructional Materials Council Secretariat Director Soccoro Pilor says that the book Go criticized indeed passed the review process “with flying colors.”  “English For You and Me” passed the following criteria for evaluation:

  • Learning competencies
  • Content evaluation for errors
  • Organization and propriety of material
  • Proper grammar, and should be easily understood by readers.

In keeping with blogging without obligation, I write this in no uncertain terms: to miseducate our children is to compromise their future.

Miseducation is the betrayal of the next generation.

We put a very high premium on education; too high, in fact, for less-than-conducive forms of learning that are available to most of us.  Education is the great equalizer that opens up opportunities for employment, financial security, and the gift of knowledge that is treasured for a lifetime.

Yet for all the emancipation that there seems to be – and there is – in education, we have classrooms under mango trees, teachers saving every bit of chalk, students entering classrooms in tattered and frayed uniforms.  That could all be excused and blamed on a lack of funding, that the teachers don’t have laptops, and that the one-room schoolhouse on the jungle-covered hills does not have an Internet connection.

We sometimes whine about kids not reading enough books, but if schoolbooks take the character of Go’s list of errors, we should be enraged about children reading crap like that.  We should be enraged about the fact that many of us write, speak, and think in the very same way, especially those of us who were taught in public schools.

It’s not just about English; we could surmise that the same butchering of knowledge takes place in fields like mathematics, civics, Filipino, and even values education.  It’s not the fault of our children why they turn out to be one way or another when they grow up: our children are nothing more than what we teach them, the knowledge and values we inculcate in them.  Even if it’s something “so simple, so irrelevant, so imperialistic,” as grammar and spelling.

The least we could do is to have factual, accurate books that teach our children the proper skills needed for them to stand a chance in freeing themselves from the chains of poverty and ignorance.  The future of the Philippine educational system does not lie in making all public schools wi-fi ready, or replacing all chalkboards with whiteboards.  Without books, students will not learn the skills necessary to survive and to succeed.

Take that book, and bring it back the other way.

4 comments on “Bring It Back The Other Way”

  1. Pingback: The Marocharim Experiment » Bad English

  2. Pingback: Bad English | Filipino Voices

    • Sal Bahe
    • February 27, 2009
    Reply

    Hello Marck

    Your point is well taken. But Go’s sarcastic approach is uncalled for.
    He could be right of course, and there’s nothing more invigorating as the truth.
    But he might have misunderstood the purpose of the book, specifically its instructional purpose.

    English speaking individuals would find this book grammatically incorrect and comical. However, Filipino speaking individuals learning the English language would take comfort in this book’s approach as it teaches them how to correct the sentences to its proper form.

    I dislike the fact that my beloved grade four teacher was publicly humiliated by Go’s lack of comprehension.

    Perhaps the editor is at fault for not highlighting the fact that this book would contain errors for instructional purpose.

    Noli Fermin
    Legarda Elementary School

  3. Reply

    David Crystal would rather let English develop and evolve as it will!

    July 4, 2009

    Dear Marocharim,

    If renowned British linguist David Crystal had his way, he would rather banish the English grammar prescriptivists from the face of the earth and just let the English language develop and evolve as it will. This, of course, puts him in a direct collision course with Lynne Truss of Eats, Shoots & Leaves fame, who has declared that anyone putting an apostrophe in a possessive “its”—as in “it’s” in “the dog chewed it’s bone”—should be struck by lightning and chopped to bits. Who do you think has the upper hand in this clash of viewpoints about English?

    Find out for yourself from the thought-provoking, highly instructive features package of Jose Carillo’s English Forum for this week—articles and links to stories that you’d surely enjoy reading before or after doing your English shoptalk with fellow Forum members.

    THIS WEEK IN THE FORUM (July 4-10, 2009):
    • Advice and Dissent: A Descriptivist’s Grand Tour of How Languages Work (This linguist wants English to develop and evolve as it will)
    • My Media English Watch: Grammar Blunders on Web News and a Major Local TV Network (Redundancies, wrong prepositions, and a faulty double negative)
    • Essays by Jose Carillo: Giving a Touch of Authority to Our Prose (Just a little primer to give greater credibility to ourselves)
    • Going Deeper into English: Make Yourself a More Effective, Truly Delightful Public Speaker! (Deliver speeches that will hold your audiences spellbound)
    • News and Commentary: One Third of Teens Use Cellphones to Cheat in School, US Survey Finds (Versatile technology becomes an insidious tool for dishonesty)
    • Getting to Know English: Lesson #10 – Getting to Know the Prepositional Idioms (Some prepositions give verbs quite a number of nonliteral twists!)
    • Time Out from English Grammar: On Evolving Gods, Prehumans as Food, and Grammar’s Impact on Thought (Yale psychologist finds that God evolves in sync with humankind’s social growth)

    See you at the Forum!

    With my best wishes,

    Joe Carillo

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