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Results for "May, 2007"

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  • Spelling counts at the Spelling Bee, but in the age of the Internet, should it count anywhere else?

    Take a chess tournament, with its clash of intellect. Add to it a dash of Little League, pitting America's youth against screaming parents and scowling coaches. Mix in the luck of the lottery. Top it all off with the commercial hype of Bowling for Dollars, and what you have is the grueling American contest called the Spelling Bee.

  • Bee Season: The annual spelling bee brings out protesters as well as nerds

    This week protesters from the American Literacy Society and London's Simplified Spelling Society picketed outside Washington D. C.'s Grand Hyatt Hotel, while inside, 286 students in grades 5 through 8 competed in the 80th annual Scripps Spelling Bee.

  • Army tells gay translators, don't tell, or don't translate

    According to the Houston Chronicle, the U.S. army has kicked out as many as 58 Arabic translators recently because they were gay.  40 members of the House of Representatives want to know why, when the army is so short on troops that it’s issuing what it calls “moral waivers” that allow convicted felons, drug users, and those who fail to meet the army’s educational standards all to join up, it can afford to dismiss soldiers with language skills that are actually critical for pursuing the war on terror.

    In a separate story, Rep. Barney Frank (D, MA) cited a report that in the past decade the army released 322 soldiers with critical foreign language skills because of its "don't ask, don't tell" policy.  And as long ago as 2002, CBS News reported that that army dismissed 9 gay translators, six of whom were specializing in Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, the military's prestigious language training center.

  • CSI: Quebec -- Provincial tongue troopers on the trail of illegal English

    This summer is the 30th anniversary of the law that makes French the official language of the Province of Québec.  Passed in 1977 on a groundswell of French-separatist voting, the Charter of the French Language gives all Quebecers the right to speak and be spoken to in French at work, in school, in restaurants and shops, and just about everywhere else.  The province’s francophones point to the increased visibility of French on the streets of Canada as evidence of the law’s success, while critics of Bill 101 counter that only 17.65% of all Canadians can sing the national anthem in both official languages and call for decriminalizing English.

    Although both English and French share official status in Canada as a whole, and over the years the Supreme Court of Canada has restored some English-language rights inside Québec, recently Christine St-Pierre, the Québec government minister responsible for the Charter of the French language, affirmed that the Office of the French Language would continue its “zero tolerance” policy toward English. 

  • Don't show and tell: Army puts PR videos on YouTube while blocking the site on its own computers

    So far the Army has uploaded 25 good-news clips showing American soldiers firing at snipers off camera, handing Iraqi children soccer balls, and rescuing Iraqis injured by the carbomb of the day.

  • Language goes to war: Pentagon launches Language Corps

    The Pentagon has announced the formation of a Language Corps, an all-volunteer linguistic national guard charged with defending America “during times of war [and] national emergency.”  The Corps will recruit at least 1,000 civilian linguists specializing in a set of as-yet-undetermined strategic languages so that the armed forces can “respond in emergencies, whether international or national.” 

    According to Pentagon spokesperson Robert Slater, while the army does have a number of bilingual soldiers, most of them either speak Spanish, because they’re among the few Latinos who haven’t forgotten their heritage language, or they know some French or even a smattering of Latin that they picked up in high school.  Those languages won’t be of much military use unless the President decides it’s time to retake Cuba, New Orleans, or the Vatican. 

  • From pencils to pixels, technologies won't fix our schools

    Schools that once saw laptop computers as the best thing to hit the classroom since the invention of paper are starting to view laptops as overpriced electronic pencils that can’t connect the educational dots.  According to the New York Times (“Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops,” May 4, 2007), one school dropped its one-laptop-per-student program after finding that, when they weren’t crashing, computers didn’t raise students’ scores but instead offered them new ways to cheat, download pornography, and hack into local business sites.  Other schools, finding little return on their computer investment, are logging off as well.

    Supporters of computers in education are responding to this story by blaming teachers for not understanding or correctly deploying the latest technology.  The computer brings the world to each student’s desktop as no library ever could, they explain.  All you need is the right method and the computer will do the rest.  As for the non-educational activities that laptops inspire, these apologists remind us that students cheated with chalk and pencils too, not to mention passing notes and drawing dirty pictures.  Like defenders of the right to bear arms, they insist that you can’t blame the technology if people misuse it.