Written By T. A. Blasi |
The teachers’ unions think we are not spending enough money on education. About 83¢ of every education dollar we spend goes to wages and fringe benefits. The defense industry thinks we are spending too much money on education and not enough on defense. The welfare industry thinks we are spending too much money on education and defense. Students think we are giving them too much homework. The television networks agree with the students.
Education in the United States has really been taking it on the chin for the past few years. Everyone is demanding to know what is wrong with our system. There are enough theories about the problem to keep doctoral candidates busy until nobody cares what the cause is. The other day someone said it’s because we eat too much processed food. I thought it was just another Communist plot until the Berlin Wall came down. Of course, I thought bad weather was a Communist plot also.
There are an equal number of theorists who say there are too many women in education as there are that say there are not enough women in education. There are people on both sides of the issue concerning the number of men in education all these contradictory ideas cause great uncertainty.
What we can be sure of is the government will provide a grant to researchers who will prove we are the problem. A government grant will also fund research that proves we are not the problem. No, that cannot be right. It could not be that we are and we are not. That’s like “to be” or “not to be.”
Why is it that our great educational institutions such as Harvard, Wheeling Jesuit University, Arkansas City Junior College, California College of Arts and Crafts and Yale have been unable to give us a definitive answer? Half of you are thinking it’s because they are not thinking outside the box. What box? What’s a box have to do with it? The people in the packing industry spend millions of dollars every year trying to get new things into a box. All they hear is “think outside the box”. The packing industry is going to sue everyone who suggests we “think outside the box”. There are juries, for example, along the I-75 corridor in Michigan, who would probably award millions in damages to the “box” industry. Where was I? Education, yes, yes, what’s wrong with education?
Maybe there is nothing wrong with education in the United States. Maybe we are, as a people, not smarter than all the other nations. Maybe we are just an average country that has been very lucky. Maybe our success in the arts and the sciences were really a simple function of our definition of success. No, no that offends our national psyche and the egos of most of my friends and neighbors.
Maybe our expectations are too high. No, that does not account for those people who have no expectations for their children but their children learn to read and write anyway. Nor, does it account for those who have high expectations for their children but their children do not learn to read and write.
There would be no need for this entire article if I did not have the answer to the question, “What’s wrong with education?”
Somewhere in my past, I can’t remember where or when, I was taught that a good way to prove your point is to prove that no other solution was possible. For those readers, who by now are convinced I have not proven anything, you may stop reading because now I am going to provide the answer to the question, since I have eliminated all other possible solutions. The answer to the question is, no, I’m not going to give you the answer here because then you won’t read the remainder of the article. Read on, you will soon find out what’s wrong with education and the simple way to cure the problem. We may be talking Noble here. Or is it Nobel?
Why do you think the letter “A” is the first letter in the English alphabet? Is it because Caesar once said his accommodations in Gaul were Class A? No. “A” was already the first letter at that time. Is it because of that song we sang when learning the alphabet? No. The song came after the alphabet order was established. Is it because the first sound newborns make is “aah”? No. Some newborns say “da” first. I know what babies say because we have four children and ten grandchildren. Maybe it’s because the first letter of the first man’s name began with “A”? Maybe. But there are Biblical scholars who believe there was no alphabet, just fruit, in the Garden of Eden.
Actually, the reason the letter A is first really does not matter. What matters is that it should not be first. What matters is the order of the letters of the alphabet must be changed. Under the current system, it takes too much time to learn the alphabet, time which could be spent learning chemistry or math. Why do you think other countries are so far ahead of us educationally? They do not take as much time as we do on the alphabet. The Greeks only have 24 letters to learn in their alphabet. Hebrew only has 23! The Arabic alphabet has groups of symbols which represent 2 or 3 letter combinations, which makes much more sense than the English method. The German alphabet has 32 letters, but in some cases there are two symbols for the same letter, the only difference in the symbols is the umlaut, you know, those two dots above a letter! The Russian language has 35 letters. Isn’t that just like Russia, they always want to have more than the rest of us. They probably waited to see how many letters everyone else had and then added an extra two or three letters to their alphabet. Of course, the Japanese and Chinese languages and symbols are not so much a language, as they are a way of life, so they are not comparable. The order of our alphabet does not make any sense. It appears as though the alphabet order developed on an as needed basis. Whenever someone thought we needed another letter it was just added at the end of the then current list. Some cave man was trying to chisel into the cave wall a description of a beautiful sunset. He probably had to add a letter or two and create a word or two. Two valleys over another cave dweller was trying to order his dinosaur steak cooked more and he probably had to add a letter or two and create a word or two. That type of development has made learning the alphabet more difficult.
We should learn the alphabet the way we learn so many other things in life. Start with something easy and work our way up to something harder. Let’s stop here and ask ourselves a question. What difference does the order of the alphabet make? It’s not like numbers where you must learn the number one before you can learn numbers two and three. It’s not like most sciences in which learning takes place on a continuum of simple to the more complex, such as chemistry and biology. Remember you had to learn to crawl before you could walk, and walk again before you could run, and walk again because you were out of shape or too fat or too lazy to keep running. The letters in Campbell’s Alphabet Soup do not have to be eaten in any particular order, but it still tastes mmm good.
It only follows then that using the “easy to hard method” to learn the alphabet is the correct premise. Therefore, the first letter of the alphabet should be “I”, because it only takes one straight line. Now that’s easy! The next four letters would be L, T, X, and V, because they only require two lines. Two lines are easy but not as easy as one straight line. The remainder of the order would be based upon how difficult it is to make the symbol. Straight line symbols are easier than curved line symbols and two lines are easier to do than three or four lines. Unfortunately, in this country, we have not always done what is “easier” for the users of products and/or services. For example, the “easier” concerning the nine-digit zip code was for the convenience of the Postal Service. How about those items that come in the hard plastic wrap, the “easier” is for shipping, storing and displaying the product. Users, like me, have a drawer full of packages at home I cannot open! Of course, this has little to do with the alphabet problem.
Some might say it is a bad idea to start with the letter “I”, because too much “I” translates into selfishness, not a desirable trait. How do you distinguish the letter “I” from I the person? I thought of that. Instead of pronouncing the letter “I” as “eye”, we pronounce the letter “I” as “iota”. Yes, I know the Greeks had that idea first, but it’s still a good idea. Of course, we can no longer use that jazzy song to learn the alphabet because under the “easy to hard” system the new order would be “iota, ell, tee, ex, why and vee.”
There are nine letters or symbols that sound like the last two letters are “ee”. They are bee, cee, dee, eee, gee, pee, tee, vee, and zee. So instead of the old song, we will have a nine line poem to help us learn the letters.
- I (Iota), L, T
- X, Y, V
- F, N, Z
- A, H, E
- K, R, C
- J, Q, D
- O, U, P
- M, W, G
- S and B
Iambic pentameter notwithstanding, this could be it. It’s just as easy to learn a nine line poem as it is to learn that song, maybe easier! You don’t have to worry about hitting the correct note. The poets will undoubtedly protest because the meter in line nine is not the same as in the previous eight lines. Who cares, poets are not a big voting bloc!
The only difference changing the order of the letters of the English alphabet makes is when someone says something is “A-one” it will not mean the first letter and number. “A-one” can have the same meaning, a hundred years from now people will just not remember why. How many of us really know how the phrase “lock, stock and barrel” got started and why? And do we care? What matters, is we know what it means.
Did I say there was only one difference changing the alphabet order would make? Sometimes accommodations are referred to as Class A or Class B, we can still use the expression or we could say Class 1 or Class 2, unless, of course, we follow one of my future suggestions of changing the order of the numbers. Some educational institutions use letters in their grading systems. They can easily change to a numerical system. But if they chose not to, we would have to get used to the new letter order. So instead of a “C” in logic, it would be a “T”. Instead a “B” in history it would be an “L”. Instead of getting an “A” in English, it would be an “I” (Iota). So when your mother asks “What grade did you get in English? Your response would be “I”. And she would say, “Yes you, what grade did you get? Again you would say “I”. She says, “Yes, you, I’m talking to you…” I guess everyone will have to make the transition to the new order at the same time. It’s not something we can start with this year’s first graders.
The government does not need a good reason to do anything. It likes to create problems so it can create jobs and spend money, which are sometimes called solutions, which allegedly solve the problems it created. You know where this is going! Think of some of the problems government has already solved. It solved the nation’s drinking problem by the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution. However, it unsolved it by the Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment.
Who had a problem with the old silver dollars, not the people who visited Las Vegas. Whoever it was, the government came to the rescue and minted the Susan B. Anthony silver dollars. Okay, okay, it didn’t work, but surely the Sacagawea worked. No, no, they stopped minting that one also. In any event, I know the government can help us with the order of the alphabet problem.
Contact your Congressman and Senators and tell them to change the order of the letters of the English alphabet. It will make it much easier to learn, especially with the government involved! Remember how the government had us switch to the metric system.
Just think of how many jobs this idea could create. It could even be a cabinet level position. The new department would be called, let’s see, hmm, how about Easy to Hard? No, that could apply to too many things. How about the Department of the New Alphabet Order? No, the letters don’t lend themselves to a fancy sounding acronym. The Changing the Alphabet Department! The letters CAD make it a nice sounding government department. But what about Computer Aided Design (CAD)? This could cause some confusion. Don’t most government programs cause some confusion? Perfect!
In any event, when you contact your government official to encourage the change in the alphabet order, please do NOT give me credit for the idea, in fact, don’t even mention my name.