2.25.2007

Sloppiness and life in general--mostly music and grammar

Ronni Bennett, elder blogger par excellence, is a sister Nazi Grammar Policewoman. What the h**l is with our educational system that people don't even know how to diagram a sentence these days? That's not all Ronni blogs about, she's the grand dame of the elder bloggers, and always posts a lively comment on many issues.

But, gee, spelling, grammar, and word usage seem to have gone by the wayside in writing from bottom to top. I regularly edit writing produced by PhDs and am appalled by what is commonly accepted as good communication skills. Not to belabor the issue, but when a Dr. mispells a word, it really makes me wonder...

Just as there was a "new math," it seems there is a "new grammar." Kiddos learn verbs, THEN nouns. The word "predicate" is now only a whisper. I can see how learning the action portion of a sentence is compelling; however, I want to put the brakes on "dumbing down" grammar simply to make English more accessible to slackers.

Do I sound harsh? Perhaps. There are other nouveau practices that I heartily endorse: cut the jargon, write in a direct, clear, active voice, leave plenty of white space, and get the important points above the scroll line. These practices enhance communication rather than negate it. Spelling, good grammar and usage, however, are the basic architecture of human relationships, and I hate to see them go by the wayside, even though new ways to spell old words can be entertaining, to a certain extent.

Good on you, Ronni, for recognizing that we elder bloggers manage to adhere to the older best practices. Somehow I think we are the last of a dying breed. Speed and flash seem to be the buzz words of today. Get it up on the Web, and worry about the basics later, if ever. I am certain that we can do both. Send me something to edit, and I'll get it back to you in less than 24 hours. How much faster do you need it done than that? Even the most die-hard Web surfers have to sleep sometime :)

Which leads me to music. What's with the current sloppy rehearsal techniques? When I was in college, we were expected to do our very best every single time, not just at performance time. How can we improve if we don't challenge ourselves?

I sing with a semi-professional chamber chorus, and I'm constantly bitching about going flat. It truly hurts my ears, and if it goes on long enough, I get nauseated. What is our music education system doing these days that students can't develop a decent pitch memory? I tend to want to attribute it laziness--lack of breath support, not paying attention to dynamic markings, just "getting through" rehearsals until the performance.

The joy of music is as much in the journey as it is in the culminating performance. How can one expect to improve one's music skills if one only puts out the minimum required to (sort of) learn the music before curtain time? Is it so excruciatingly boring to not do your best? Why not develop that transcendence during rehearsals as well as in performance? I tend to cut everyone off at the knees over this issue.

NPR had a report that posited that your brain and ear "grow" to recognize and appreciate "pleasant" sounds, including your native language, and the language of justice, morals, etc. When your ear and brain encounter a "dissonant" sound, the body responds in a negative way. What has happened to our population that most people accept "less than" pitch or musical production? Doesn't it hurt their ears and stomach, too?

Have we reached a point in our civilization that we can no longer teach and absorb the basics in language, communication, music? What a sad state! I've often bragged that I can teach anyone to sing. Anyone CAN sing, if they pay attention, and WANT to sing. It's a skill that's learned like any other skill: pedagogy and practice. I always tell my students "Practice makes POSSIBLE, not PERFECT." We can sometimes get away with blind skill and luck, but in the long run, we'll never be happy until we dedicate all of our senses and focus to the task at hand.

OK, now I'm sounding old. It's true, though. Check it out. I can teach you how to sing, I'll guarantee it, as long as you honestly put all your resources into learning...

3 comments:

Ronni Bennett said...

I'm interested in the idea of "dumbing down" grammar (or any other school subject). I'm far enough removed from school and young children these days, that I'm not familiar with what's being taught.

The first questions, however, that occurs to me about any dumbing down being done is why. We learned this stuff. Our parents before us did. Why don't school administrators believe today's kids can?

Rhea said...

I have several friends who teach college and, from time to time, I look at the papers the students turn in. Wow! I find it hard to believe that these kids made it to college.

kokopelliwoman said...

Nice to see you, ladies! The US educational system is sadly deteriorating. The statistics are appalling. Kiddos perhaps learn more math and science, but if they can't communicate, where's the benefit? And then there's the opposite end--writing to impress. How many completely unnecessary words can we add to this piece to make us sound like intellectuals? Plain language is where it's at, as far as I'm concerned. It's environmentally sound :)