Readers’ Forum: 10/2/18


Linguistic Differences

Educators of the English language focus too much on things like race, gender and ethnicity, but they forget how big of a role social class plays on linguistic differences.

In your article it talks about how education of language — without addressing the issues that social classes bring, such as privilege, or the lack there of — can reinforce the differences in class and sometimes make the barriers between people of different social classes stronger and harder to break. For example, when I was in high school (and even now in college) I have seen this play out. In my high school English class, I noticed a trend in grades. Other than a few outliers, I noticed that kids who were of a higher social class were getting better grades because their vernacular was basically used as the rubric for how the teachers graded everybody’s papers.

Just because someone does not have the same way of communication as others does not mean their grades should suffer. How are the less fortunate supposed to learn and progress if they are told the way they speak and communicate is inferior to people who are of a higher social class? I challenge everyone to break down the social class barriers  and appreciate the way everyone decides to express themselves. I also challenge educators to not focus on the words used but to look at the message being sent by what is being said and encourage everyone to be themselves in their writing.

—Benjamin Taylor

Omaha, Illinois

Personal Pronouns

It is long past time for the general public to adopt the use of the singular “they” in formal writing. The generic “he” has long been decreed as sexist language, which is a great first step. However, the solutions to the generic “he” are awkward: “he/she” is difficult to use in long sentences, and most sentences are too convoluted when changing to a plural or a second person subject.

The switch from these alternatives to the singular “they” would be simple, especially since people already use the singular “they” in common speech. We use it all the time! While some prescriptivists might argue that this is only because speakers don’t always know where their sentences will end when they begin speaking, the fact is that most English speakers already use to singular “they,” and they’re not caught off-guard when they hear it. In fact, it has been used in writing for hundreds of years, by writers such as Shakespeare, Thackeray, and Stein.

Regardless of who has used it the singular “they” is especially useful when referring to words such as “everyone,” which are singular grammatically but plural in connotation, or when referring to a subject whose gender is not known. Beyond that, it is essential to make room in our vocabulary for people who might not comfortably identify as male or female. Language has always been the tool of the oppressor—I believe it is time for that to change. I urge all formal written media to adopt the use of the singular “they” so other English speakers can follow their lead.

— Kristen Evans

Yorktown, Virginia


Universe Editorial

Flipped Classroom

In a traditional classroom setting, instruction occurs in class and activities that reinforce instruction occur outside of class.

Some classrooms have adopted a “flipped” approach where the bulk of instruction occurs outside of class. Practice problems and other activities typically reserved for homework occur inside the classroom, while students pursue instruction outside of class time. Often, this instruction happens through online videos or in-depth readings.

This approach robs students of a valuable learning resource: the expertise of their professors. Instruction delivered outside the classroom must be pre-made — it is static. A student who does not understand a concept may not raise his hand and interrupt a YouTube video.

In a traditional classroom setting, students can interact with their instructor. Professors can answer questions. They can tailor the direction of lectures to the needs of the class.

In a flipped classroom, professors can only adapt to class members after instruction has already occurred. The talents of professors are better used to prevent misunderstandings than to react to them.

In communications theory, a distinction exists between two-way, symmetric communication and one-way, asymmetric communication. Flipped classrooms are asymmetric. Traditional classrooms are symmetric. Students can communicate questions and comments to their teachers freely.

An education at BYU is incredibly valuable because of the unique expertise of its faculty. This resource is squandered in flipped classrooms. It would be tragic to reduce highly qualified professors to practice problem coaches, a role traditionally played by teaching assistants.

— Universe Staff

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