Decreasingignorance’s Weblog

Just another weblog

African American Vernacular Language August 17, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — decreasingignorance @ 12:57 am

Yesterday, my friend told me that her sister, who teaches English to elementary school students in Florida are NOT allowed to correct their grammar and pronunciation if they use AAVE during class.  Apparently, it “takes away from their self esteem” and “makes them uncomfortable in what should be a nurturing learning environment.”  This is public school, but the way. 


I have absolutely nothing against AAVE/Ebonics/Black Verncular/insert p.c. term here used at home or among friends, but public school should teach students should standard English in their English classrooms.  What’s really going to make them feel uncomfortable is after high school, when they try to find a job or write a college paper in African American Vernacular Language.  Have you ever seen an academic paper written in Ebonics?  NO.  For those of you (or really just Virginia) who are unfamiliar with AAVE, here is a brief description from Wiki:

Its pronunciation is in some respects common to Southern American English, which is spoken by many African Americans and many non-African Americans in the United States. There is little regional variation among speakers of AAVE.[1]Several creolists, including William Stewart, John Dillard, and John Rickford argue that AAVE shares so many characteristics with Creoledialects spoken by black people in much of the world that AAVE itself is a creole.[2]It has been suggested that AAVE has grammatical structures in common with West African languagesor even that AAVE is best described as an African based language with English words.[3

And a small sample of the pronunciation differences from Wiki:

  1. Word-final devoicing of /b/, /d/, and /ɡ/, whereby for example cub sounds like cup.[
  2. The most distinguishing feature of AAVE is the use of forms of be to mark aspect in verb phrases. The use or lack of a form of becan indicate whether the performance of the verb is of a habitual nature. In SAE, this can be expressed only using adverbs such as usually.[
  3. Use of ain’t as a general negative indicator. It can be used where Standard English would use am not, isn’t, aren’t, haven’t and hasn’t, a trait which is not specific to AAVE. However, in marked contrast to other varieties of English in the U.S., some speakers of AAVE also use ain’t in lieu of don’t, doesn’t, or didn’t (e.g., I ain’t know that).[31] Ain’t had its origins in common English, but became increasingly stigmatized since the 19th century. See also amn’t.
  4. double negation

Of all the problems in American public schools, I can honestly say that this is the most disconcerting.  It’s absolutely ridiculous that public schools are so stuck on being politically correct that they refuse to teach standard English in an English classroom.  I mean, I can’t even pretend to understand an inkling of African American culture, but I honestly think that speaking standard English is absolutely necessary in an academic or professional setting.  Vernacular is fine at home or in a casual setting, but at work or college, AAVE isn’t nearly as accepted.  Thus, it should be corrected at a public school setting.


Olympic Update August 11, 2008

Filed under: news — decreasingignorance @ 12:50 pm

All I’ve been doing every night is watching the Olympics…and my man Phelps pulled through.  2 golds!  😀 



 Well actually his teammate, Lezek, the final swimmer pulled through.  I went on Youtube to look for a clip but NBC removed all the film footage. -_-

Anyways, moving on.  The Chinese age controversy (from NYT):

The Times found two online records of official registration lists of Chinese gymnasts that list He’s birthday as Jan. 1, 1994, which would make her 14. A 2007 national registry of Chinese gymnasts — now blocked in China but viewable through Google cache — shows He’s age as “1994.1.1.”

Another registration list that is unblocked, dated Jan. 27, 2006, and regarding an “intercity” competition in Chengdu, China, also lists He’s birthday as Jan. 1, 1994. That date differs by two years from the birth date of Jan. 1, 1992, listed on He’s passport, which was issued Feb. 14, 2008.

athlete in question, He Kexin

My Mother, unwavering bastion of China’s honor, snidely said, “Well, I don’t see the point.  There’s absolutely no incentive for China to compete younger girls, no point at all.  So they obviously didn’t.”  The official reason:

An advantage for younger gymnasts is that they are lighter and, often, more fearless when they perform difficult maneuvers, said Nellie Kim, a five-time Olympic gold medalist for the former Soviet Union who is now the president of the women’s technical committee for the Swiss-based International Gymnastics Federation.

“It’s easier to do tricks,” Kim said. “And psychologically, I think they worry less.”

But apparently this has happened before.  North Korea competed a girl, Kim Gwang Suk, in the ’91 World Championships who was only 4’4″ and 62 pounds at the time.  Furthermore, she was missing two of her front baby teeth at the time of competition.  The PRK camp claimed that she lost the teeth in an uneven bars accident “years ago.” 

from village photos

Kim Gwang Suk, from village photos

Bela Karolyi, Mary Lou Retton’s former coach, admits that it is impossible to prove the ages of the athletes:

“It’s literally impossible,” he said. “The paperwork is changed just too good. In a country like that, they’re experts at it. Nothing new.”


TEAM USA! TEAM USA! TEAM USA! August 9, 2008

Filed under: news — decreasingignorance @ 4:29 pm

OLYMPICS!  In my native motherland, The Peoples’ Republic of China.  Good ole’ home.  Nevertheless, I will be enthusiastically cheering on my adopted country, The United States of America.  Go Michael Phelps!  A few days ago, there was a controversy surrounding four US cyclists who arrived at the Beijing airport wearing USOC issued face masks.  This is, of course, very embarrassing for the Chinese government, whom have been closing factories and banning trucks in Beijing to better the air quality. I can understand why the Chinese government is upset, especially since the face masks can’t black the poisones nitrogen dioxide.

Unfortunately, there’s little else athletes — or even spectators — can do to prevent exposure to air pollution.  “You can’t protect yourself with a mask,” Munzer says. “We’re talking about a fine gas, so there’s no really good protection.”

Okay, I’m going to go on a limb here and say this: I don’t think that air quality in China is noticeably bad.  I’ve been in China during the stifling summer months, with nary a blue sky in sight.  While my athleticism doesn’t rival Olympians, but I have gone jogging and rock climbing in China with no breathing problems.  I can understand all the fuss about air quality, but wouldn’t China’s native athletes have problems too?  Why haven’t they contracted any problems? 

Ironically, I am listening to Lily Allen’s fantastic cover of ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky.  😀


Radcliffe Publishing Course’s 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century* August 8, 2008

Filed under: books — decreasingignorance @ 3:30 pm

On July 21, 1998, the Radcliffe Publishing Course compiled and released its own list of the century’s top 100 novels, at the request of the Modern Library editorial board.


  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  6. Ulysses by James Joyce
  7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  9. 1984 by George Orwell
  10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  11. Lolitaby Vladmir Nabokov
  12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  13. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  16. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  17. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  19. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  20. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  22. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
  23. Their Eyes Were Watching Godby Zora Neale Hurston
  24. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  25. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  26. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  27. Native Son by Richard Wright
  28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nestby Ken Kesey
  29. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  30. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  31. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  32. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  33. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  34. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  35. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  36. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  37. The World According to Garp by John Irving
  38. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
  39. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
  40. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  41. Schindler’s Listby Thomas Keneally
  42. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  43. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  44. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
  45. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
  46. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  47. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  48. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
  49. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  50. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  51. My Antonia by Willa Cather
  52. Howards End by E.M. Forster
  53. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  54. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
  55. The Satanic Versesby Salman Rushdie
  56. Jazz by Toni Morrison
  57. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
  58. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
  59. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  60. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  61. A Good Man Is Hard to Findby Flannery O’Connor
  62. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  63. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  64. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
  65. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
  66. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  67. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  68. Light in August by William Faulkner
  69. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
  70. Things Fall Apartby Chinua Achebe
  71. Rebeccaby Daphne du Maurier
  72. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  73. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
  74. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  75. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
  76. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
  77. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
  78. The Autobiography of Alice B. Tokias by Gertrude Stein
  79. The Maltese Falconby Dashiell Hammett
  80. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
  81. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  82. White Noiseby Don DeLillo
  83. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
  84. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
  85. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  86. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
  87. The Bostonians by Henry James
  88. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
  89. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  90. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  91. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  92. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  93. The French Lieutenant’s Womanby John Fowles
  94. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
  95. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
  96. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  97. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  98. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
  99. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
  100. Midnight’s Childrenby Salman Rushdie

Of the alleged 100 best novels of the 10th century, I have read a pathetic 13.  Actually, the number is really 12, but I’m almost finished with Brideshead Revisited, which I will eventually do an entry on when I gather my thoughts and finish looking up some words in the dictionary.  It seems that, along with literary retardation, my vocabulary is also woefully deficient.  I guess that once I finish The White Man’s Burden, The End of Poverty, Freakonomics, and Brideshead, I will start making my way through literary heavyweights such as Miss Rand (isn’t such considered a philosopher anyways?). 

*I realize that The Modern Library’s list is more widely recognized, but I’ve read more books on Radcliffe’s list; 13 versus 4.


Smackdown: The White Man’s Burden vs. The End of Poverty August 7, 2008

Filed under: books — decreasingignorance @ 12:28 am

His [William Easterly’s] target in his puckishly titled The White Man’s Burden is the spirit of benign meddling that lies behind foreign aid, foreign military interventions and such do-gooder institutions as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the United Nations. In his account, such efforts are fatally contaminated by what the philosopher Karl Popper called “utopian social engineering.” Easterly’s list of well-meaning villains stretches from the economist Jeffrey Sachs to the rock singer and charity impresario Bono.

Initial Reaction (No. of pages read: 48): William Easterly begins this book accusing celebrities and our world leaders of oversimplifying the conundrum of giving impoverished foreign nations our x billions.  He disdainfully labels the current people at the forefront of the relief effort as Planners, or the people who maintain the status quo, and their work thus far as the Big Plan.  He refers to the second disaster of our planet: the fact that none of the billions of dollars the West has donated has made much difference in the daily plight of the Rest (third world nations).  Within the first twenty pages of The White Man’s Burden Mr. Easterly writes his rebuttal of Jeffrey Sach’s book, The End of Poverty, and compares him to Robert Owens, an utopian.  While I regard this book with slightly more respect, I believe that Mr. Easterly has a lot in common with Mr. Sachs.  Even though I am about 20% of the way through The White Man’s Burden, William Easterly spends more time making amusing analogies and slagging off his opponents than actual substance.


While much of the plan has been known to economists and government leaders for a number of years (including Kofi Annan, to whom Sachs is special advisor), this is Sachs’s first systematic exposition of it for a general audience, and it is a landmark book.For on-the-ground research in reducing disease, poverty, armed conflict and environmental damage, Sachs has been to more than 100 countries, representing 90% of the world’s population. The book combines his practical experience with sharp professional analysis and clear exposition.–Publisher’s Weekly

Initial Thoughts (No. of pages read: 1.5)-I tired to approach this book with an open mind.  After all, Jeffrey Sachs is apparently the de facto expert on development economics.Because I started reading The White Man’s Burden first, which directly refutes points in The End of Poverty, my opinion of Jeffrey Sach’s book was already warped.  I gave this book my patented snap! judgement:
catchy title? check
laundry list of qualifications in the author’s biography? check
tenured professor at venerated university? check
aaannnnddd the pièce de résistance of any commercial scholarly book, a celebrity endorsement? check, check, and check

Reading Bono (of U2 fame) was not dissimilar to listening to a classmates’ poetry–you sit through both feeling extreme secondhand embarrassment.  Not only does Bono blithely accuse my fellow Americans and I of racism within the first two pages of his forward, but that we need to “really accept their lives–African lives–are equal to ours, we would all be doing more…It’s an uncomfortable truth.”  Hmmm, really Bono?  I seriously doubt that many 21st century Americans, whom are plagued with images of malnourished and disease stricken African children on the television, regard Africans as subhumans.  After all, we are reminded daily by our favorite rock stars of our unfulfilled destiny: manumitting the continent of Africa from poverty.  Furthermore, Bono’s magnum opus excludes a very important group of people.  What about the rest of the rest of the undeveloped world?  Asia?  Eastern Europe?  Latin America?  I tried to reserve my judgement on this book until I ploughed past the forward, but I can’t.  While Dr. Jeffrey D. Sachs will always be smarter than me, I have a difficult time respecting his book because of the ridiculous forward.


Hello world! August 6, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — decreasingignorance @ 9:20 pm

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!