Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Great Words Live Forever

November 2 and it's election day. I'll vote later today and I hope my students vote too. When I became an American citizen in 1985 the Judge said I had earned the right to do two things I could not previously have done; carry a gun and vote. Being able to vote was a gift but I must admit to having no desire to have anything to do with guns even in Vermont, this mecca of hunting. I became a citizen in front of the judge at Burlington High School in a neat ceremony that was part of the social studies curriculum at the school that year. Luckily, I didn't have to renounce my British citizenship due to the dual citizenship treaty of 1948.

When the CBS news anchor came to the end of a story on the passing of Ted Sorensen, Kennedy's speech writer, he said "Powerful men die, but powerful words live on" which seemed such a wonderful statement for both the man and the times. The English language has such incredible versatility and depth that in the hands of a master wordsmith such as Sorensen virtually anything is possible.

The same, although less so, is true of young children. Those who master the intricasies and complexities of the language at a young age are generally destined for a better start in life than those who do not. The language and reading courses in the Elementary Education licensure program at SMC provide an incredible amount of information on how to teach all aspects of literacy which is defined in the courses as a meaning making process. There is also a wonderful Literature for Children and Adolescents course which introduces students to the exciting and vaulable world of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry that should be part of the lives of all young people. Here's the Department Pages Literacy webpage.

One of the interesting things about becoming an America was learning how to write the American way as opposed to the English way. In addition to the subtle spelling differences I also had to learn to write sentences that didn't contain 8 commas and various other forms of punctuation that meant the sentence ran to the length of a good size paragraph. You might have noticed this when reading any of the classic great British literature books; T.S. Eliot in particular. Apparently the longest sentence in the Guinness book of records is from James Joyce's Ullyses at 4391 words.

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