Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I'm a "bad" driver. Take 1

Ahh, flashback to the I'm a Bad Neighbor series.
A few Friday's ago, i was driving a child to school. I moved into the right lane on the local poseur-highway to get around a slower driver. I drove and then shifted back to the center after I passed him. Then a cop pulled me over claiming that I performed an unsafe lane change, cutting off the other car by 1/2 a car length.

I was accelerating, he was dropping back...I looked in my mirror and over my shoulder. There was very little traffic. After the lane change he didn't flick his lights, honk his horn or flip me off. Nothing. There was nothing wrong with what I did so I was a bit taken aback. I told the officer (nicely) that I checked and felt I was safe. He said I wasn't "even close." Yay for police.

The tyicket is $85 and 2 points on my pretty clean record. I'm not so happy about that but I could swallow it if I felt that the 2 points wouldn't kill my insurance premiums. The company refuses to tell me what it would do to my rates, though. Maybe nothing, maybe a lot. Yay for companies.

So I plead not guilty and asked for a court date. I went in today and wandered through the maze that is the court house. I found the right office and eventually was called in by the prosecutor. She said that I could plead to "unsafe driving" which would remove the points, but would cost me $450 up front. Yay for governments. The beauty is that my rates could still go up if my license is audited and I am found to be an "unsafe driver" -- it wouldn't be a point surcharge but I wouldn't qualify for the preferred rates so same difference. Thus, the plea was no solution. So now I have to wait till the cop can be in court so I can get called back to take more time off and state my side of what is effectively a "he said, he slapped me with a ticket." Joy.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Literacy 2.0

I have been hearing about and reading about people bemoaning the state of reading these days. They complain that with all the phones and videos and tv's and the like, the next generation will not have the skills to sit and read. We are become, they complain, an oral culture again. Our story tellers record their ideas, film their world, and share via the voice and the eye. That's why our students never read books. They can get their visual news with a click of the mouse and can watch movies on their phones. Why read.


What I think we are entering is a post-literacy generation and, strangely enough, it is the same progression which each era has engendered. When my students 15 years ago tried to read novels from the 1700's and 1800's they had trouble making it through the lengthy description. But they could breeze through a 1000 page 20th century work. Our eyes and brains become accustomed to new modes of writing, not NO modes of writing. I bet that a student from 1900 would have had trouble reading old English or that the rise of the penny press and its sensationalist writing, or the dime novels and their pulp stories held, for the older generation then, the promise fo the demise of "real reading."

Living on the web, using wikipedia, texting incessantly (all signs of the new apocalypse) are all reading intensive activities. They demand a new skill in reading and writing and a different approach to text. But this need not be seen as inferior...simply different. Did you ever compare a letter home from a Civil War soldier to one from a Revolutionary War soldier? How about one from a Gulf War soldier? An in 20 years, an email from a soldier to his family will look even more different. This isn't bad. It is just different. Maybe there will be a reduction in the formal writing and reading (which we define as "the way we did it properly when I was growing up") and maybe the language itself will change to allow new phrases, words and spelling which will look so non-traditional as to be abhorrent to traditionalists. But that's how language works. We split infinitives these days. And we end with prepositions. Our parents might have used what was then slang and what is now standard. Life and language move on. Our children will read and write. We may not get it. We may force them to keep doing it "our way" because our way is "real" or "right" and they will grow up living in more than one world linguistically. And that will make the next generation exactly the same as we are. The gap has always existed. We just see it accutely because we are on the other side of it now.