Tosh.0 is probably referring to his IQ

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A few weeks ago, comedian Daniel Tosh made a rape joke and was “heckled” by a female audience member–rightfully so–for the inappropriateness of the joke.  Tosh, who also has a show on television (Tosh.0), retorted, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now? Like right now?”

While rape jokes are not new (George Carlin defended them on his Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics CD in the nineties, and even female comedians Sarah Silverman and Wanda Sykes make them), I suppose what made this one more shocking was that it was directed at a specific woman in the audience.

RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) reports that someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every two minutes, and many would argue that rape is the most heinous of all crimes.  So why would comedians (male and female) feel as if rape jokes could ever be funny?

Since the age when we learn to swear like sailors (middle school?), women and men use phrases such as “stop acting like such a p***y,” “you are such a little b***h,” “son of a b***h,” “you c**t,” and “what a d****e.”  These phrases are all related to females, and are all highly-used phrases that exhibit one’s vehement hatred for or frustration towards another human being.  What is the message that we send to each other?  That when we are feeling anger, it is socially acceptable (in many circles) to use a female-related word to curse at another.  And women do this just as much as, if not more than, men.

The words we use have a profound effect on the way we see ourselves and others.  Even less-offensive phrases such as “stop acting like a girl” must have a monumental, subconscious effect on both sexes when they hear it.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi said:

Watch your thoughts, they become your words
Watch your words, they become your actions
Watch your actions, they become your habits
Watch your habits, they become your character
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny. 

When our society uses female words to exhibit anger, or rape jokes to make others laugh, the character of our society changes.  So Tosh, let me hit you with an adage that you must have missed in childhood:

If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

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I rule!

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DOL stands for Daily Oral Language (published by Great Source), and all English teachers at my school are asked/forced/begged to teach grammar in the following way:

Every day, students receive two highly dysfunctional sentences which they must correct.  Then we pray that they have learned grammar.  These sentences include the politically incorrect darnel dont have no reason too question them instructions but he does want a explanation for this here exam and although we had 25 inches of snow last Winter the bushes appear to be alright pedro noted.

Even with the aforementioned insipid grammar material in hand, one student asked a very interesting question today, after we had finished correcting the day’s sentences:

Why do we capitalize I?

Why, indeed?  After all, it is the only pronoun that we capitalize.  When did this tradition begin?  What are the social and political implications?  Inspired by this question, which I have never entertained, I Googled the matter, which led me to the highly interesting (and pretty darn funny) New York Times article, “On Language – Me, Myself, and I.”  (On a side note, the fact that the word Google has become a verb is another interesting grammatical factoid.)

This article first gives an overview of how different languages have handled capitalization in general, and then, more specifically, whether or not they capitalize I.  Then, the author, Caroline Winter, elucidates the history of the pronoun I in the English language, and gives an example of a culture (Rastafarian) which has changed this ubiquitous pronoun for the more spiritual “I and I.”  Finally, Winter dives into the political implications of the use of this pronoun in speeches.

This is a fantastic article that is pertinent to our students today while remaining entertaining. It can be used to discuss the importance of grammar in today’s world, as well as what changes in grammar represent or imply.  How’s that for daily oral language?

Icarus was just trying to do a great job…and look where it got him!

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When children are young and are asked the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” their answers tend towards the exciting, romanticized careers:

“I want to be an astronaut!”
“I want to be a fire fighter!”
“I want to be a ballerina!”
“I want to be a baseball player!”

As they become teens, they begin to think of the careers that sound the most prestigious and/or offer the highest salary:

“I want to be a doctor!”
“I want to be a lawyer!”

I don’t think a single child, growing up, has ever thought about what s/he would like his/her quality of life to be as an adult.  And certainly no child has looked to the future and hoped for an average life.

Still, I wonder: what is really wrong with being average?  Most people, by definition, will be average.  While career choice is important in supporting oneself, and later on, one’s family, shouldn’t we be focusing on teaching our youth that a balanced life is best, no matter what the career or salary?

We live in a society that is fueled by the need to do things BETTER: drive a better car, earn a better salary, purchase a better house…But in the end, something has got to give.  Sometimes it is spending enough time with one’s family, other times it is not having enough personal time to oneself for fun (a word that has become just as dirty in professional circles as another prevalent, four-letter word).  What we really should be teaching our students are priorities.

In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns, M.D. dedicates an entire chapter, “Dare to Be Average!” to mediocrity.  His book has sold more than four million copies, and professionals consistently rate it as the top self-help book for people suffering with depression.  Various media outlets report that depression is on the rise on college campuses, which leads to some very important questions: Would teaching our students that doing a good job and not a great one is sufficient or even better for them psychologically?  Do our seemingly harmless prompts of “I know you can do better!” on B papers have a negative effect on our students?

Tim Ferriss’s bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek lauds the teachings of the Pareto Principle, as Ferriss recommends focusing one’s attention on the 20% of the clients that contribute to 80% of a business’s income.  Can it follow, then, that by only exerting 20% of one’s work capacity, one will achieve 80% of the results one is looking for?  This sounds like the old adage “Work smarter, not harder,” not to mention my high school U.S. History teacher’s favorite saying, “Keep it simple, stupid!”  (His other favorite, “whatever floats your boat,” doesn’t work so well here.)

If the doomed youth Icarus had not felt the need to rise above and beyond (literally and metaphorically), would he have ended up at the bottom of the sea?  Obviously this is a rhetorical question, as the answer is, of course, no.  What’s scary is what actually happens when Icarus takes his fateful plunge.  The scene is depicted in Bruegel’s famous painting De Val Van Icarus (The Fall of Icarus), in which Icarus’s fall is a minute detail at the bottom right-hand corner of the painting, while life goes on as usual for the townsfolk who are the central characters of the piece.

The lesson learned?  If we slip up from time to time, it is okay.  If we are good at something and not great at something, that is okay too.  In the end…no one will notice.

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Bad, bad, bad

The Columbine High School massacre, one of man...

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I am so disturbed by a “catchy” tune that is constantly playing on the radio.  The song is “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People.

The chorus’s overwhelmingly disturbing lyrics, “All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you’d better run, better run, outrun my gun.  All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you’d better run, better run, faster than my bullet, ” are set to an almost sweet-sounding pop melody that makes the singers sound as if they are in a trance, and is definitely targeted towards the teenage crowd.

I have noticed friends singing this song under their breaths, and because the music is catchy and sounds happy (how strange!), people don’t mind that the words have a truly psychotic meaning…if they even stop to think about what the words are.

As a teenager who was two months away from graduation when the Columbine High School massacre occurred, I am repulsed by the abhorrent message of this song.  The pang of fear that I felt when I heard about Columbine occurs every time this song comes on the radio.  And as a current teacher, I am terrified at the catastrophic message that our students are chanting without even realizing it.  (See the articles below for the negative and dangerous effect that these lyrics have already had.)

As teachers, it is our responsibility to open our students’ eyes to the barrage of information that our media is inculcating them with.  Now I need to figure out how to do so!  Back to the drawing board.

“All the other kids with the pumped up kicks…”

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