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NJ dumbing down????(10 posts)

NJ dumbing down????ClydeTri
Jan 23, 2003 10:53 AM

This so laughable. Gotta love it.

Yesterday I told you about the New Jersey Education Association's website. I first read about this situation in JamesTaranto's WSJ column . and brought it to you.

The NJEA web site has some downloads for parents on how they could get involved with their child's school. There were three different downloads available. One was labeled "A parent's resource." Another was labeled "Spanish version." The third version of this download was labled "African-American version."

The difference between the "parent's resource" and "Spanish version" downloads were obvious. One was in English, one in Spanish. But what about the difference between the "parent's resource" download and the "African-American" version? Well, here . I'll let you read for yourself.

First . two paragraphs from the "parent's resource" version:

Today, there is an increasing emphasis on individualized instruction--fitting the curriculum to the child. Teachers want to employ new methods and materials to give each child personal guidance.

When you assist teachers with growing paperwork, make instructional materials, or conduct a science experiment, you give them more time for planning activities, for trying new teaching strategies, and for working directly with children. As a parent volunteer, you allow them to be more effective teachers--and the school obtains your skills and services that might be unavailable due to financial limitations.

OK .. now the same two paragraphs from the "African-American" version:

Today, teachers want to use new methods and materials to give each child personal guidance.

When you assist teachers, you give them more time to work with children. You allow them to be more effective teachers.

You see the difference, don't you? The "African-American" version is clearly dumbed-down. No other way to describe it. The NJEA decided that they had to dumb-down the language --- make it simpler – for black parents to be able to grasp it.

Well, shortly after Taranto's "Best of the Web" column appeared in the WSJ the NJEA acted quickly to calm things down. They first changed their website to change the "African-American version" label to "Ethnically-diverse version." Oh yeah, that certainly took care of things, didn't it?

Evidently not. By this morning the NJEA website had dropped the third version altogether and only included the "parent's resource version" and "Spanish version." What's more --- the NJEA is now using the language in the former "African-American version" for the "parent's resource version." In other words . they took the dumbed-down language they had prepared for black parents and are now submitting that language for all English-speaking parents. Draw your own conclusions.

OK .. There were a lot of e-mails this morning from folks who, for some reason or another, think I may be trying to pull one over on them. So, I have included two links for you to peruse. First, a link to a cached version of the web page as it existed at the beginning of the week:

Second, this is how that web page looks this morning.
Good stuff...Wayne
Jan 23, 2003 11:12 AM
since it proves the point I made in the AA post below. America has race on the brain that clouds it's judgement in any number of areas.
I think we all understand what they were trying to do, one version for better educated/intelligent parents and one for the less educated/dumber parents. Bad in the first place to have two versions, just use the simplified version since you would think you wouldn't want to insult anyone. Then to add insult to injury whoever did the things equated less intelligent/dumb with being black, thats just great! Talk about a public relations nightmare.
Actually when I first started reading the post I thought for sure the black version would be in ebonics, that would at least have made some kind of sense although I think been equally insulting.
you all are kidding me. the so-called "white" version isn'tbill
Jan 23, 2003 2:13 PM
better or for more educated people, it's more poorly written. It's confusing and jargon-ridden and ... and ... bad. Those of you who picked that version as the better one, well, shame on you. Read the New Yorker, and see how precious is done right. Read the Atlantic Monthly, and see plain spoken good writing for yourself.
I'm now positive that this is a hoax.
I know what you mean.Sintesi
Jan 23, 2003 3:26 PM
I know what you mean. The "dumb" version is concise and to-the-point, while the "smart" version conveys essentially the same info with more words and extraneous information. One could argue that the "smart" version is dumb because it bothers to articulate things that could be easily assumed.

"and the school obtains your skills and services that might be unavailable due to financial limitations."

I mean "DUHHH!"
I think it's obvious what the intent was...Wayne
Jan 24, 2003 5:33 AM
even if it was poorly executed. Maybe the same person wrote the pieces as decided it was a good idea to have black and white versions?
I don't think so. I think that there was no officiallybill
Jan 24, 2003 6:06 AM
promulgated "white" or "educated" version but that it was someone's cute idea to get guys like us all worked up about it. In other words, a hoax.
A hoax?!!! On the Internet?!!! Say it ain't so!!
NJ can't get any dumber,TJeanloz
Jan 23, 2003 11:15 AM
The real mistake in this situation was labeling the first version the "African-American" version. It seems fair to me that it is a good idea to have a website that your target demographic can read. I doubt it helps the students at all if their parents are unable to figure out what the website says. This "dumbed down", as you put it, section is probably very helpful for immigrants [or natives] whose English skills are not perfect. If you're only going to have one version, I think the simpler one should be the one you choose (as, apparently, they did). This is about helping kids- and smart parents will understand the "dumbed down" text, while the converse may not be true.
A NJ Demographic?Kristin
Jan 23, 2003 11:42 AM
From Ridgewood to Hoboken. You figure it out!
forgive me for thinking this is a hoax. When I got to the cachebill
Jan 23, 2003 2:07 PM
file, it asked me whether I wanted to download the material from the "African-American" version. I may be stupid to be afraid or suspicious, but this didn't seem right. I didn't download.
BTW, the primary difference I saw in the two versions is that the so-called African-American one was better written.
I'm not buying it.
Wow! Do I ever disagree.Spoke Wrench
Jan 25, 2003 2:58 PM
The African American version is simply direct and well written.

The original "parent's resource" version is horribly written. It's pedantic and it has absolutely atrocious sentence structure. To me, the scary part is that a teacher probably wrote it.

I'd say that the change is an indication that the New Jersey Educational Association is "smartening up." The purpose of writing is to communicate. I find it curious that writing that communicates the same idea more clearly can be judged to be "dumbing down."