Letters to the Editor

Practice purposeful misspelling: Americans should start spelling phonetically

Learning to spell via complicated spelling rules with many exceptions, and many alternate spellings for the same sounds, consumes countless educational hours, yet fails to produce a preponderance of good adult spellers.
Learning to spell via complicated spelling rules with many exceptions, and many alternate spellings for the same sounds, consumes countless educational hours, yet fails to produce a preponderance of good adult spellers. The Wichita Eagle file photo

The written English language is based on a phonetic alphabet, and that’s a good thing. Sooo much easier to learn than Chinese pictographs! However, only about 87 percent of English words are phonetic, and the other 13 percent wreak havoc for children learning to read and spell. Learning to spell via complicated spelling rules with many exceptions, and many alternate spellings for the same sounds, consumes countless educational hours, yet fails to produce a preponderance of good adult spellers. Here is a list of alternate spellings for the long e sound: e, ee, ea, ie, y, ey, i. I think this single example proves my point. Spell-check apps, though helpful, are far from foolproof. And the burden of learning to read and spell is greatly confounded for students with dyslexia, which affects an estimated one in five students.

So why don’t we change to more phonetic spelling? It turns out there is no organization in the U.S. tasked with regulating and revising standard spelling. There is no one to make official changes. And yet, I’ve noticed that American standard spelling has diverged a bit from standard spelling in the United Kingdom over the years. The changes are small but for the better (colour is now color; realise is now realize). As far as I can tell, changes in popular usage drive gradual change in dictionary spellings.

We the people have the power. You have the power. So maybe start texting phonetically (e.g., eet, happee, pees), then emailing, and let’s see where it leeds. Practice perpusful misspelling.

Yvonne Crisp

Irmo

Lawmakers can avoid racism by improving private school system

Solomon Blatt, the ardent defender of school segregation, would be proud. In the building named in his honor near the State House, the Education Oversight Committee hosted Ben Navarro last week, the founder of Meeting Street Academy (MSA), a network of private and public-private schools. The chair of the committee, Neil Robinson, praised his presentation as the best he ever heard.

Blatt and the other architects of segregated schooling after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, especially Marion Gressette, would also be proud that Navarro praised school choice. School choice continues the same “freedom of choice” plans that legislators like Blatt and Gressette developed to avoid desegregation. By providing the choice to attend all-white private schools with public support in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, S.C. legislators defended the right of whites to choose where they want to go to school.

Navarro is not necessarily acting with the same desire to segregate schools in South Carolina. He has the best of intentions and his model works. Students are promised two teachers in each classroom, a longer school year and high expectations.

But Navarro and the MSA model does nothing to address the deeply racist system of education in South Carolina. Selecting a few African-American kids and “saving” them through a private education is merely throwing out a life raft to a sinking ship. Funding this private model evades the systemic solutions: full investment in all public schools, revising the state constitution to fund an equitable – not a “minimally adequate” – system, and the integration of public schools.

If policymakers wish to avoid the racism and failed education plans of the past, they must ask how the entire system, not a few private schools, can be improved.

Jon Hale

Columbia

The State publishes a cross section of the letters we receive from South Carolinians in order to provide a forum for our community and also to allow our community to get a good look at itself, for good or bad. The letters represent the views of the letter writers, not necessarily of The State.

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