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VINSON: Tower of Babel remains relevant today

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"Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other," reads Genesis 11:7 in the Bible.

According to the book of Genesis, the Tower of Babel was an enormous tower erected in the plain of Shinar by generations of survivors of the Great Flood.

This collection of humanity spoke a single language, and after migrating to Shinar, set out to build a great city and a tower with its top in the heavens.

God was displeased with this people's attempt to reach the heavens by their own means, and thus, decided to confuse their language.

Discontent and fighting set in, and eventually, they stopped construction.

Some biblical scholars theorize the scene at the Tower of Babel is largely responsible for the plethora of languages and dialects spoken in today.

Regardless of the source in which you place credence, we must agree on this: All our different languages and dialects had to come from some source, sometime.

I used this example as a stepping stone in building this column because I am concerned about the literacy of not only today's students.

There has been talk in the Tennessee General Assembly of no longer requiring cursive writing in public schools. Legislators justified this proposal due to the technology-driven world in which we live.

They say there is no longer a need for cursive writing. Therefore, time and resources shouldn't be wasted on it.

What if you have to sign your name on a check?  

What if your car has broken down way out in the boonies late at night, your cell phone has no reception, and after deciding to set out on foot in search of help, you want to leave a hand-written note detailing your name and predicament?

What if you graduate from Vanderbilt University Law School and need to sign a legal document?

It's not your fault though, you weren't taught cursive writing.

Several years back, I was asked to help judge an essay contest being held at a Middle Tennessee high school.

One essay, in particular, was peppered with text-messaging lingo. I brought this to the instructor's attention, and she told me not to worry about it, just to go on and grade it as best I could.

Are you on drugs? I thought to myself.

A couple of years ago, I helped a young college student with her sophomore-level English papers.

Using The Little, Brown Handbook, I coached her to do the following when using a colon: If the first word, after the colon is a proper noun or proper pronoun, the first letter of that word begins with a capital letter. Still, if a complete sentence is the first item listed after the colon, the writer should begin the sentence with a capital letter.

The young lady's English instructor, teaching from the very same handbook, marked off for using a capital letter to begin a complete sentence after a colon.

The instructor's excuse?

I don't care what the book says, I don't like it.

It's interesting: While the confusion in Genesis resulted from the Tower of Babel, those lessons have yet to be applied in today's babble.
Tagged under  Education, General Assembly, History, Literature, Tennessee, Voices

Members Opinions:
August 26, 2012 at 9:26am
Great column Mike! Coupled with the number of Tennesseans who can't read above the third grade level, soon the number who can't write will catch up, thus creating a portion of the population that will be nearly funtional illiterates. Social networking contributes to this because "Tweets" and Fa(r)ceBook postings are not graded on anything much. The tweets today are like the twixes back in the fortys when brevity bred a language of its own,ie: U r 2 qT. A Bable of the time.
August 26, 2012 at 9:56am
Since it no longer appears to be an emphasis of the educational system, parents should encourage their kids to practice writing by hand. Schools are teaching them "keyboarding."
August 27, 2012 at 3:30pm
the written word may take a little longer but is more thought invoking. I've tried a journal in both, and the written one is much more personal. Great article Mr.Vinson
August 29, 2012 at 2:20pm
Mr. Vinson, this was yet again another thought provoking article.

Indeed, with today’s societal computer geeksters, “desiring” instant gratification and results—onomatopoetically narcissistic brats, if you will—have all but destroyed the manually trained, tangible society that I grew up in, a time when penmanship was practiced and honed, and then later, judged accordingly. It was a time when typing was taught in the proper and artistic way, from a manual typewriter, where one has a home row of keys, called so because it is where ones eight fingers rest when not typing. The rest fell elegantly into place once you learned the home keys (a, s, d, f and j, k, l, ;). The two-finger method is not elegant; and frankly, annoying to observe.

I feel fortunate to have been trained the correct way, the original way, in the art of penmanship and typesetting.

Babel and “babble” are the perfect, elegant examples of homophones. Furthermore, there is a lighthearted sense of sarcasm attached to the way you represented your case, Mike.

I smiled, slowly, I might add, as I read the end of your article. Great writing!

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