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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Doesn't have to be racist

Posted by: Hammer / 12:59 PM

From Backbone Minnesota via Minvolved, we have a "Clear English" bill for the MNSCU:

The Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities shall, and the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota is requested to, adopt a clear, understandable written policy requiring clear English pronunciation as a condition of instructing undergraduate students at public postsecondary institutions.

If 10% of your class withdraws by the 10th academic day because of alleged lack of clear English pronunciation, you are suspended from teaching until a hearing.

Backbone Minnesota notes that "clear English" is vaguely defined. I can't find a definition at all, which would mean that 10% of every class would have an effective veto and an incentive to use it: automatic reimbursement for tuition if your professor doesn't speak clearly enough to satisfy your tender ears.

I oppose the bill because it's poorly drafted and attempts to address legislatively what is better handled administratively. I attended UM almost 15 years ago and have no complaints about the English proficiency of professors or TAs. I spent most of my time in the journalism department, so it was a non-issue.

Before that, however, I was a engineering student at UW-Madison. The toughest part of my first year math and science classes was understanding the instructors. The professors were typically easy to understand but hard to contact. The teaching assistants were responsible for day-to-day student contact. They varied in English proficiency from excellent to poor.

Students should be willing to accept qualified, hard-working instructors who don't speak perfect English. Instructors should all meet a minimum standard for English proficiency. Our public universities need to screen and support instructors who aren't fluent in English. This bill does nothing to help universities, students, or instructors. It simply provides an incentive to scapegoat instructors when a class starts poorly.


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