Thursday various

  • Oregon allowing spell-check on written school exams? I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this, and I didn’t have the kind of knee-jerk reaction I might be expected to as an English major, writer, and editor. I think spelling is important, but not always critically so, especially on exams where spelling is secondary to whatever is being tested. I think spelling is less important, for instance, than reading comprehension and overall communication skills. Many great writers have been notoriously bad spellers; and outside of a spelling bee, crossword puzzles, and certain game shows, success in life rarely hinges on knowing when it’s “i before e” or the opposite.

    At the same time, spelling is important. An over-reliance on spell-check can lead to laziness, and not knowing how to spell can impede communication. Spell-check is far from perfect — their, there, or they’re, anyone? — and a poor substitute for really understanding why words are spelled a certain way. Further, many of the standardized tests these students will later encounter — like, for instance, the SAT — will not allow them use of a spell-check.

    I think, if the Oregon Department of Education really wants to help its students, it won’t just allow them to ignore spelling altogether. It will allow its teachers to grade spelling more effectively, more fairly; it will design standardized tests that weigh other, perhaps more important, factors, and look at spelling in a broader context. [via]

  • First they came for the ignorant news pundits and I stayed silent… Glenn Beck is quite fond of quoting Martin Niemöller’s famous poem about the rise of fascism in Germany. (As well as of crazy-as-all-bugfuck conspiracy theories.) It’s quite telling which parts of the poem he always leaves out. [via]
  • Dubai’s archipelago of luxury islands, already something of a financial disaster, is sinking into the sea. [via]
  • Robotic ghost knifefish is born. Somebody should totally start a band with that name. [via]
  • And finally, Zack Handlen remembers Indecent Proposal:

    Yeah, the movie where Robert Redford turned Woody Harrelson into a pimp and Demi Moore into a, ahem, lady of the evening. It was a ridiculous movie, all slick visuals with no real soul or character, but the concept was so intriguing that it didn’t need to be good to be successful. Everyone was just so fascinated by the moral question at the heart of the story that everything else was just gravy. Stupid, stupid gravy.

    It’s all in the context of a Star Trek: The Next Generation review, naturally.