Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Two stories that must be related; but how?

Story 1) (HT: Sassywire):
Teenagers have been warned they are becoming unemployable because they use a vocabulary of just 800 words.

The limited linguistic range also consists of many made up words and 'teenspeak' which has developed through modern communication methods such as text messaging and social networking sites.

Today Jean Gross, who advises the Government on children's speech, said urgent action was required to prevent children failing to find jobs because they are unable to communicate.


'We need to help today's teenagers understand the difference between their textspeak and the formal language they need to succeed in life — 800 words will not get you a job.'

The majority of teenagers should have developed a broad vocabulary of 40,000 words by the time they reach 16.

Linguists have found, however, that although they may understand thousands of words, many choose to limit themselves to a much smaller range in regular conversation and on a daily basis could use as few as 800 terms.(Daily Mail)

Now here's a brain teaser for you: are kids maybe illiterate because they see how stark raving bonkers their "literate" "betters" are and so naturally isolate themselves in their cybershells? or are kids illiterate because under the new and ever yet more crazy welfare state socialism there actually are "jobs" for illiterates who only know One Dumb Word/Thing (it begins with r!)? Story 2 (HT: Walker:)
A wealthy businessman was arrested at home in front of his wife and young son over an email which council officials deemed ‘offensive’ to gipsies – but which he had not even written.

The email, concerning a planning appeal by a gipsy, included the phrase: ‘It’s the ‘do as you likey’ attitude that I am against.’

Council staff believed the email was offensive because ‘likey’ rhymes with the derogatory term ‘pikey’.

The 45-year-old IT boss was held in a police cell for four hours until it was established he had nothing to do with the email, which had been sent by one of his then workers, Paul Osmond.

But police had taken his DNA and later confirmed they would be holding it indefinitely.(Daily Mail)

UPDATE: this just in via Belmont Club:
The British government has decided to go ahead with its plans under what it calls the Intercept Modernisation Programme to force every telecommunication company and Internet service provider to keep a record of all its customers’ personal communications, showing whom they have contacted and when and where, as well as the Web sites they have visited, according to The Daily Telegraph and various other British papers.

The information gathered, The Telegraph says, will be accessible to 653 public bodies, ”including police, local councils, the Financial Services Authority, the ambulance service, fire authorities and even prison governors.

”They will not require the permission of a judge or a magistrate to obtain the information, but simply the authorisation of a senior police officer or the equivalent of a deputy head of department at a local authority,” The Telegraph says.

The only bit of good news, if you can call it that, is that the information won’t be held in a central database because of privacy concerns (that seems a bit oxymoronic to me), and the full rollout will be delayed until after the next election.
The British government is also going ahead with ContactPoint, a database containing the details of England’s 11 million children. As described in a 7 November Telegraph story,
The computerised database contains a record for each of the 11m under-18s living in England, containing their name, address, gender, date of birth and a unique identifying number. It also holds information on their parents, their nursery or school, their GP and whether they have a social worker, health visitor or probation officer assigned to them. If the young person consents, it will also give details of sexual health or drug abuse counsellors.
Interestingly, this database is assumed by the government to be secure and private. So secure and private, in fact, that the children of celebrities and certain others—for example, the children of government officials—are to be excluded from it.

It has not passed without notice on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall the irony of the British government’s dogged efforts to spy on its own people in a way that would make the Stasi envious.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s remarks marking the anniversary included this:
What has happened here in Berlin tells the world that the tides of history may ebb and flow, but that across the ages history is moving towards our best hopes, not our worst fears; towards light not darkness; and towards the fulfillment of our humanity, not its denial.
So governmental spying is moving toward our best hopes, toward light not darkness, and toward the fulfillment of our humanity? George Orwell, who once wrote, ”To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,” would probably be very depressed by the state of affairs in the United Kingdom—but probably not very surprised
It strikes me that the unnamed writer at IEEE Spectrum doesn't quite get what is Orwellian here. If the internet means that our lives are going to become more and more transparent to others, freedom actually requires something like a central data base. I do not think i want to see the collecting of information on web browsing without search warrants. But if we are going to have it, freedom requires that I be able to search Gordon Brown's habits just as easily as he searches mine. Then we can all be equally transparent and accountable to each other and discover a new kind of freedom without privacy. What is Orwellian is when all the power is in the hands of the Stasi; but when we can call out any cop for his bad habits, or when we can discover Gordon Brown's porn addiction, should he have ever had one, then we are free to develop a new sense of tolerance and standards and name-calling and scapegoating in full view of what we are doing to each other. It might make us capable of relearning what really matters. Then again, maybe not.

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