Thanks, Antony

15 Oct

Even if I think Antony really misread the purpose of my entry How to Maintain Classroom discipline (1947) — not intended to elicit admiration for the bad practice shown in the first half of the video there — I am happy that he has referred his readers to this blog in his entry disgraceful teaching discipline? Perhaps Antony experienced a Mr Grimes I somewhere in his career? I know I did.

My point further is that all of us can be Mr Grimes I — the shouting, bullying, sarcastic and basically insecure person barely holding it together on classroom discipline — on occasions, especially when we are inexperienced, or when the nature of the teaching environment we are in wears us down, or we are having a bad hair day, or whatever. None of us is Teacher Perfect 24/7 week after week for forty years or so, and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise. We are in a terrible state if Mr Grimes I is the norm, however, and the point of that very old — sixty years old — object lesson on the video was to show us a better way. Mr Grimes II is of course just a bit too perfect, and the whole video is simplistic. That doesn’t mean that the lesson it offers is of no value, because what it said sixty years ago really remains true.

To extrapolate from that video some kind of view about the state of public education, or to say that a Mr Grimes I should be “named and shamed” on tabloid television, as Antony seems to suggest, is just a bit over the top, don’t you think?

Hmmm. That last sentence has raised a very interesting problem of subject-verb agreement. Any suggestions? I suspect I have got it right, but something niggles…


7 responses to “Thanks, Antony

  1. Antony Shen

    October 17, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    Thanks Ninglun for this special entry regarding my post.

    I believe I did not misread your entry, except I selectively used (perhaps also exaggerated) certain parts for my purpose… shaming the teaching system in the so-called good old days.

    to say that a Mr Grimes I should be “named and shamed” on tabloid television, as Antony seems to suggest

    Correct, except I won’t call it “tabloid television”. I would call it “popular program” or simply “media”.

    Shaming teachers is not what I usually do, but shaming unethical power-abusing police who were trained by taxpayer’s money and receive taxpayer’s money is.

  2. Antony Shen

    October 17, 2007 at 11:04 pm

    Speaking of “subject-verb agreement”. I hope you don’t mind answering me a simple question (not directly related).

    With countable nouns, in scientific styled sentences, do you say “0.1 apple” or “0.1 apples“? (as in zero point two rather than one fifth of an …)

    Also, in the case of negative numbers, do you say “-1 apple” or “-1 apples“?

    Or shall I ask, what is the definition of “plural”? “greater than one” OR “anything other than one”?


  3. ninglun

    October 17, 2007 at 11:21 pm

    To deal with your second question first: countable nouns form plurals; mass/uncountable nouns don’t. This gets a little more complicated because some nouns may be either countable or mass/uncountable, depending on how they are being used. “Wheat” for example may be both: ten kilos of wheat is uncountable; several types of wheat is also uncountable; there are several wheats used in this mix is countable.

    OK, with countable nouns: I would say 0.1 apples for grammatical reasons, though I agree it is not logical! I guess you could say 0.1 of an apple just as you say one-tenth of an apple, but it seems we don’t. Interesting question.

    To your other comment: tabloid television is a reasonable and widely accepted category for shows like TDT, though there are worse ones around as that item indicates. Whether you enjpy them or not is another matter, but they are very much genre shows and that is the genre.

    There have always been good and bad teachers, and the same teacher may be good or bad on different occasions, in different settings, or in the eyes of different pupils. I am the first to admit this has been true of me. I hope the better times outweigh the worse.

  4. Antony Shen

    October 17, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    Thanks ninglun,

    “tabloid television” is a correct term, but I would use better wording to describe shows like Today Tonight.

    What about “-1 apple(s)”? “-1” (minus one) is less than “0” (zero). Since we say “zero apples” or “no apples”, and in the case of one less apple than nothing, should it be “-1 apples” or just “-1 apple”?


  5. ninglun

    October 18, 2007 at 12:16 am

    If the number one is used, whether it is +/-1, the following noun will be singular. So it would be -1 apple. We’re talking grammar, not logic; and yes we say zero apples, probably because zero is thought of as a number that is not one, even though zero is neither singular nor plural logically.

  6. Antony Shen

    October 18, 2007 at 12:33 am

    Thank you very much for the answer.

    In Mathematics (Number Theory), unity means 1 (one), and only the positive one, and there is only one unity.

    In grammar, it seems like there are two cases for singular nouns.

    If plural is defined as “any amount other than one”, then, zero is plural, as well as -1.

  7. ninglun

    October 18, 2007 at 1:00 am

    Unfortunately mathematical theory may have little correlation with grammar or usage. The concept of grammatical number is not a mathematical concept strictly, so the word one is always singular, whatever mathematical theory may hold. English probably treats zero as a plural because the grammar gives only two choices, and the word zero is not the word one: we also say, incidentally, there are no apples on the table (countable) but we say there is no rice on the table (uncountable). At least we don’t have to worry, as the French or the Italians do, whether apple, rice and table are masculine or feminine! And Chinese survives quite well without marking nouns as singular or plural, as I am sure you know.

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