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14 Law Notes Gen. Prac. [i] (1978)

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Published by the American Bar Association's Section of General Practice

                            Winter 1978


Bruce E.  Davis

           I. Wits and Words  (Revisited)
  In  the past, we  have written about  our  use (or
misuse)  of the English language.  Our  professional
tools must include the ability, with varying degrees of
skill, to use words, organized  (hopefully) in some
fashion or another.
  Our  professional proficiency in speaking and writ-
ing was grounded   on teachings begun  in junior and
senior high schools throughout the land. Nearly all of
us suffered through Latin, Chaucer, MacBeth,  Julius
Caesar,  composition, contemporary   literature, etc.,
before reaching college.
   Can you  visualize the added confusion which  our
profession would bring to our society if our exposure
to the principles of English were to be curtailed? Well,
my  colleagues, such a frightening development  may
be underway   in our secondary schools-and   even in
some  colleges!
   As you will recall, during the late 1960s and early
1970s, high schools broadened their curriculum offer-
ings as a means of making  curriculums relevant to
students and  encouraging  potential dropouts to stay
in  school. Such  courses proliferated; high schools
began  assigning courses with titles such as American
Hang  Ups,  and the like.

   Certain  high  school  courses  once   considered
basic  were made   electives. While many  of these
courses were  as academically  rigorous as the tradi-
tional courses they  replaced, many  were  not. Last
August,  a blue-ribbon panel appointed by the College
Entrance  Examination   Board cited the proliferation
of  electives as one likely cause of the nationwide
decline in average scores on the Scholastic Aptitude
   Educators  suggested  this increase in practical
courses-some directed towards specific em-
ployment  demands,  e.g., key punch operators-made
high school curricula more  in tune with the 1970s.
As  a result, in my view, there has been a significant in-
crease in the number of students entering college, and
entering the job market, deficient in one of the most
basic of all skills, the ability to communicate.
   If you question this judgment, we suggest you spend
an hour  at your local high school in conversation(?)
with the seniors-you  know  . . . right on . .. alright
. . . say, man  . . . like, you gotta. . . .-sentence
fillers, they are called-I call it inability to express
ideas without surrounding  trash words.
  Recently, The New  York  Times, one of the last bas-
tions of proper English, printed a study by the Univer-
sity Application Processing Center of the City Univer-
sity of New  York.  The  study  included figures for
senior classes of 1973 through 1978, showing a decline
in the  percentage  of students taking  at least one
semester of junior level academic work by the end of
their third year in high school in all five basic subject
areas:  English,  mathematics,   foreign  languages,
social sciences and science.
  In English, for example,  the percentage fell from
77.7 percent to 67.9 percent, while in mathematics the
rate dropped from  28.6 to 24.6 percent.
  Likewise,  the percentage  of  students taking  no
                            (continued on next page)

Copyright @ 1978 American Bar Association

Vol. 14, No.1

24 pages

                          LAW  NOTES   FOR THE  GENERAL PRACTITIONER
                                           Chairman and Editor            V
                                Bruce E. Davis, Bethlehem Steel Corp., Bethlehem, PA
    Vice-Chairmen and Associate Editors:               Advisory Board, Vice-Chairmen:
    Richard P. McLaughlin    James R. Phelps             Wayne Boyce          Judge CharlA4  fL
    Richard E. Wiley         F. Wallace Pope, Jr.        Prof. Louis M. Brown
                                              Editorial Board
Domenico J. Alfano (Administrative Law) William 0. Bittman (Criminal)     Edward F. McKie, Jr. (Patent, Trademark
Richard K. Decker (Antitrust)      Judge Ralph J. Podell (Domestic Relations) & Copyright)
Judge Francis J. Larkin (Commercial)         Mitchell W. Miller (Economics of Practice)       Vacant (Real Estate)
Sidney L. Krawitz, (Contracts)               Marvin A. Cohen (Estate Planning & Probate)      C. Dale McClain (Taxation)
Robert M. Westberg (Corporate)     William B. Spann, Jr. (Labor)          Harry Sabbath Bodin (Trial Practice
                                    Leonard Kopelman (Miscellaneous)         & Negligence)

Produced by the ABA Press


for  the General Practitioner

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