Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Keep on Keeping On

I tried to figure out what that meant and decided it means just staying alive and not in the fun John Travolta white suit wearing day more David Byrne way as life just stopped making sense quite awhile ago.

The weather outside is frightful but the world inside is delightful so let is snow let is snow... right? No.  Global warming is giving us shade and not the kind dished up on a housewife franchise. There is only so much Bravo a woman can watch when trapped in the house.  Thankfully the snow missed Nashville and I can go up and out and get back to work to at least make some pocket change (that is literally the fact here) and get up and off the couch.

Yesterday I went to a nearby elementary school for the morning.  I was in one classroom with a very capable Teacher who seemed to manage her kids and in turn had lessons that seemed to be working.  Across the hall I was with a Sub who seemed to have her brain cell on as in literally her single brain cell functioning as she was clueless as what to do. These are the schools here that had NOT ONE single furloughed federal worker apply for Sub gigs and that most of the subs are unqualified individuals who cannot find a better paying job despite Nashville's endless claim that this is the mostest bestest city (or region) for unemployment, below national numbers and that people are moving here every minute of every day and still they cannot find enough employees.  All of this while claiming that amazing individuals are relocating her from major urban cities and states.  Sure. What.ever.  Once again the Tennessean investigates and reports on this and is sure that it is affecting the politics of the state. Really?  We just elected a Plumber as Governor and have a super majority of right wing crackpots who seem to think vouchers are the most important issue facing the new state legislature.  This is the third or fourth time that this issue has been put up and this time I suspect will pass further disintegrating the public schools.   The motto here should be: Jesus Rules Schools Are For Fools given the attitude about paying and funding education here despite all the bullshit rhetoric about it.  Again bullshit is not just a crop fertilizer in the South.

What I saw yesterday were fourth graders who had no clue how to simply edit a sentence, from capital letters to punctuation.  Few knew how to write a full sentence and the spelling was something that should set alarms, as here in Nashville they go onto middle school next year clearly well behind grade level.  Yes middle school starts at grade five and that marks the descent into madness as they too are way too large and too scattered to manage the needs of that a diverse cohort.  Children here are the lowest on the priority scale even below education as they do love their colleges and universities here as they are located every other block like churches with often the same focus if you catch my drift, no not the snow kind.

And to use the idea that there are dialects and manners of speech that distinguish a culture and contribute to their own history is all well and good but this issue is one that again divides and conquers in isolating, marginalizing and imprisoning them.   This article confirms something that I have long debated from the issue of "Ebonics" in Oakland schools decades ago but again clearly does matter when in mainstream society.

Speaking Black Dialect in Courtrooms Can Have Striking Consequences

By John Eligon
The New York Times
Jan. 25, 2019

“He don’t be in that neighborhood.”

When one court reporter in Philadelphia transcribed that phrase, it turned into this: “We going to be in this neighborhood.” In other words, the opposite of what the phrase actually meant — that someone is not usually in a neighborhood.

That was just one transcription error captured in a soon-to-be published study that found court reporters in Philadelphia regularly made errors in transcribing sentences that were spoken in a dialect that linguists term African-American English.

Researchers played audio recordings of a series of sentences spoken in African-American English and asked 27 stenographers who work in courthouses in Philadelphia to transcribe them. On average, the reporters made errors in two out of every five sentences, according to the study.

The findings could have far-reaching consequences, as errors or misinterpretations in courtroom transcripts can influence the official court record in ways that are harmful to defendants, researchers and lawyers said.

“The larger implication is that people are not being afforded a sense of fairness and justice because the system is not responding to their language,” said Anthony L. Ricco, a New York-based criminal defense lawyer, when told of the study’s findings.

Decades of research has shown that the way some black people talk could play a role in their ability to secure things like employment or housing. The new study, scheduled for publication in June in the linguistic journal Language, provides insight on how using black dialect could also impact African-Americans in courtrooms.

“People who speak African-American English are stigmatized for so doing,” said Taylor Jones, a doctoral student in linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the study’s authors.

Mr. Jones added that there was nothing improper or broken about the dialect that some African-Americans inherited over generations, but negative stereotypes have influenced the way people hear or perceive it.

“If you’re taught that these people speak incorrectly, then it’s very easy to say, ‘Well, they don’t make any sense; what they’re saying is wrong,’” Mr. Jones said.

The researchers found that the court reporters were not transcribing with any malicious intent. But some of them did have a very limited understanding of black dialect.

After going through the exercise, the researchers said that one of the court reporters told them that when they hear African-American English in the courtroom, “I have to be like, ‘Ok, don’t roll your eyes,’” according to a draft copy of the study.

Beyond negative stereotypes or lack of familiarity, a court reporter’s own discomfort with some of the terminology used in black dialect could also lead to incorrect transcriptions, the study found.

While Pennsylvania court reporters must score 95 percent accurate on tests in order to be certified, the reporters in this study were fully accurate, on average, on just 59.5 percent of the sentences.

Black court reporters who participated in the study made errors in transcribing at roughly the same rate as their white peers.

All of the reporters, in addition to transcribing, were asked to paraphrase what was being said in each sentence. Here, the results were even worse than the transcriptions, with reporters correctly paraphrasing the sentences about 33 percent of the time.

The authors faulted the training that court reporters received, saying that it mostly used “classroom” English. African-Americans are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, and so training should take that into consideration, researchers said.

“The training isn’t taking into account what they’re actually going to hear,” said Jessica Rose Kalbfeld, a co-author who is pursuing her Ph.D. at New York University.

The transcription errors also speak to an impact of segregation, Mr. Jones said. When black and white people live in separate parts of a city, they develop their own ways of speaking that people outside of their cultural communities are not exposed to.

“Because of segregation, black Philadelphians and white Philadelphians pronounce the same words differently,” he said. “This is common across the United States.”

Riley H. Ross III, a lawyer in Philadelphia, said that it was not just black dialect that was often misunderstood in a courtroom. It happens with other races, too, he said, and it was up to him as a lawyer to intervene in real time.

“Over all, if there’s something that’s said that the jury won’t understand, I’ll bring it up,” he said.

While this study was based on recordings made outside of a formal court setting, transcription errors have seeped into real cases.

In a 2015 transcript of a recorded phone call from a jail in the San Francisco Bay Area, a suspect who said, “He come tell ’bout I’m gonna take the TV” was incorrectly transcribed as “I’m gonna take the TV,” according to a 2016 research paper by a pair of Stanford University linguists.

In one recent case out of Louisiana, the transcription seemed to be correct, but it highlighted how African-American English can be subject to over-the-top scrutiny.

A lawyer for a defendant who had admitted to sexual assault sought to have that admission suppressed because his client had initially asked for a lawyer, saying, “I know that I didn’t do it so why don’t you just give me a lawyer dog ’cause this is not what’s up.”

The state’s Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the police did not have to cease questioning him because “lawyer dog” was ambiguous and did not necessarily mean that he was invoking his right to counsel.

Mr. Ricco, the defense lawyer, said the most troubling thing about court reporters incorrectly transcribing African-American English was that it was indicative of larger difficulties of black witnesses trying to get their points across.

“If the court reporters are missing the story,” he said, “the jurors are missing the story."

Today I go to the house of privilege where the students are largely white highly competitive and focused or in in other words what I used to know as a normal high school in Seattle.  There were many not just two as there are here and Seattle serves a way smaller student population.  Yes we had many horrific schools but they were at least at times a focus of attention and in turn allocated some resources to attempt to rectify the issues that faced those schools issues; however, I can say now from living here I realize how poverty and racism and neglect are a perfect trifecta and that nowhere near the kind of services were provided there as here.  Not a pretty picture.

Then I came home to hear about a school that I went to about four times that three times too many as I never felt safe there and shocking, I know! Not really as yesterday they had a bomb scare and this was not the first nor the last over the last few years.  Then of course more stories about violence and sexual assault which seems to be happening now on a daily basis. The children here unlike Seattle children do not have any boundaries of a personal sense be that in any respective way - sexual, personal, physical.  I watch children storm in rooms go through Teachers desks, stand very close and seem to want to touch you.  They have incessant need to demonstrate and verbalize sexual behavior. They have no self control, behavior management or concept of how to speak to adults or authority figures and in turn the vulgarity and language used is both abusive and hostile in which they clearly are unaware.   This may contribute to why there is so much teen aggression and violence here as it carries out from the classroom to the  streets.    

And for the record many of the adults are not any better from rapeto sexual harassment, to theft there is a story a day about some Teacher or Administrator who seem intent on being the tree from which the apple fell.  There is an innate sense of entitlement that accompanies the Southern mentality that enables them to excuse or explain their behavior which I take as tied to the Church, in the same manner it did for Catholic Priests.    They keep on keeping on there as the Bible seems to be both a tool in which to enable much of this. 

Read Scoop Nashville on Facebook to truly understand how this behavior is viewed in the community and in turn read the most abusive and harsh posts, largely from people of color towards people of color.  I used to get distressed and now I shrug.  That is the point the idea is to disconnect and have lower expectations about those in poverty and that is what I call submissive co-dependency and racism.  You may not hate and act negatively towards those of color but you go out of your way to not engage or attempt to understand or at least empathize.

But here in Nashville you would think this is the greatest city that ever lived.  The endless bragging, the endless bullshit and misinformation that simply buries the truth is perhaps its real legacy, one that explains country music in a nutshell.   Just keeps on keeping on.  And as I count down like the NYE clock or in this case the music note, I will be leaving and it cannot come soon enough. That is a great resolution to keep and keep on. 

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