An impressive English lesson
1 If I am the only parent who still corrects his child's English, then perhaps my son is right. To him, I am a tedious oddity: a father he is obliged to listen to and a man absorbed in the rules of grammar, which my son seems allergic to.
2 I think I got serious about this only recently when I ran into one of my former students, fresh from an excursion to Europe. "How was it?" I asked, full of earnest anticipation.
3 She nodded three or four times, searched the heavens for the right words, and then exclaimed, "It was, like, whoa!"
4 And that was it. The civilization of Greece and the glory of Roman architecture were captured in a condensed non-statement. My student's "whoa!" was exceeded only by my head-shaking distress.
5 There are many different stories about the downturn in the proper use of English. Surely students should be able to distinguish between their/there/they're or the distinctive difference between complimentary and complementary. They unfairly bear the bulk of the criticism for these knowledge deficits because there is a sense that they should know better.
6 Students are not dumb, but they are being misled everywhere they look and listen. For example, signs in grocery stores point them to the stationary, even though the actual stationery items — pads, albums and notebooks —are not nailed down. Friends and loved ones often proclaim they've just ate when, in fact, they've just eaten. Therefore, it doesn't make any sense to criticize our students.
7 Blame for the scandal of this language deficit should be thrust upon our schools, which should be setting high standards of English language proficiency. Instead, they only teach a little grammar and even less advanced vocabulary. Moreover, the younger teachers themselves evidently have little knowledge of these vital structures of language because they also went without exposure to them. Schools fail to adequately teach the essential framework of language, accurate grammar and proper vocabulary, while they should take the responsibility of pushing the young onto the path of competent communication.
8 Since grammar is boring to most of the young students, I think that it must be handled delicately, step by step. The chance came when one day I was driving with my son. As we set out on our trip, he noticed a bird in jerky flight and said, "It's flying so unsteady." I carefully asked, "My son, how is the bird flying?" "What's wrong? Did I say anything incorrectly?" He got lost. "Great! You said incorrectly instead of incorrect. We use adverbs to describe verbs. Therefore, it's flying so unsteadily but not so unsteady."
9 Curious about my correction, he asked me what an adverb was. Slowly, I said, "It's a word that tells you something about a verb." It led to his asking me what a verb was. I explained, "Verbs are action words; for example, Dad drives the truck. Drive is the verb because it's the thing Dad is doing."
10 He became attracted to the idea of action words, so we listed a few more: fly, swim, dive, run. Then, out of his own curiosity, he asked me if other words had names for their use and functions. This led to a discussion of nouns, adjectives, and articles. Within the span of a 10-minute drive, he had learned from scratch to the major parts of speech in a
sentence. It was painless learning and great fun!
11 Perhaps, language should be looked upon as a road map and a valuable possession: often study the road map (check grammar) and tune up the car engine (adjust vocabulary). Learning grammar and a good vocabulary is just like driving with a road map in a well-conditioned car.
12 The road map provides the framework and guidance you need for your trip, but it won't tell you exactly what trees or flowers you will see, what kind of people you will encounter, or what types of feelings you will be experiencing on your journey. Here, the vocabulary makes the journey's true colors come alive! A good vocabulary enables you to enjoy whatever you see as you drive along. Equipped with grammar and a good vocabulary, you have flexibility and excellent control. While the road map guides your journey to your destination, an excellent vehicle helps you to fully enjoy all of the sights, sounds and experiences along the way.
13 Effective, precise, and beneficial communication depends upon grammar and a good vocabulary, the two essential assets for students, but they are not being taught in schools.
14 Just this morning, my son and I were eating breakfast when I attempted to add milk to my tea. "Dad," he said, "If I were you, I wouldn't do that. It's sour."
15 "Oh my!" I said, swelling with pride toward my son, "That's a grammatically perfect sentence. You used were instead of was."
16 "I know, I know," he said with a long agreeable sigh. "It's the subjunctive mood."
17 I was, like, whoa!
5 关于正确使用英语能力下降的问题，有许多不同的故事。学生的确本应该能够区分诸如their/there/they're之间的不同，或区别complimentary 跟complementary之间显而易见的差异。由于这些知识缺陷，他们承受着大部分不该承受的批评和指责，因为舆论认为他们应该学得更好。
6 学生并不笨，他们只是被周围所看到和听到的语言误导了。举例来说，杂货店的指示牌会把他们引向stationary（静止处），虽然便笺本、相册、和笔记本等真正的stationery（文具用品）并没有被钉在那儿。朋友和亲人常宣称They've just ate。实际上，他们应该说
8 因为语法对大多数年轻学生而言枯燥且乏味，所以我觉得讲授语法得一步一步、注重技巧地进行。有一天机会来了。我跟儿子开车外出。我们出发时，他看到一只小鸟飞得很不稳，就说：“它飞的不稳。”（It's flying so unsteady.）我小心翼翼地问：“儿子，鸟怎么飞?”“有问题吗？我说得不对吗？（Did I say anything incorrectly?）”他一头雾水。“太好了，你说的是incorrectly而不是incorrect。我们用副词来描述动词。所以，要用unsteadily来描述鸟飞，而不是unsteady。”
14 就在今天早上，我跟儿子吃早饭时，我想把牛奶加入我的茶里。“爸爸，” 他说，“如果我是你的话，我不会这样做。牛奶会变酸。（If I were you, I wouldn't do that. It's sour.）”15 “哦，上帝！”我满怀着无比的骄傲说道，“这是一句语法完全正确的句子。你用了were 而不是was。”
The humanities: Out of date?
1 When the going gets tough, the tough take accounting. When the job market worsens, many students calculate they can't major in English or history. They have to study something that boosts their prospects of landing a job.
2 The data show that as students have increasingly shouldered the ever-rising cost of tuition, they have defected from the study of the humanities and toward applied science and "hard" skills that they bet will lead to employment. In other words, a college education is more and more seen as a means for economic betterment rather than a means for human betterment. This is a trend that is likely to persist and even accelerate.
3 Over the next few years, as labor markets struggle, the humanities will probably continue their long slide in succession. There already has been a nearly 50 percent decline in the portion of liberal arts majors over the past generation, and it is logical to think that the trend is bound to continue or even accelerate. Once the dominant pillars of university life, the humanities now play little roles when students take their college tours. These days, labs are more vivid and compelling than libraries.
4 Here, please allow me to stand up for and promote the true value that the humanities add to people's lives. Since ancient times, people have speculated about the mystery of those inner forces that drive some people to greatness and others to self-destruction. This inner drive has been called many things over the centuries. The famous psychologist, Sigmund Freud, called it the "unconscious mind" or, more familiarly, "instinct".
5 From the beginning of time, this inner aspect of our being, this drive that can be constructive or destructive, has captured our imagination. The stories of this amazing struggle have formed the basis of cultures the world over. Historians, architects, authors, philosophers and artists have captured the words, images and meanings of this inner struggle in the form of story, music, myth, painting, architecture, sculpture, landscape and traditions. These men and women developed artistic "languages" that help us understand these aspirations and also educate generations. This fertile body of work from ancient times, the very foundation of civilization, forms the basis of study of the humanities.
6 Studying the humanities improves our ability to read and write. No matter what we do in life, we will have a huge advantage if we can read complex ideas and understand their meaning. We will have a bright career if we are the person in the office who can write a clear and elegant analysis of those ideas!
7 Studying the humanities makes us familiar with the language of emotion and the creative process. In an information economy, many people have the ability to produce a useful product such as a new MP3 player. Yet, very few people have the ability to create a spectacular brand: the iPod. Most importantly, studying the humanities invests us with great insight and self-awareness, there by releasing our creative energy and talent in a positive and constructive manner.
8 Perhaps the best argument in favor of the humanities is the scope of possibilities that are widely open to us. Did you know that James Cameron, world-famous director of the movie, Titanic, graduated with a degree in the humanities? So did Sally Ride, the first woman in space. So did actors Bruce Lee, Gwyneth Paltrow, Renee Zellweger and Matt Damon. Dr. Harold Varmus, who won a Nobel Prize for Medicine, studied the humanities. Even Michael Eisner, Chairman of the Disney Company, majored in the humanities. Famous people who studied the humanities make a long list indeed. It's easy to see that the humanities can prepare us for many different careers and jobs we can undertake, whether medicine, business, science or entertainment. If we study only mathematics, it's likely we will be a candidate only for jobs as a mathematician. If we include studying the humanities, we can make breakthroughs on many barriers and are limited only by our effort and imagination.
9 Of course, nowadays, if we study the humanities alone, we are liable to miss many opportunities. Each one of us needs to become as technically and professionally skilled
as possible to help meet the needs of modern life. In fact, increasingly a pairing of technical knowledge and inner insight is seen as the ideal in the establishment of a career. If I were the Dean of Admissions at a medical school and two people applied to our school, both having the required basic scientific courses, one a philosophy major and the other solely a pre-med student, the philosophy applicant would be chosen.
10 In summary, the humanities help to create well-rounded human beings with insight and understanding of the passions, hopes and dreams common to all humanity. The humanities, the ancient timeless reservoir of knowledge, teach us to see things differently and broaden our horizons. They are as useful and relevant in our modern age as they have always been. Doesn't it make sense to spend some time in the company of the humanities, our outstanding and remarkable treasure of knowledge? Who knows how famous YOU might become!
Spend or save — The student's dilemma
1 Do you feel as confused and manipulated as I do with this question, "Should I spend or should I save?" I think that the messages we get from our environment seem to defy common sense and contradict each other. The government tells us to spend or we'll never get out of the recession. At the same time, they tell us that unless we save more, our country is in grave danger. Banks offer higher interest rates so we increase savings. Then the same banks send us credit card offers so we can spend more.
2 Here's another familiar example: If we don't pay our credit card bill on time, we get demanding, nasty emails from the credit card company saying something like: "Your failure to pay is unacceptable. Pay immediately or you'll be in trouble!" Then, as soon as we pay, we get a follow-up email in a charming tone telling us how valuable a customer we are and encouraging us to resume spending. Which depiction is correct: a failing consumer in trouble or a valued customer? The gap between these two messages is enormous.
3 The paradox is that every day we get two sets of messages at odds with each other. One is the "permissive" perspective, "Buy, spend, get it now. You need this!" The other we could call an "upright" message, which urges us, "Work hard and save. Suspend your desires. Avoid luxuries. Control your appetite for more than you truly need." This message comes to us from many sources: from school, from parents, even from political figures referring to "traditional values". Hard work, family loyalty, and the capacity to postpone desires are core American values that have made our country great.
4 But the opposite message, advertising's permissive message, is inescapable. Though sometimes disguised, the messages are everywhere we look: on TV, in movies on printed media and road signs, in stores, and on busses, trains and subways. Advertisements
invade our daily lives. We are constantly surrounded by the message to spend, spend, spend. Someone recently said, "The only time you can escape advertising is when you're in your bed asleep!"
5 It's been calculated that by the age of 18, the average American will have seen 600,000 ads; by the age of 40, the total is almost one million. Each advertisement is doing its utmost to influence our diverse buying decisions, from the breakfast cereal we eat to which cruise line we will use for our vacation. There is no shortage of ideas and things to buy! Now, of course, we don't remember exactly what the products were, but the essential message is cemented into our consciousness, "It's good to satisfy your desires. You should have what you want. You deserve the best. So, you should buy it —now!" A famous advertisement said it perfectly, "I love me. I'm a good friend to myself. I do what makes me feel good. I derive pleasure from nice things and feel nourished by them. I used to put things off. Not anymore. Today I'll buy new ski equipment, look at new compact cars, and buy that camera I've always wanted. I live my dreams today, not tomorrow."
6 What happens as we take in these contradictory but explicit messages? What are the psychological and social consequences of this campaign to control our spending habits? On one hand, we want more things because we want to satisfy our material appetite. Most of us derive pleasure from treating ourselves. On the other hand, a little voice inside us echoes those upright messages: "Watch out, take stock of your life, don't let your attention get scattered. Postpone your desires. Don't fall into debt. Wait! Retain control over your own life. It will make you stronger."
7 Anyway, many of the skills you need as a successful student can be applied to your finances. Consider your financial well-being as a key ingredient of your university education as money worries are extremely stressful and distracting. They can make you feel terrible and hinder your ability to focus on your prime objective: successfully completing your education.
8 How can you be a smart and educated consumer? Many schools, community organizations, and even some banks offer financial literacy classes. Consider consulting with your school's financial aid office or seek input from your parents or other respected adults in setting up a budget. An additional option is finding a partner to help you stay on track and find pleasure in the administration of your own financial affairs. Most importantly, if you find yourself getting into financial trouble, don't let your ego get in your way; urgently get help with tackling your problem before it spins out of control and lands you in legal troubles.
9 All this will help you become an educated consumer and saver. As you learn to balance spending and saving, you will become the captain of your own ship, steering your life in a successful and productive direction through the choppy waters.
Door closer, are you?
1 The next time you're deciding between rival options, one which is primary and the other which is secondary, ask yourself this question: What would Xiang Yu do?
2 Xiang Yu was a Chinese imperial general in the third century BC who took his troops across the Zhang River on a raid into enemy territory. To his troops' astonishment, he ordered their cooking pots crushed and their sailing ships burned.
3 He explained that he was imposing on them a necessity for attaining victory over their opponents. What he said was surely motivating, but it wasn't really appreciated by many of his loyal soldiers as they watched their vessels go up in flames. But the genius of General Xiang Yu's conviction would be validated both on the battlefield and in modern social science research. General Xiang Yu was a rare exception to the norm, a veteran leader who was highly respected for his many conquests and who achieved the summit of success.
4 He is featured in Dan Ariely's enlightening new publication, Predictably Irrational, a fascinating investigation of seemingly irrational human behavior, such as the tendency for keeping multiple options open. Most people can't marshal the will for painful choices, not even students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where Dr. Ariely teaches behavioral economics. In an experiment that investigated decision-making, hundreds of students couldn't bear to let their options vanish, even though it was clear they would profit from doing so.
5 The experiment revolved around a game that eliminated the excuses we usually have for refusing to let go. In the real world, we can always say, "It's good to preserve our options." Want a good example? A teenager is exhausted from soccer, ballet, piano, and Chinese lessons, but her parents won't stop any one of them because they might come in handy some day!
6 In the experiment sessions, students played a computer game that provided cash behind three doors appearing on the screen. The rule was the more money you earned, the better player you were, given a total of 100 clicks. Every time the students opened a door by clicking on it, they would use up one click but wouldn't get any money. However, each subsequent click on that door would earn a fluctuating sum of money, with one door always revealing more money than the others. The important part of the rule was each door switch, though having no cash value, would also use up one of the 100 clicks. Therefore, the winning strategy was to quickly check all the doors and keep clicking on the one with the seemingly highest rewards.
7 While playing the game, students noticed a modified visual element: Any door left un-clicked for a short while would shrink in size and vanish. Since they already understood the game, they should have ignored the vanishing doors. Nevertheless, they hurried to click on the lesser doors before they vanished, trying to keep them open. As a result, they wasted so many clicks rushing back to the vanishing doors that they lost money in the end. Why were the students so attached to the lesser doors? They would probably protest that they were clinging to the doors to keep future options open, but,
according to Dr. Ariely, that isn't the true factor.
8 Instead of the excuse to maintain future options open, underneath it all the students' desire was to avoid the immediate, though temporary, pain of watching options close. "Closing a door on an option is experienced as a loss, and people are willing to pay a big price to avoid the emotion of loss," Dr. Ariely says. In the experiment, the price was easily measured in lost cash. In life, the corresponding costs are often less obvious such as wasted time or missed opportunities.
9 "Sometimes these doors are closing too slowly for us to see them vanishing," Dr. Ariely writes. "We may work more hours at our jobs without realizing that the childhood of our sons and daughters is slipping away."
10 So, what can be done to restore balance in our lives? One answer, Dr. Ariely says, is to implement more prohibitions on overbooking. We can work to reduce options on our own, delegating tasks to others and even giving away ideas for others to pursue. He points to marriage as an example, "In marriage, we create a situation where we promise ourselves not to keep options open. We close doors and announce to others we've closed doors."
11 Since conducting the door experiment, Dr. Ariely says he has made a conscious effort to lessen his load. He urges the rest of us to resign from committees, prune holiday card lists, rethink hobbies and remember the lessons of door closers like Xiang Yu.
12 In other words, Dr. Ariely is encouraging us to discard those things that seem to have outward merit in favor of those things that actually enrich our lives. We are naturally prejudiced to believe that more is better, but Dr. Ariely's research provides
a dose of reality that strongly suggests otherwise.
13 What price do we pay for trying to have more and more in life? What pleasure and satisfaction can be derived from focusing our energy and attention in a more concentrated fashion? Surely, we will have our respective answers.
14 Consider these important questions: Will we have more by always increasing options or will we have more with fewer, carefully chosen options? What doors should we close in order to allow the right windows of opportunity and happiness to open?
6 在这个实验里，学生要玩一个电脑游戏: 在电脑屏幕上会显示三扇门，每扇门后都会提供一些现金。该游戏的规则是每个人都只能点击100次，你点击获取的钱越多，你就玩得越好。学生每点击一次打开一扇门，他们会用掉一个点击数，但却不会得到任何钱。然而，随后接着在那扇门上的每次点击都会挣得数额不等的钱，三扇门显示的钱总有一扇比另外两扇多。这个游戏规则的重点是虽然每次换门没有金钱回报，可还是会用掉一次点击数。所以，制胜战略是要迅速查看所有的门，然后只点击那扇似乎是钱最多的门。
Animals or children? — A scientist's choice
1 I am the enemy! I am one of those cursed, cruel physician scientists involved in animal research. These rumors sting, for I have never thought of myself as an evil person. I became a children's doctor because of my love for children and my supreme desire to keep them healthy. During medical school and residency, I saw many children die of cancer and bloodshed from injury —circumstances against which medicine has made great progress but still has a long way to go. More importantly, I also saw children healthy thanks to advances in medical science such as infant breathing support, powerful new medicines and surgical techniques and the entire field of organ transplantation. My desire to tip the scales in favor of healthy, happy children drew me to medical research.
2 My accusers have twisted the truth into a fable and cast me as the devil. They claim that
I have no moral compass, that I torture innocent animals for the sole purpose of career advancement, and that my experiments have no relevance to medicine. Meanwhile, an uncaring public barely watches, convinced that the issue has no significance, and publicity-conscious senators and politicians increasingly give way to the lobbying of animal rights activists.
3 We, in medical research, have also been unbelievably uncaring. We have allowed the most extreme animal rights protesters to creep in and frame the issue as one of "animal fraud" and hatred. We have persisted in our belief that a knowledgeable public would consent to the importance of animal research for public health. Perhaps we have been mistaken in not responding to the emotional tone of the argument. Perhaps we should have responded to those sad slogans and posters of animals by waving equally sad posters of children dying of cancer or external wounds.
4 In the animal rights forum, much is made of the volume of pain these animals experience in the name of medical science. Activists deny that we are trying to help and say it is evidence of our evil and cruel nature. A more reasonable argument, however, can be advanced in our defense. Life is often cruel to animals and human beings. Teenagers are flung from trucks and suffer severe head injuries. Young children barely able to walk find themselves at the bottom of swimming pools while a parent is occupied with something else. From everyday germs to gang violence, no life is free of pain. Physicians hoping to relieve the eternal suffering of these tragedies have only three choices: 1) create an animal model of the problem to understand the process and test new therapies;
2) experiment on human beings (some experiments will succeed, most will fail); or 3) leave medical knowledge static, hoping that accidental discoveries will lead us forward.
5 Some animal rights activists would suggest an optional fourth choice, claiming that computer models can create animal experiments, thus omitting actual experiments. Computers can imitate the effects of well-understood principles on complex systems, as in the application of the laws of physics to airplane and automobile design. However, when the principles themselves are in question, as is the case with the complex biological systems of human life under study, computer modeling alone is of little value.
6 One of the terrifying effects of arresting the use of animals in medical research is that the impact will not be felt for years or even decades. Drugs to cure infection will remain undiscovered, surgical and diagnostic techniques will remain undeveloped, and fundamental biological processes that might have been understood will remain
mysteries. There is the danger that quick decisions by well-meaning politicians will create resolution to diplomatically satisfy the small minority of loud protestors while the consequences and damaging impact of those decisions will not be apparent until long after.
7 Fortunately, most of us enjoy good health, and the agony of watching one's child die has become a rare experience. Yet our good fortune should not make us unappreciative. Protection from serious sickness and drugs to combat heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke are all based on animal research. Most complex surgical procedures such as heart or hip surgery and organ transplantation surgeries were initially developed in animals. Techniques to replace defective genes, the cause of so much disease, as well as the development of synthetic organs are presently undergoing animal studies. These studies, and any subsequent advances, will effectively end if animal research is severely restricted.
8 In America today, death has become an event isolated from our daily existence. As a doctor who has watched many children die and seen their parents' infinite grief, I am particularly angered by any minute expression of caring for the suffering of creatures and so little for sick and dying human beings. People are too protected from the reality of human life and death and what it means.
9 Make no mistake, however. I would never advocate needless cruel treatment of animals. The animal rights movement has made a contribution in making us more aware of animals' needs and the need to search harder for suitable alternatives. But if the more radical members of this movement are successful in threatening further research, their efforts will bring about a tragedy that will cost many lives. Hence the real question is whether an uncaring majority can be aroused to protect its future against a loud, but misdirected, minority.
8 在今天的美国，死亡已经成为我们日常生活中孤立少见的事。作为一个看见过许多儿童死亡和他们父母悲痛至极的医生，我感到特别愤怒的是，有人对动物的痛苦表达入微，但对生病和生命垂危的人却冷漠无情。人们受到了太多的保护, 以至于他们感觉不到现实世界里的生与死，也感觉不到其所代表的真实意义。