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Middle Schoolers, Avuncular Tutors, and the International Graduate Record Exam

Oct 24, 2012 by

 — A Patriotic Option for Retired American Wanderers

by Robert Oliphant –

[Editor’s Note: The appended short article has been submitted as a potentially rewarding activity for American senior citizens in various fields. Oliphant’s views, however, should not be interpreted as synonymous with those of this publication, especially his support of British tutorials.]

My name is Bob, I have a Stanford PhD, and I’m now offering tutorials for American middle schoolers who dream of taking the international Graduate Record Exam (GRE) later on. Right now this multi-feature exam is being taken by both American and foreign students, especially those from China and India. To me personally as a linguist and lexicographer this development has of course made me immensely proud of how standard spoken American English has become a world language during the last ten years — commandingly so!
But I’m also immensely worried by the refusal of our high schools and colleges to teach this world-power spoken language directly to their students, ideally via low priced standard American dictionaries like Random House. By way of plugging this instructional gap, I am starting to empower some of our middle schoolers by offering them British-style tutorials with a sustained emphasis upon words, people, pronunciation, and speeches.

By way of background: Since the top 20% of middle schoolers are already voracious readers, these tutorials will emphasize reading biographies (c.f., Barnes and Noble’s giant list). Compliance will checked by simple sequence tests followed by more challenging dictionary-based vocabulary tests and who’s who tests.

Since American dictionaries offer splendid pronunciation tools, our middle schoolers will also be tested on their mastery of worldwide standard American pronunciation, ideally with the clarity of a metropolitan newscaster, including dictionary-listed high tech terminology (chemistry, etc.). Just as important will be the memorization and delivery of original and classical speeches (President Reagan’s favorite was “The Cremation of Sam Magee”).

Words, people, pronunciation, and speeches — apart from a lack of home schooling in Latin and Greek, our simple syllabus is very, very close to what British teenagers studied back when the aristocracy ruled the Empire and the Empire ruled the World. By way of underscoring the importance of memorized public speaking in our program, I should note that the initials of our four key terms (W-P-P-S) can be sounded out and recalled as WHIPS.

By way of building participant confidence, I cite my two successful federal grants (FIPSE) a while back targeting ESL students. Each of these called for a saturation biography program calling for at least 15 biographies read by each ESL participant.

By way of background I can cite my best known book, A Piano for Mrs. Cimino (Prentice Hall and Reader’s Digest). It was used in a number of reality-orientation programs with many of my fellow American WW2 veterans, along with winning a film prize for its star, Bette Davis. More current publications include two articles, one on poetry, last year in the Los Angeles Times.

To conclude: As matters now stand, I’ve got my materials in chatter-ready shape for a number of different one-on-one tutorials, each of these with the same dictionary and different target materials: biographies, compliance tests, achievement challenges, etc. I also have high expectations that the experience as a whole will inspire each participant to set his or her sights on the GRE down the road as both a productive personal goal and a source of heightened pride for our great nation itself.
Thousand Oaks, California

For the ASPIRING. . . . I see no reason why some dictionary lovers shouldn’t set up as British-style tutors on their own. If so I would refer them to my five-volume AlzHope: a multi-volume ebook confidence builder. It is e-available via npe.review/books/v6n4.htm. It has a useful angle, I feel, on calibration as an essential feature in dictionary-based tests. My friend Richard Phelps did a wizard job putting it together. So here’s hoping it helps the USA get back a little more control of its own language, speaker by speaker.

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