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More dumbing down of America . . .

Today is Tuesday, March 2, 2010.

I am noting the date in order to record the day that I peeked into the future of America, and my opinion is that our future does not shine nearly as brightly as it should, and certainly not as brightly as it did before the promulgation of certain documents by our government.

And in that vein, please know that I just signed off from a United States government web site that provides everything one needs to know in order to become a naturalized U. S. citizen. I left in haste because I was stricken with extreme nausea, a condition that developed in less than five minutes of reading the basic conditions that an applicant must meet in order to become a bona fide citizen of our country, entitled to all the rights and benefits appurtenant thereto.

Numerous inhalations and exhalations, plus several Tums tablets, plus some fifteen minutes in a supine position on the sofa (lying down face up, on my back, so to speak) enabled me to recover sufficiently enough to return to the site for further reading. My nausea returned immediately on arrival, but I managed to control it. I felt that it was the least I could do in order to understand the requirements enough to pass the basics on to my blog visitors.

I stayed at the site long enough to capsule the requirements into a few brief statements—actually,  they can be expressed in one statement, namely that an applicant wishing to become a naturalized citizen must be alive. I found no evidence that our Immigration officials would grant, or even consider granting, naturalized citizenship status to non-citizens that have departed this vale of tears for another world, regardless of whether they ascended or descended into their new world.

At this point it would perhaps be beneficial to define a naturalized U. S. citizen. Such citizens begin as resident aliens, those that hold a green card, a federal document that gives the resident every right enjoyed by U.S. citizens except for the right to vote and the right to hold public office. Under current regulations, any resident aliens that have held their green card for a certain number of years may apply for naturalization, the successful completion of which will entitle them to all the rights and benefits accorded to citizens born on U.S. soil, or born on foreign soil to parents, either one or both, that are U. S. citizens, regardless of the place of birth.

I could ramble on interminably—just as I normally am wont to do—by replicating all the requirements, but you can read them for yourself at this site, The U.S. Naturalization Test. Rather than repeating the requirements verbatim, I will compare them with the basic rules that determine whether our children will, at the close of the school year, either ascend from their present school grade to the next level or remain at their present level for another year.

While our schools may vary in some degree, most require students to attain a final grade of C, an alphabetical term corresponding to the numerical requirement of 70 points earned by students from a total of 100 points. I know of no legal exceptions to that requirement, although in the past some schools have elevated students that failed to achieve the minimum points by granting them the necessary points—70, a C. That practice was labeled a social promotion—I am very familiar with a school district in South Texas—deep in South Texas—that used the term Circle C. That district’s report cards featured a C within a circle, indicating that the student had failed to attain a passing grade but was allowed to pass to the next level—that’s the concept of social promotion in action!

No, my children never presented their parents with a circled C—had they received a report card with such, I venture to say that they would not have dared to bring it home—they would have probably claimed, wisely,  that the dog ate it!

I am not privy to statistics concerning social promotions in American schools, neither past nor present, and any prediction of future social promotions could not possibly produce accurate figures. However, I can accurately predict that social promotions—read granting U.S. citizenship—will be awarded by our U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in direct proportion to the numbers of applicants that minimally qualify for U.S. citizenship.

Unbelievable? Read on!

An applicant for citizenship must be able to read one sentence in English from a group of three sentences presented in English. Reading that one sentence correctly awards the applicant the qualifying grade of 33 percent in the quest for U.S. citizenship. Thirty-three percent is far below the 70 percent required for children in our public schools to attain in order to pass to another level. Thirty-three percent would be considered an F-minus in our schools, but it’s a passing grade for the legal resident alien on the path to citizenship.

And here’s the exact sentence, copied from the English & Civics narrative—the catcher in the rye, so to speak—Your ability to speak English is determined during your interview on your naturalization application. Well, I say good luck with that!

In this instance the official becomes the catcher in the rye—whether the applicant passes or fails the spoken English requirement is determined by that official. Based on my experiences accumulated over a period of 26 years while working in proximity to Immigration officials, I found that some lacked full literacy in at least one language—English. All such officials were bilingual, but I could neither determine, nor vouch for, their literacy in languages other than English. To apply the term catcher in the rye, I believe that in some, perhaps most, of the time the examiner will catch the examinee as the need arises (see the post script below for an explanation of the term catcher in the rye).

Wait, there’s more:

An applicant for citizenship must be able to correctly answer at least six of ten civics questions—six of ten—that’s another grade of 60 percent, an alphabetical grade of D in our schools. And guess what? An applicant that fails to attain that lofty 60 percent may test again, anywhere from 60 to 90 days after initially failing the test—the same version of the test the applicant failed. Based on my knowledge gleaned over 48 years of military and federal civil service, bootleg copies of every test will soon be available, and new tests will be developed to replace the existing bootleg copies, and soon after that bootleg copies of the new tests will be made available, etc., etc.

Other than finding that the path to citizenship for a long-time legal U.S. resident is a piece of cake, there’s lots more learning to be gained by spending some time on the citizenship site. You might consider taking the sample tests. They could prove to be an eye-opener for you concerning your knowledge of our nation and its government.

I took the tests, and yes, my eyes opened wide indeed—the tests were not the cakewalk I expected and I stumbled on several questions. Actually, I gave the wrong answers but I managed to eke out an A overall.

Try it—you’ll like it!

I have striven mightily to avoid any semblance of purposely projecting personal political preferences (how’s that for alliteration!) in this posting. I trust that I have retained my anonymity, whether I’m standing stolidly and solidly in the center, or I’m leaning toward the left or to the right of our political spectrum.

I realize that any readers will be able to satisfactorily discern for themselves which political party, if any, will benefit (if there is any benefit to be gained) from this kindergarten approach to determining qualifications for U. S. citizenship, whether Democratic, Republican, Constitutional, Green or Libertarian, or any of the plethora of third parties that infest the United States.

I must resume my supine position on the sofa now—I am sorely in need of more Tums.

Postcript:

My reference to the catcher in the rye was prompted by Holden Caulifield’s thoughts expressed in J. D. Salinger’s 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye. Holden says he pictures children playing in a field of rye on the edge of a cliff, and in expectation of them accidentally running over the cliff he stands ready to catch them—he thus pictures himself as the catcher in the rye, and says that’s all he wants to be.

It’s one of America’s greatest novels, a read that you’ll enjoy.

I believe that—I really do!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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To lay, or to lie—that is the question . . .

And this is the answer: Hens lay—people lie.

The misuse of lay and lie is one of my pet peeves, perhaps the pettiest and peeviest of all.

We hear the verbs misused in every venue—we see it printed in our daily newspapers and other periodicals, and we hear it on radio, on television and in everyday conversations. Medics arriving at an accident scene will invariably tell the injured to lay down, lay still. The medic may report to his home station that he found the injured person laying in a ditch beside the road—and the operator may ask him to repeat the victim’s location by saying, “Repeat, please—where is the victim laying?” As much as I detest repeating myself, I will now repeat myself:

Hens lay—people lie.

Remember when we learned to conjugate verbs? We memorized word groups containing the present, past and future tenses of verbs. The verb to lie, as in lie down, is conjugated as lie, lay, lain—I lie down today, I lay down yesterday, and  by this time tomorrow I will have lain down again. This conjugation is used to reflect the position of something in repose, whether alive or dead, whether animate or inanimate, whether animal, vegetable or mineral and whether prostrate or supine.

A quick explanation here on prostrate versus supine may be in order, just in the highly unlikely possibility that one or more viewers may be confused by the difference between prostrate and supine. Prostrate means lying on one’s stomach (face down), and supine means lying on one’s back (face up).

Special note: Some people sometimes tend to confuse the term prostrate with prostate. The first refers to position—the second is “a gland found at the neck of the bladder in male mammals.” I remember a sentence in a novel that read, “He lay prostate on the altar of Mammon.” The name Mammon, of course, refers to wealth, something regarded as evil, an object of worship and devotion. Medieval writers took Mammon as the name of the devil of covetousness. I suspect that the misspelling of prostrate was a typo, an error made way back in the days before spellcheckers came into use. There is a truth to be learned here—spellcheckers are not infallible.

The verb to lie also refers to truthfulness (or the lack thereof), and is conjugated as follows: lie, lied, lied—I lie today (or I am lying, the gerund form of lie), I lied yesterday, and by this time tomorrow I will have lied again.

The verb to lay also has two very different meanings, as does the verb to lie. It can refer to the hen’s ability to lay an egg (lay, laid, laid), or it may be used to place or put something, also conjugated as lay, laid and laid. Rather that saying “Put (or place) it on the table,” we can say “Lay it on the table.” We can then legitimately say that we laid it on the table, and that by this time tomorrow we will have laid another on the table.

I suppose that a hen could lie down, but in my experience they only sit—or stand, of course. I have never seen a hen lie. However, I have heard hens lie. When I was a child, in a time shrouded in the mists of the past, a cackling hen usually meant that an egg had just been laid. That sound would send me running to the hen house for a quick visual scan of the nests to locate and purloin the egg, still warm after its journey from darkness to the bright light of day, then a quick run to the general store one-quarter mile distant to initiate and complete a business transaction. A dozen eggs in those days cost 60 cents, so I would exchange the egg for a nickel’s worth of something sweet, the buyer’s choice of items ranging from candy to cookies to a Coke. Yes, at that time the green Mae West-shaped bottle of Coca-Cola cost just five cents.

As regards that hen cackling, the cackling did not always indicate that an egg had been laid and was available. There were other situations in which hens cackled. They often cackled when the rooster was in hot pursuit, a cackle engendered by panic or perhaps by anticipation or some alternate feeling. Hens also sometimes cackled shortly after being overtaken by the rooster—whether the cackling indicated pleasure or disappointment is known only by the hen—and the rooster, perhaps. I use the word perhaps because the hen, in any discussion that may have ensued between her and the rooster following their encounter, may have told him things that were somewhat less than truthful, little white lies told so the the rooster would hear that which she knew he wanted, and needed, to hear. Let’s face it, my brothers—it’s well known that some actions of some animals sometimes mirror the actions of humans, both in the psychological sense and the physical sense—they just speak a different language.

A quick application of basic arithmetic to the sale of eggs at sixty cents per dozen:

Armed with the knowledge that twelve of something—anything—equals one dozen, then dividing the cost of a dozen eggs (sixty cents) by the number of eggs in a dozen (twelve) would show that one egg had a value of  five cents, and one might wonder how the store’s proprietor could make a profit. In this instance he was satisfied to break even—he was my uncle, the husband of my mother’s sister, a deeply religious and benevolent man cut down in the prime of his life. He was killed by the actions of a 12-year-old boy, a first-cousin to me and the younger of his two sons.

My cousin’s actions were not deliberate—his father’s death was an accident, avoidable perhaps, but still an unfortunate accident. Unless it sprouts wings and flies (or flees) from my memories and refuses to return, the story of my uncle’s death will be the subject of a future posting.

Stay tuned.


 

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