Names and Homework
October 10, 2000
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What is it with the New York Times that it can't spell names correctly?
One of today's victims is a Michigan Republican businessman who is leading a school voucher campaign, Richard DeVos. In a story in the national section, the Times misspells his name "DeVoss."
Another victim is the leader of Hezbollah, Sheik Nasrallah. In a story in today's international section, the Times spells his name "Nasrulluh." Transliterating Arab names is the sort of thing where fair play would dictate giving the Times the benefit of the doubt, but a quick search of the archives on the Times web site shows that the Times itself has spelled the man's name "Nasrallah" in at least 41 articles in the past four years, and never before as "Nasrullah." Why the sudden change?
The third name the Times screws up in this morning's paper is that of a Texas judge who is the subject of an item in the newspaper's "Campaign Briefing" section. The Times twice spells the judge's last name as "Keller" and once as "Kelley."
Finally, in the national section, the Times gives the name of a former United States attorney in Alaska as "Wev Mr. Shea."
The Times and Homework: A front-page story in this morning's Times hails as a hero a school district superintendent who has "discouraged" teachers from assigning homework on the weekends and has prohibited teachers from grading homework. The story goes through the motions of quoting a parent or two who disagree with the new anti-homework policy, but the Times' treatment of the anti-homework policy is generally to laud it. It lets go unchallenged, for instance, the school superintendent's statement "that he was worried about the inequities that homework caused." The school district in question, the Times informs us, "is notable for its economic and racial diversity -- the district is about one-third black, one-third white, and 25 percent Asian, with 75 languages spoken in the schools. Some students cannot afford tutors." The story goes on to say that one study "found higher standardized test scores among Chinese-American students whose parents demanded they spend more time studying."
Maybe if the Times editors had more open minds about the value of homework, they would have learned at some point during their own school careers how to spell names correctly. Or maybe the Times should decide to just throw out any standards on the spelling of names, because it is "worried about the inequities" such standards might cause. After all, the Times staff is surely "notable" for its "racial diversity" -- and who knows, enforcing standards on the spelling of names might give an unfair advantage to those editors and reporters with hard-driving Chinese-American parents who demanded they learn how to spell and to check facts.
Deadly Errors: An op-ed piece in today's Times about the violence in the Middle East runs under the headline "Israel's Deadly Errors." The article claims: "Historically, Israel enjoyed peace and stability when it stopped occupying Arab lands and instead applied standards of moral equity and international legality to its relations with its Arab neighbors." This is preposterous. For one thing, Israel has never enjoyed peace. Its Arab neighbors have been at war with it since it was founded in 1948 on a tiny sliver of land that included none of the territory that could by any reasonable standard now be considered occupied "Arab lands." The problem is that for political purposes, the Arabs consider all of Israel, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to Haifa, to be "Arab lands." In other words, the way for Israel to enjoy peace and stability, according to this article, is for the nation to cease to exist. Given the article's definition of peace, however, even that step may not be enough. The article claims, for instance, that "Peace has reigned along the Lebanese border since Israel withdrew from most of southern Lebanon." This, too, is preposterous. As the Times itself reports in its international section this morning, three Israeli soldiers were captured by Hezbollah terrorists on Saturday after the Hezbollah fighters "cut their way through the border fence and grabbed the three Israelis from a patrol vehicle mounted with a machine gun." The news article reports that the Israeli soldiers had been distracted "by Hezbollah shelling nearby." The maximalist demands of the Arabs are clear even from the not-so-subtle phrasing of the Times op-ed article's claim that Israel withdrew from "most of Southern Lebanon." This, too, is preposterous. Israel has withdrawn from all of Southern Lebanon and has been certified as having done so even by the consistently anti-Israel United Nations. The problem is that the Arabs consider all of Israel -- from Haifa to Tel Aviv to Jerusalem -- to be Southern Lebanon or Southern Syria or Northern Egypt or Western Jordan. They do not consider it to be Israel. Why the Times would run this sort of stuff is an open question. We find it illuminating, but probably not for the reasons that the Times editors intended.
Late Again: The Times waddles in this morning with a story about conservative reaction to a remark about gay marriage made by Richard Cheney during last Thursday's vice-presidential debate. The story runs under the headline, "Cheney's Marriage Remark Irks Conservatives." It's almost comical that it has taken the Times this long to get something about this remark into its news columns. The New York Post had it on Friday, the morning after the debate, as Smartertimes.com noted on Friday morning.
Note: Smartertimes.com is on the road this morning and is operating off the New England edition of the Times.
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