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DO COMPUTERS HELP BY CORRECTING ERRORS?

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The sign at the end of the east road leading to the McKay Dee Hospital in Ogden is clear. "This is not a bus stop." One can only guess at the reasons for such a sign. Were people waiting at the corner interminably, milling around waiting to be picked up by the UTA? Is it a stop from which they would never return? Why would people stand on a corner waiting for a bus if the corner were not clearly marked as a bus stop? How did the UTA people know that the mob gathered at the corner was waiting for a bus? Why doesn't the bus just stop at the corner where it must slow to 5 mph anyway to make a right angle turn?

The UTA sign is in the same league as the UDOT sign on the road that goes east from Richfield. The road makes a wide turn north and there is a possibility that a dozy driver could stay on the straight and narrow east, which would be the wrong way if the traveler wanted to follow U-89 north to beautiful downtown Ephraim or I-15 north to Provo and Salt Lake City. The sign on the straight road alerts drivers that it is the wrong road.This raises the question of road signs and bus signs. Is it in the future to identify all corners that are not bus stops and to clearly post on each road a list of places where the road doesn't go? There is a precedent for this. Like a sign that won't let me make a mistake, my computer won't let me do accidental typos. All typographical errers are now perposefull. I am no longer free to make inadvertent misteakes. This is hard to explain because my computer won't let me do what I want to demonstrate. If I try to type "the" and accidentally transpose the letters "h" and "e," the computer corrects my error as soon as I hit the space bar and "the" appears on my computer monitor even though I typed it wrong. I even tried to type it wrong to show a possible alert reader what I mean, but my computer won't let me unless I space out the word, "t*e*h." I'm sure there is something in the constitution about this loss of freedom.

There is also a larger question: Can I make the small typo with capital letters? The answer is no. The computer even answers the larger question. So now there is the much larger question: Will the new-fangled way of preventing small typos permanently damage my already deteriorating typing skills? It occurs to me that now and forever I can type "and, the, of, ask. . ." and even four letter words wrong and never know it. I can be wrong the rest of my life and never know. It's like standing on the corner in front of the McKay Dee Hospital forever and never being picked up by a bus and never being told that a bus will never pick me up there.

Not knowing about my typos will do wonders for my self-esteem. I will now think that I am a good typist. Therein is the much larger question. If self-esteem is important to educational success, and it certainly is, should we protect students from the knowledge of their errors in an effort to help them feel good about themselves? Students from the "feel good school of composition" that I meet in college composition courses turn in papers laced with stuff that gets in the way, spelling errors, random punctuation, inconsistent but creative capitalization, modifiers that dangle, faulty logic. . . But often in there somewhere are basically good ideas. The trouble is that a good idea poorly expressed just doesn't count in a world where ideas are the currency of global competition. Anything that gets in the way of expressing the good idea diminishes it.

But does correcting all those errors the students make using the standard tools of good writing somehow lower self esteem? Absolutely not! The best boost a student can get is a reward for true quality in ideas and expression. Students see through the sham of rewards for inferior work and are not served in the long run by teachers or programs that have as a goal making students feel better about work that is substandard. Sometimes in an effort to help students that have sunk low we take the mistaken path of rewarding work the student knows doesn't measure up. Our energies would be better spent teaching them how to do quality work.

The point is that my computer does me a disservice by not letting me see the errors of my ways. It teaches me that the world will ignore my mistakes and accept as good something that really isn't. The question that remains is if we should let people take the wrong road out of Richfield and enjoy the insight of self-discovery. Is it best to prevent a wrong turn, tell drivers they are wrong after they turn, or let the natural consequence of ending up hundreds of miles from where travelers want to be serve as an object lesson? In the meantime, let's not interfere with the people waiting for Godot in front of the McKay Dee Hospital. In this busy world there is something therapeutic about a good wait and after all, they are in front of the hospital.