recount vs account (UK usage question)

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recount vs account (UK usage question)

Post by adamsargant » Thu Dec 29, 2005 5:10 pm


Here is my response from the department of education plus my reply back!!

I'm contemplating seeing if any of the national papers are interested in this corresponence. Any thoughts?

My reply and her original response follow below


Dear Ms Smith

I have to say I am somewhat surprised by your reply. I've subscribed to the online OED to confirm your assertion. It does indeed appear that the OED lists this noun usage of the word recount, but surely this is irrelevant. The OED indicates its rarity, the examples are archaic (none more recent that 100 years ago), so what place does it have in the education of a 10 year old child? No common dictionary available to 10 year olds that I have been able to lay my hands on gives this usage. The answer is simply unnacceptable.


Adam Sargant

On 12/29/05, <> wrote:
> Dear Mr Sargant
> Thank you for your email of 5 December in which you queried the use of the
> word 'recount' in the National Literacy Strategy's framework for teaching.
> While it is true that it is rare to use the word 'recount' as a noun, the
> use of it in this way is supported by the examples given in the Oxford
> English Dictionary which also gives the definition of recount as account,
> narrative, narration e.g:
> '1489 CAXTON Blanchardine 1iii. 204 And for the recounte of their adventure,
> they chased Subyon; 1582 T. WATSON Centurie of Love 1x, No Night with sleepe
> shall close mine eyes at all, before I make recount of such a debt; 1635
> NAUNTON Fragm. Reg 34. In recount of whom I proceed with Sir Philip
> Sydney. 1905.Daily Chron. 20 July 3/1 We... are not bored by the intolerable
> recount of flukey rounds.
> The Glossary of Terms used in the Framework gives the definition of
> 'recount' in the context of the Framework as: 'recount text - a text written
> to retell for information or entertainment. A fictional narrative recount
> may consist of scene-setting, a starting point, a problem, account and a
> conclusion. The language is descriptive, and there may be dialogue.
> Characters are defined and often named.
> A non-fiction recount may begin with a scene-setting introduction, and then
> retell events in chronological order. An example of this type of text would
> include writing about visits, newspaper accounts of an event or a biography.
> You may be interested to know that we are currently reviewing and renewing
> the Literacy Framework in order to make it more accessible. I will pass
> your comments on to the appropriate team for consideration.
> Once again, thank you for taking the time to write to us with your concerns.
> Yours sincerely
> Leona Smith
> On behalf of the Head of the Public Communications Unit

recount vs account (UK usage question)

Post by Shelley » Thu Dec 29, 2005 7:47 pm

adamsargant, you think you've got it bad? Try dropping off your five year old on his first day of kindergarten, and hearing the teacher yell out into the din, "how do you spell Sweden?" (Believe me, she wasn't conducting a lesson!) Next year -- new teacher: you drop off your six year old at his classroom and, while admiring the children's artwork, you notice the teacher's lesson in how to use a calendar posted: the day of the week on the far right side of the calendar is spelled "SATERDAY". I finally wrote my letter four years later when I discovered my 10 year old's reading assignment included words and scenes which were far too "mature" for his age group. Today, the abovementioned teachers are no longer teaching (to my knowledge), and my son thankfully knows how to spell the days of the week, and the names of several countries.
More power to you, adamsargant, and may this be the very worst case of questionable teacher competence you experience. The fact that Ms. Smith was able to reply in coherent, grammatically correct English free from glaring mispellings would be considered a plus in my neck of the universe. I can see why you are taking up this banner, and I agree with you. However, I also think you and your daughter fortunate to be in a place where the issues are so rarified (duelling citations from the OED, no less!).

recount vs account (UK usage question)

Post by adamsargant » Thu Dec 29, 2005 8:01 pm

Hi Shelley

Unfortunately, Ms Smith is a government official responding to my comments about the governement literacy strategy document, not a teacher. My issue seems to originate with the UK governements documents that instruct our teachers what and how to teach. I have taken the issue up with her teachers (as I have previous issues, regarding the teaching of incorrectly spelled words and, indeed, words too mature for her age group when she could not distinguish between "there" and "their"). However, you are quite right, there are many children in worse situations, in the UK and out.

This is a current issue in the UK; there is evidence of declining literacy among children here. My issue is that if our government cannot give appropriate direction to teachers, what hope have any of us got.

All power to you too Shelley... what parent considers the standard of their children's education to be unimportant?


recount vs account (UK usage question)

Post by Shelley » Thu Dec 29, 2005 8:54 pm

Hm. I guess Ms. Smith's facility with English is what accounts, then, for her position to write on behalf of the Head of the Public Communications Unit. I wonder why they would defend so energetically the use of such an archaic word?

recount vs account (UK usage question)

Post by Wizard of Oz » Thu Dec 29, 2005 11:28 pm

Shelley and Adam I find your righteous, learned protestations rather hard to understand .. besides the opportunity for a bit of good old teacher bashing .. because we all know better than teachers .. don't we ?? .. why I find it difficult to understand is that within the pages and archives of Word Wizard we find example after example of words being ascribed new meanings to fit with some current usage or purpose .. Dale delights in his neologisms .. words are living entities, as Ken oft times has reminded me, that take on new meanings, revive old meanings and at times act just as stupidly as some adults .. in attempting to define new directions for Literacy teaching and learning it is apparent that the committee decided to find a word .. recount .. that best encapsulated ALL of the possibilities for retelling, accounting and so on and so forth .. they defined how they would use the word .. they gave examples of what would be expected and then they inserviced their teachers on using the word and how it could contribute to the teaching of literacy .. so now, in truth, has anything changed ?? .. has this word irrervocably changed the possibility of children learning or of teachers magically being able to teach ?? .. I think not .. teachers will teach and children will learn regardless Adam of what the teacher calls .. "Write a story about ......." ..

.. Shelley why Literacy standards are supposedly falling .. statistics, statistics, damn statistics and vested interests .. is a very complex issue that goes miles beyond any school and what one teacher does in a single classroom for a few hours per week .. or for that matter whether it is a recount or a retelling or an account or just a plain old story .. Adam & Shelley put your energies into supporting your child to develop a love of learning .. geee you could probably make up for all those useless, uneducated, illiterate teachers that our children have to suffer .. then again there is always home schooling .. Adam maybe if you just accepted what is required and helped your child to do their best in that framework it would set a better example for them .. but then children do need to learn to complain in this modern world .. don't they ?? ..

WoZ of Aus 30/12/05

PS .. we also have the word recount written into our Literacy strategy by the NSW DET .. hey Ken how many times does a word have to appear before it is included in the OED ?? .. muggle made it into Wikipedia, Adam you may care to have a look .. *grin* ..
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

recount vs account (UK usage question)

Post by Phil White » Fri Dec 30, 2005 11:03 am

Surely the issue is that while the terme "recount" may appropriately be dredged up from the bowels of the OED, given a defined meaning and used in a strategy paper, it is utterly inappropriate for a teacher to unthinkingly foist it on a class of 10 year olds without further explanation. The teacher is at fault, not the writers of the National Literacy Strategy (in this case).
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

recount vs account (UK usage question)

Post by adamsargant » Fri Dec 30, 2005 11:42 am

Wiz, I have an (not unreasonable, IMO) expectation that my child be taught English as it is spoken and used, in the contexts it is spoken and used. Anything else is a failure to give her the necessary skills to communicate effectively. But hey, it's good to talk, so thanks for your response :-)

satnav has made it into the latest Concise OED and that is cool. Recount, n, meaning narrative, has not.

Phil, may I rewrite your post?

Shorely thye iffue if that whyle the terme "recount" may appropriately be dredged up from thye bowelf of the OED...


recount vs account (UK usage question)

Post by Shelley » Fri Dec 30, 2005 4:27 pm

WoZ, I don't mean to malign teachers or the profession. As a matter of fact, I'm in awe of them: they're intrepid, brave and willing to take on a task daily that I would run away from after 10 minutes! (I'm talking about New York City Public School teachers -- absolutely some of the world's greatest.) I'm very sorry to have appeared to be bashing. Really. (You might agree though, WoZ, you do get a clunker or two along the way -- it's no mystery!)
I don't think it's unreasonable to expect early education to provide the basics (readin', ritin' and 'rithmatic) and to provide educators who master the BASICS. My issue is not over the use of recount v. account. When my child was starting out, the next big thing was "whole language", which turned out to be a bit of a disaster and resulted in parents investing hundreds of dollars in "phonics" reading and writing instruction. Thankfully, I'd spent hundreds of hours "booking it" with my pre-schooler so by the time he started kindergarten, he was (practically) reading. They asked me to help out with reading in the classroom, which I enjoyed very much. However, one day the teacher overheard me helping a child "sound it out" (reading a word by identifying the letters and the sounds they made). I was asked (kindly) to stop immediately and informed that it wasn't the way they did it. I was truly bewildered. I had to do phonetics on the sly.
Anyway, this is turning into a long story. Sorry. The point is simply that it was freaky to find out the teacher could be so off the mark -- freaky because they have a LOT of power over your young one's developing mind. It's hard to give over.
I agree with the general consensus that language evolves. Nothing wrong with that, but a child deserves to know what's "right" from the start so they won't be at a disadvantage later on. They need to know their "there's" from their "they're(s)". Otherwise, they'll never become another brick in the wall. How can you have your pudding if you don't eat your beets!? Oops, I seem to be rambling . . .
With regard to declining literacy: I think it's video games.

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