A Few Choice Words
Posted by Neal on October 10, 2004
Doug got croup, again, last Wednesday, and stayed home from school on Thursday. But on Friday he seemed well enough to go to school, so we sent him. When I picked him up, though, his teacher said he hadn’t been himself that day. She said, “He chose not to watch Letter People, and that’s not like him.”
That struck me as odd, since the last I’d heard, the Letter People videos were not one of the options offered during the Free Choice part of the day. During the parent orientation, the teacher had said the class would watch a Letter People episode every Friday.
Then I realized: This might not be the “free choice” choose; it was probably the “you have to take responsibility for your own behavior” choose that I’d heard a number of teachers use. I asked for clarification: “You mean it was one of his choices and he just didn’t choose it, or he was supposed to watch it and he didn’t?” His teacher confirmed that he should have been watching it.
The choose-language takes a little getting used to. It reminds me of a few years ago when Doug had just learned the verb manage. For a few weeks, it seemed, nothing came easy for Doug–anything he did, he managed to do. Likewise, anything kids do at school, they choose to do. Well, anything bad that they do, they choose to do. They can choose to do good stuff, too, but usually it’s the bad stuff that they need to get talked to about.
I wonder if this generation of kids will incorporate these negative connotations into their lexical semantics for choose, so that it will actually be ungrammatical in their language to say something like, “I chose to get in shape and learn a foreign language.” I reckon it’ll depend on how often they hear choose used to describe something good that someone did.