Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


November 2, 2013

From Beijing to VPI and political correctness, the times keep changing

— — Change is the word. We are studying a unit called “Foundations and Encounters” in our English 11 class and the Native Americans are primary focus in the section. I tell my students that for most of my life I knew them as “Indians” but now in the twilight years I have been trying to do the proper thing and reference these individuals correctly.

 I mean no disrespect but I cannot believe the football team in Washington would do anything more than give passing credence to changing its name. It seems that “Redskins” has always been a term of praise and is deemed highly admirable by the loyal fans.

At any rate, times are surely different and we may indeed see a switch in the NFL. Is Kansas City next on the list? Is “Chiefs” an improper term?

Maybe it was a good idea to pick the Cowboys as my favorites. Evidently there is no problem with that name. After all, the way Dallas plays these days makes everybody happy and no doubt the other teams would like to leave them exactly the way they are.

It is beyond people, this evolving process. For example, for 40 years I knew the outstanding institution down in Blacksburg as VPI. The correct name, after all, is Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University.

Suddenly, a few years back, the name somehow changed to Virginia Tech. I am not being disrespectful when I often say “VPI” in reference to the Hokies. Virginia Tech sounds fine but it is different and if you hear me use the former term please know that I am not anti-Tech in any way.

Geographical development is not confined to Southwest Virginia. Like many of you, I learned very well that the capital of China was Peking. Again, almost overnight, this changed to “Beijing” and I had a tough time with that. Decades of “Peking” is not easily erased from the memory bank. Does anyone know if the name has quietly changed back recently?

Next, communication is a rapidly evolving area in all societies. I cannot imagine that anyone would trade an impersonal computer screen for the comforting feel of a book or a newspaper or a magazine in the open hand. Yet, it could be true that will come to pass.

There is more floating on the winds of change than the printed page, of course. For example, it is an open secret that I am not thrilled with cell phones. I suspect sometimes that chiropractors love them. Walk through a grocery store or a department store and notice how many necks are bent over talking into those handy little devices. Although I am not a medical student, it seems reasonable to believe that is not a good thing to have tendons or ligaments bent in that fashion for very long.

It also keeps down conversation with people in the area as individuals just nod to the person near them and keep on talking to a distant friend. Are these things bringing us together or driving us apart?

Despite claims to the contrary, the social media (so called) does not always seem to be bringing folks closer together. I hear stories of people in the same room texting each other. Why not just talk to each other?

More often than ever before, I cannot call nearly as many people at home because they have switched to cellular devices and when I look in the phone book the old numbers no longer work.

That seems to be like more division than addition. If it is true that soon there will be no more land lines, I guess my gas bill will increase dramatically because I will have to drive to wherever the person lives with whom I need to speak.

We may be in the final generations of good handwriting, a.k.a. penmanship, and accurate spelling. With the machines we have now, punching a keyboard eliminates the need for any accuracy in the old Zaner-Bloser method of expressing oneself on the cursive page.

Like many of you, I grew up with all 10 digits being equally adept at communication but today it seems that the thumb has become the primary writing instrument. An expert texter told me recently she could bench press 100 pound with her thumbs.

What would John Hancock have thought of Microsoft Word and Times New Roman 12-point font? He might have embraced it with an open quill.

Larry Hypes, a teacher at Tazewell High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist.


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