It started slowly in Gwen Reed’s English classes. A “4ever” in a book report here, a “ppl” in an essay there, and a scattering of uncapitalized words or unpunctuated sentences in between. Even the odd smiley face has made its way into a discussion on the merits of classic works of literature.
In recent years, however, it’s taken on a life – and a language – of its own.
Text messaging has brought a new shorthand language that’s impacting the writing of a tech-savvy generation.
“The basic spelling and capitalization errors students are making now were nonexistent 10 years ago,” said Reed, an English teacher at Lake City High School.
In the U.S., 77 percent of teenagers have their own mobile phones and more than 80 percent of those teens use text messaging, according to the Nielsen Co., which tracks market trends. During the first quarter of 2009, American teens sent or received an average of 2,899 text messages per month – an increase of 566 percent in just over two years.
Some instructors say it’s resulted in a significant segment of the student body being unfamiliar with basic reading and writing rules.
“There are times in life when it is important to know how to use the English language properly, and that’s not a value some of the students have,” Reed said. “It’s kind of like they are learning two different languages and they are mixing them up. They need to learn to separate them.”
Spokane Valley extends court pact
Spokane Valley will continue to contract with Spokane County District Court for judicial service.
City Council members asked court officials some pointed questions Tuesday, then voted unanimously to rescind a cancellation notice.
The council issued the notice in January, about a month after county commissioners announced they would cancel the city’s contract for snowplowing service.
Council members wanted to study alternatives to all their contacts with the county, but a consultant reported last month that the District Court is the city’s best choice.
The contract is to cost the city $920,000 this year.
Council members and City Manager Dave Mercier wanted to know how, in the face of heavy budget cuts, the court could continue to provide the same level of service to all its constituents.
City officials speculated that county commissioners and residents of unincorporated areas would object if city residents get better service under a contract.
District Court Judge Gregory Tripp and Court Administrator Virginia Rockwood said court officials would simply have to work harder.
With the loss of two court commissioners, judges would have to “double up and triple up” to handle all the cases, Rockwood said.
“We’re all in the soup, so to speak, economically, but we have an obligation to fulfill our part of the bargain,” Tripp said.
That includes continuing to hear Spokane Valley cases in the city, he said.
Builder solves delay over house’s height
A builder whose five-level hillside house at Liberty Lake has been delayed over a ruling that it exceeds height restrictions is coming into compliance by raising the ground around it.
A decision by Spokane County hearing examiner Michael Dempsey in July required Michael Rogers to shave 11 1/4 feet off what would have been a 54 3/4-foot house. Dempsey said Rogers could shorten the house by using a retaining wall to pile dirt around the bottom of it.
Rogers, who plans to live in the home once it is completed, had worried before the decision that he would have to redesign the home.
The house wasn’t supposed to be more than 35 feet, but the county Department of Building and Planning approved plans for a taller house, although the exact height was in dispute.
The height Dempsey approved as a variance from the area’s “rural conservation” zoning requirements was 43 1/2 feet, which is 8 1/2 feet above the standard maximum. But county zoning regulations measure building heights according to finished grades, not original topography.
A retaining wall would have been unsightly and prohibitively expensive, Rogers said. Instead, he’s terracing the slope in a way his engineer told him would pass muster with the county.
“Now it will blend in with the mountain,” he said.