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378 Topics: Redshirting; Mesa Verde National Park; to wrap up; to bother versus to interrupt versus to disturb; blind spot

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Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 378

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 378. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is eslpod.com. Download this episode’s Learning Guide on our website by becoming a member of ESL Podcast.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about the practice of redshirting in American schools. What is it? Who does it? And who benefits? We’re also going to talk about a national park in the southwest called “Mesa Verde National Park.” And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

We begin our Café by talking about the practice of “redshirting.” “Redshirting” (redshirting) – one word – is a practice that you will find at some American schools, especially universities or colleges. “Redshirting” relates to college athletics or sports. Here’s what happens: A student is usually eligible, that is they’re able, to play a college sport for four years or four seasons. So, a student enters college at, say, the age of 18. They’re able to play for four years. That’s how long it normally takes to complete an undergraduate or bachelor’s degree.

“Redshirting” is when a coach or someone else – a parent – decides to extend or lengthen this period of eligibility by having the person take classes and practice with the team, but not play in actual games. That “redshirt” year doesn’t count towards the seasons of eligibility, meaning it isn’t included in that four-year total.

So, let’s say a kid enters college at age 18, maybe the first year he practices with the team – the football team, the basketball team, the swimming team, whatever – but he doesn’t actually play on the team. He doesn’t go to the games and play as a member of the team. Then his second year in college, he may start to play whatever sport that is. He still has four years, four seasons, to play – four seasons of eligibility, we would say, even though he played them over a five-year period.

Sometimes an athlete is redshirted for what might be considered a legitimate or real reason. It might be a medical reason, for example, if a student athlete is injured and can’t play one season. The athlete could be redshirted for that year and then still allowed to play the following season. But in other circumstances, the athlete might be redshirted by the coach who just wants to make sure that the athlete is better prepared. And of course, the more you practice most sports, the better you get. So, if you have people on your team who have been practicing for two years when they start playing instead of just one year, you’ll have a certain benefit, a certain advantage for your team.

You may be wondering, even though you understand this concept, why it’s called “redshirting.” Why not “blueshirting” or “yellowshirting?” Well, the reason is fairly simple. When, for example, a football team is practicing, usually they’ll have a group of players, who are the best players, what we might call the “regular” players. But the actual team is bigger. The team might be big enough to have two different groups that could play. What often happens then is you have practice games, what are called “scrimmages” (scrimmages). Scrimmages are practice games where the regular players play the not-as-good players, but who are also on the same team, just to practice amongst themselves.

The players, who are not regular, often wear red shirts. In other words, they’re not actually the regular players. They probably won’t play in the game even though they’re a member of the team. So, “redshirting” refers, then, to the players who aren’t quite ready to be regular players. That’s where the term comes from. That’s why we use that term “redshirting.” Why do they wear red shirts in practice? Who knows? Probably because it’s easy to identify who is a regular player and who isn’t.

Many Americans are familiar with redshirting, when we talk about athletics, especially in college. But now the word is beginning to have a new meaning related to. believe it or not, “kindergarten.” “Kindergarten” (kindergarten) is typically the first year of formal or somewhat formal schooling that a young child gets, normally at the age of five. It’s not required that your child go to kindergarten but they are required, when they are old enough, to go to first grade. Most children, however, go to kindergarten. It’s not exactly the same as a regular school. You have classes, you have activities, but the students, at least when I was in kindergarten, aren’t learning to read or doing a lot of academic things. They’re developing other kinds of skills that young children need to develop. “Kindergarten” is supposed to start, as I mentioned, when the child is five years old. If a child is five years old by the first of September, when the school year in the United States traditionally begins, then the child should go into kindergarten.

We refer to this as the “age cutoff.” A “cutoff” (cutoff) – one word – is the age when kids are allowed to go into kindergarten or they’re told they have to wait a year. If you’re only four years old by September 1st, then you have to wait until the following year.

Well, obviously you can see what happens here. You may have a kid who turns five in August but you have another kid who turns five in September. The kid who turns five in September, even though he’s a few weeks younger than the kid who turned five in August, will wait an entire year before he enters kindergarten. And, of course, the same thing happens at first grade. You’re supposed o be six years old by the first of September before going into first grade. If you’re not, then you have to wait a year. Most school districts try to enforce this rule; that is, they try to make sure that parents follow it. It doesn’t always work that way, however.

I, for example, was born on September 24th but I started kindergarten that year, even though I wasn’t five. I was four years old when I started kindergarten, although I turned five, I became five years old, just a few weeks later. The system presents some interesting situations for children like me who are born very close to that cutoff date, either because they’re the youngest or will be the oldest students in their class, depending on when their parents decide to put them in school.

Schools sometimes make an exception to the age cutoff; that is, they say, “Okay” – as in my case – “even though you’re only four, we’ll let you start kindergarten.” Probably because I look pretty stupid and they thought I needed to get into school right away. That’s my theory.

However, some parents decide that a child should be “held back” for a year. Even though they’re five years old, they don’t start kindergarten. They are held back. “To be held back” means to wait a year before the child goes on to the next grade. So, if a child is very immature, if a child doesn’t seem to be ready for school, parents and teachers may decide to hold the child back, wait until the child is a little more mature, has grown up a little more – emotionally or physically – before they start their first year in school in kindergarten. On the other hand, if a four-year-old child is very advanced or is very stupid looking like me, parents may decide to put them in kindergarten even though they’re not five years old by the first of September.

You may be wondering, “Well, why is this so important?” Well, some parents now have started to hold back their children not for psychological or mental reasons, for the child’s development, that is, but rather because they want the child to be bigger and stronger, when eventually, they play athletics, when they play sports. This gives the child, of course, certain physical advantages because they’ll be one of the oldest children in their kindergarten class, which means they’ll be one of the older and more physically developed children when they’re in fifth grade and ninth grade and so forth. The student may become the best athlete because they also have an extra year of playing sports.

Many studies have shown that there is a big advantage to being a year older than your peers. Your “peers” (peers) are people who you go to school with, or people you work with, could also be your “peers.” It’s interesting to note that some families reach the opposite conclusion and try to get their child in early. This might give them a little extra time in life. The idea is that the child would graduate from high school at the age of 17, instead of at the age of 18. I graduated from high school at the age of 17. I’m not sure what I did with that extra year of my life!

Being the oldest or the youngest can have a lot of consequences for a child’s social development, especially when they become adolescents. An “adolescent” (adolescent) is what we more commonly call a “teenager.” For example, a young girl or a young boy who is one of the oldest in their class will obviously develop, typically, faster - physically developed, that is. This could cause some interesting problems when those children get into high school, in terms of the fact that they’re more physically developed than the kids around them – than their peers. They may be the first to get their driver’s license, or the first to begin dating other young women and men. These could, of course, change the way that they develop as they get older.

A lot of researchers have been studying the prevalence of redshirting. “Prevalence” (prevalence) means that they’re trying to understand how many children are being redshirted, as well as the reasons for it. Other researchers have looked at the impact, the influence, of redshirting, especially among young children, in the early grades as well as in high school.

Redshirting doesn’t appear to be very common in all communities but there is a lot of interest in this practice. It’s common now to hear parents talk about their young children and whether they’re going to enroll them or put them into school when they turn five, for kindergarten, if they turn five before September 1st. As someone who went through school as one of the younger members of his class, I have to say there were probably some disadvantages, to be sure. I was typically the smallest or one of the smallest kids in class. And, of course, I got my driver’s license later than everyone else, although, again, that’s in part because I’m not very bright.

Certainly, socially, there are disadvantages to being younger versus being older within a class, but there might be some advantages as well. I did, after all, finish high school at 17, rather than 18, even though that was only a matter of three or four months, perhaps that gave me some advantages in other ways, I’m not sure.

Now let’s turn to our next topic which is “Mesa Verde National Park.” Mesa Verde is a very interesting national park. Normally, when we think of national parks, we think of areas of great natural beauty, like the Grand Canyon or Yosemite National Park, which we’ve talked about on a previous Café. Mesa Verde National Park is a little different.

It’s located in the state of Colorado, which is in the central, western part of the U.S. It was created in 1906 by one of our presidents who’s most associated with our national parks system, Theodore Roosevelt. The name of the park comes from the Spanish, meaning “green table.” “Mesa” is table, “verde” is green. There are a lot of green forests, a lot of trees around the site, which is why it was called Mesa Verde.

Mesa Verde National Park is not very big, only about 80 square miles. But in that small area there are more than 4,000 archaeological sites. “Archaeological sites” are places where archaeologists, scientists who study the past, have found remains or things that were from a previous, not only generation, but a previous civilization, from the people that lived there hundreds of years ago. In this area of Mesa Verde, there are more than 4,000 of these areas, these sites that scientists have studied, in order to understand the people that live there many hundreds, or even thousands of years ago.

The area is best known, if you ever see a photograph of it, of what are called “cliff dwellings.” A “cliff” (cliff) is like the side of a mountain. A “cliff” is a rocky area that has a very, what we would call “steep” (steep) side. It goes straight up and down. It’s almost like, you think of a waterfall going straight down, that’s what a cliff is. It’s where you have a mountain that is sort of cut off.

In Mesa Verde National Park, there are what are called “cliff dwellings.” A “dwelling” (dwelling) is a general term, meaning a place where someone lives, like a house or an apartment. A “cliff dwelling” then, is a home that is built into the sides of the cliff. And that’s exactly what you’ll see at Mesa Verde National Park.

The “cliff dwellings” at Mesa Verde were created by a group of people known as the Anasazi (Anasazi), who lived there between about 600 and 1300 A.D. That’s much earlier, of course, than the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World in 1492. The “cliff dwellings” were built mostly under what are called “outcroppings.” “Outcroppings” (outcroppings) – one word – is an area that we might say “sticks out” from the cliff. It extends out from the cliff. These cliff dwellings are under the “outcroppings” because the “outcroppings” provide certain protection.

Other cliff dwellings are built inside the caves of the cliffs. “Caves” are natural open areas surrounded by rock on all sides, on the top, on the bottom, on the sides, that is inside typically a mountain or underneath the ground. The cliff dwellings are very interesting from an archaeological perspective. Many of the buildings have more than one floor and they have lots of windows. They were used to bring sun, of course, into the rooms, as well as wind – light winds for heating and cooling. Many of the rooms were painted in very bright colors.

The people who lived in the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde left behind a lot of artifacts. An “artifact” (artifact) is an object that was used by the people who lived in this particular place. You can have artifacts of any sort of civilization. If you go to Greece and you dig down, you may find pottery, for example. That would be an artifact. Anything that’s found typically below the ground or in some covered area that has been left by a previous civilization, a previous people, could be called an “artifact.” The word actually could be used for almost any object, but usually we use it in the study of archaeology to describe an object that was found in a particular place and left there by the people who lived in that area long ago.

The artifacts found in Mesa Verde included a lot of very beautiful pottery. Unfortunately, many of them were stolen by people who visited the area, and those same visitors also damaged part of the cliff dwellings. So the area was made into a national park in order to protect it. It is a really beautiful thing to see. I saw it when I was young boy. I was eight years old and my family took a vacation through the western part of the United States, and one of the places we stopped was Mesa Verde. And I still remember looking at the cliff dwellings from afar. It’s an amazing site. It’s not very close to any of the major cities, so it will take you a day or so to drive from, say, Las Vegas or Denver. But it’s well worth a visit. It’s really an amazing place.

Now let’s answer some of the questions that you have sent to us.

Our first question comes from Marcelo (Marcelo) in Chile. Marcelo wants to know the meaning of a term that he heard or read – “to be wrapped up.” The expression comes from the verb “to wrap” (wrap) which usually means to cover something with paper or some sort of cloth like a blanket. We talk about “wrapping” Christmas presents. You put colorful paper on them that covers the box so that you don’t know what’s inside. We would say that is a gift that is wrapped. And we even have the noun “wrapping paper,” which is the paper you use to wrap a gift for a birthday or Christmas or some other holiday.

“To wrap up” is a two-word, phrasal verb that can mean the same as wrap. Normally, if you’re talking about a present, we would just say, “I’m going to wrap the present.” But if you were, for example, going to give someone some food to take home with them after you invite them over to dinner at your house, and you want to give them some food to take, we would probably say, “I’m going to wrap that up for you.” So sometimes it can mean the same thing – “wrap” or “wrap up.”

There is a difference however, when we use the phrasal verb “to wrap up” in other situations, where it means to complete a task or to complete an event. “We’re going to wrap up this Café by thanking you for listening.” We’re going to conclude or end this Café. “To wrap up” is usually something we use when talking about some activity or some event. A teacher might say to her students, “Let’s wrap up this activity because class is almost over.” There it means “to finish up,” which is another word, another phrasal verb that we could use to mean the same thing.

Just to confuse you, there’s another expression common in English, “to be wrapped up in something.” “To be wrapped up in something” is to be focused on something, to have all of your attention, your concentration, completely on one thing. “Ben is wrapped up in his work. He doesn’t have time for his family.” He’s so focused on his job. He’s completely focused on it. “He’s wrapped up in his work.”

Tony (Tony) from Australia wants to know the difference between “bother,” “interrupt,” and “disturb.” All three of these words, as verbs, are used when you are going to stop someone from doing something. They have a similar meaning.

Let’s start with “to interrupt.” “To interrupt” (interrupt) is to stop someone from doing something temporarily, usually to ask a question or to somehow change what they’re doing. “I had to interrupt my friend when he was telling me his story because my phone rang.” My friend was telling a story and my cell phone rang and I said, “Oh, excuse me, I have to answer this.” I interrupted him. I stopped him from doing what he was doing.

“To disturb” (disturb) means not to stop someone from doing something because you want to ask a question but to interfere with someone’s “peace and quiet,” we would say. When someone is sleeping or someone is working, they don’t want to be disturbed. They don’t want you to come and stop them from doing what they’re doing. So, “to disturb” is always a negative. “To interrupt” could be negative, it could be positive. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad thing. But disturbing is always a bad thing – to disturb someone.

“To bother” (bother) is a general term meaning to annoy someone, to make them angry, or to do something that gets them in a bad mood. “Don’t bother me, I’m reading,” or “That young man is always bothering the girl who sits next to him in class.” He’s always making trouble for her, talking to her, making her distracted, whatever it happens to be. Once again, “bother” is usually a negative thing, just like “disturb.”

You could say that all three of these verbs have some connection, even though there are differences in meaning. If someone is interrupting you, they could be disturbing you, not just stopping you from what you’re doing but interfering with your ability to do what you want to do. And that fact could bother you. So, you could have all three things happening at the same time.

Yejun (Yejun) in China wants to know the meaning of the term “blind spot.” A “blind spot” can mean a couple of things. It can mean an area that you can’t see very easily, especially if it’s next to you or behind you. When you’re driving a car, and you want to move from one part of the road to the other, from one lane to another, you can’t see whether someone is in the lane right next to you unless you turn your head. You have what’s called a “blind spot.” Unless you turn around to look, you can’t see if there’s a car there, if it’s close to you, if it’s next to you.

A “blind spot” more generally can describe an area where somebody doesn’t understand something or they don’t have a correct understanding of what is happening, often because they don’t want to understand. Here, then, the term is used not to mean actually “blind” but sort of emotionally or intellectually blind. You can’t see what’s going on, perhaps because you’re in love with a person, or perhaps you don’t really understand the other person or that situation. You have a blind spot when it comes to your girlfriend. Because you love her, you can’t see things that other people can see, and of course, “to be blind” (blind) means not able to see.

Finally, Kyoko (Kyoko) in Japan wants to ask a pronunciation question, the difference between some words that end in -rs, and words that end in -ds. Well, here are some examples: “wars” (wars), “wards” (wards). Is there a difference in pronunciation? Well, when I say it fast, there often will not be. “I’m going to go to the hospital wards.” “I’m going to go to the wars.” Yeah, there’s a little difference, a slight difference. You hear the “d” there.

Another example would be “bars” (bars) and “bards” (bards). “Bars,” “bards,” “bars,” “bards” – you can hear a difference but it’s not a big difference. “Hers” (hers), “herds” (herds). “Hers,” “herds.” Once again a very small difference – it’s there but you have to listen carefully, and if the person is speaking quickly, you may not hear it because the person is speaking quickly and that happens in English a lot, as you know.

If you have a question or comment, you won’t bother us if you email eslpod@eslpod.com. We’re happy to try to answer your question, right here on the Café.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thanks for listening. Come back and listen to us again, here on the English Café.

ESL Podcast’s English Café is written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse. Copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
to redshirt – for a college athlete to not play sports for one year in order to develop skills, lengthening the time that he or she can play on a college team; for a parent to delay sending a child to the first year of school to allow the child time to develop and mature

* Manuel and Karen decided to redshirt their daughter because they didn’t believe she was ready for school yet.

to count toward – to be included in the total; to be included in the number allowed or required

* Jolene only took college courses that counted toward graduation.

kindergarten – the first year of a child’s formal schooling; the year of schooling before first grade

* Sophie loves attending kindergarten and learning with other children.

cutoff – limit; the point at which it is no longer possible for someone to get a benefit or to participate in something

* The cutoff for submitting tax returns on time is April 15th at midnight.

to hold back – to prevent someone from moving forward; to repeat a year of schooling; to wait one year before moving to the next grade level

* If Meredith doesn’t do better in math and science, her teacher may recommend that she be held back to repeat fifth grade.

peer – a person of the same age, status, or ability as one

* Hamid wants to buy a sports car because all of his peers are driving expensive cars.

prevalence – happening often or in many locations during one period of time or in one area

* The prevalence of mice in this apartment building makes it impossible to live in.

cliff – a rocky mountain area with a very steep side

* Be careful! If you step too close to the edge of the mountain path, you may fall over the cliff.

dwelling – home; house, apartment, or other place where one lives

* The housing developer is planning to build single-family dwellings in this area.

outcropping – a rock formation that sticks out from the side of a hill or mountain

* Do you see that person standing on the outcropping? How did anyone manage to climb so far out onto it?

cave – a natural open area that is surrounded by rocks on all sides and on the top and bottom, but with a natural opening

* When Hans got lost walking in the mountains and could not find his way home before dark, he found a cave and slept there overnight.

artifact – a historical object used by the people who lived in a particular place, which gives information about the culture and daily life

* This museum has a display of artifacts of the first people to live in this area.

to wrap up – to cover or enclose something, usually in paper or cloth; to complete a task or event

* We’ve wrapped up nearly all of the holiday presents for the community party, so it’s time to wrap up this meeting.

to bother – to annoy; to pester; to inconvenience

* Go outside and play, and stop bothering me! I’m trying to study.

to interrupt – to stop someone who is doing something, often for a short period of time

* The ringing of the doorbell interrupted Gerard’s story.

to disturb – to interfere with or to put a stop to a person’s the peace or quiet

* The sound of loud trucks passing by his bedroom window each morning disturbs Orlando’s sleep.

blind spot – an area where one’s view is blocked so that one cannot see behind it or around it; an area where a person does not have a good understanding or good judgment

* Be sure to check your blind spot before backing out of the parking space.

What Insiders Know
The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven is a “western film” (a film about cowboys usually set in the western part of the United States in the 1800s) that was released in 1960. It starred many famous movie actors of that time, such as Steve McQueen, Yul Brenner, and Charles Bronson, which is one of the reasons it is one of the most popular movies of the 20th century.

The film takes place in a village in Mexico that often got robbed by a group of “bandits” (robbers or thieves; people who steal things). One day, the village leaders decide that they have had enough and they wanted to stop the bandits. The leaders then hire a group of seven American “gunmen” (men who know how to use guns well, usually professionally) to protect them from the bandits. Even though there were many more bandits than there were American gunmen, the gunmen (in this case, the “Magnificent Seven”) hoped that once the bandits saw that the village could “defend itself” (keep others from taking control of it), they would leave. Over time, the gunmen and the villagers “bond” (develop a friendly relationship), and the hired men soon become a part of the community that they were trying to protect.

The Magnificent Seven is based on a 1954 Japanese film by the respected director Akira Kurosawa called Seven Samurai. While the original movie was based in Japan, the “remake” (new version of the same film) was made in a western style in order to appeal to American audiences. While some “critics” (people who review movies and let audiences know whether they are good or not) did not like the film when it first “debuted” (came out in theaters) in 1960, the movie is now the second most played film in television history. The Magnificent Seven is number 79 on an important AFI (American Film Institute, a group that celebrates movies and television) list. The list, called the “AFI 100 years…100 thrills,” is a list of the most exciting movies made in the past one hundred years. The music in the movie was also listed as number eight on AFI’s “100 Years of Film Scores,” a list of films containing great music.