344. “Careless” Errors

I’m sometimes bothered by the careless way people use the word “careless.” People sometimes make mistakes because they don’t care about what they’re doing, but those mistakes are not the only ones labelled “careless.” I remember caring very much about avoiding the errors my teachers labelled “careless,” and having a lot of trouble avoiding them. Meanwhile, it seemed as if some other children, who didn’t seem to care as much, rarely made what teachers called “careless errors.”
How could my teachers have had any idea how much I cared? Were they mind-readers? If so, they were not reading my mind very accurately, and I suspect that they were also misreading some other minds. We cared. Some of us cared with all our might. Caring wasn’t enough; we needed some strategies for translating our caring into schoolwork that was neat and accurate enough to impress teachers. But let it not be said that we didn’t care.
I’d rather call those mistakes “human errors.” I admit that I did make human errors. And I was reliably human; teachers didn’t have to guess about that. Human errors have stayed with me throughout my life. I care very much about these articles I write. I read each article over and over. As I read them, I discover that I haven’t punctuated, spelled, typed, or worded things exactly as I’ve meant to. When I get an article to a certain point, I e-mail it to twenty friends. Then I print it out and read it. I usually enjoy sitting and reading what I’ve written, but I’m not doing it just for fun. More often than not, I end up going right back to the computer to start correcting errors and rephrasing sections of my prose. Then I print it out, read it, and maybe return to the computer to correct some more.
I wouldn’t go through all that trouble if I didn’t care. I want each word I write to be spelled correctly. I’m beyond invented spelling; I encourage it in children, but I’ve gotten to a point where I appreciate it when someone points out an occasional misspelled word. And I want all my variations on the conventions of grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary to be intentional ones. But sometimes, as I correct my mistakes or revise my phrasing, I imagine one of my teachers shaking his/her head and thinking and/or saying, “Careless…careless.”
Maybe there are some children who don’t care about their schoolwork as much as teachers wish they cared. If so, maybe there’s some value in pointing out their carelessness. I don’t think so, but maybe I’m wrong. But since we can’t read minds, we can’t tell for sure whether someone cares. And if we’re not careful, we can actually convince a caring child that she/he doesn’t care. And that can have effects we don’t mean to have. So how about calling those mistakes “human errors?”

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