Volume Two, Number Eight............November 1978

Professional primates
Project proposed!

Chimps outshine chumps,
TUG study reveals!

On the left: The annual cost of the average HEW evaluator, not including travel. On the right: The cost of 25 chimpanzees doing the same work, bananas and diapers included, as well as travel expenses based on prevailing United Parcel Service rates.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Free Lunch

THANKS to U.S. Representative Robert W. Daniel, of Virginia, we now have the complete text of an infamous document that newspapers around the country treated briefly and facetiously last summer. It is an evaluation of a remedial math and writing program in the public schools of Hopewell, Virginia. The author, whose name appears nowhere on the document, is a functionary--how right that ugly word seems just now--of HEW. The function of this tax-supported functionary was to judge whether or not the remedial program merited continued tax support of its own. Here are some of his (her?) comments. In each case, what you see is the functionary's complete response to a question on the evaluation form:

The objectives were not to specified are the measurable participants that involves to the fullest extent practicable to the total educational resources

evidence demonstrated by the standardized achievement test data was surfaced to the desegregation elimination, reduction, and prevention of minority group isolation.

there is no realistically promises that addresses the needs identified in the proposes program.

sufficient magnitude in relation to the number of participants cost of project components, contains evidence of the proposes project & a very measurable amount of funds are very specified in the project program.

Let's take what comfort we can from this gibberish. We have learned that there is, in fact, a tax-supported program in which the amount of funds actually are very specified and even "measurable." It had always seemed otherwise. Nevertheless, in spite of that cheery news, there's still one little cloud, no larger than a consultant's outstretched paw, on the educational horizon. Even as we sit here, innocently enjoying the thought that there is, just as we had suspected all along, no realistically promises, some people are at work planning to hire more such evaluators in a cabinet-level Department of Education. If those education people can achieve stuff like that as a mere satrapy* of HEW, imagine what they'll be able to do when the training wheels come off.

It was not out of wisdom, but weariness, that our Congress failed in its latest session to visit upon us a Department of Education. After all, bureaucrats and educationists deserve a full-employment act too, and a DOE will provide featherbeds for whole new bands of them. They will, in turn, hire herds of the linguistically handicapped to evaluate all the remedial programs for the linguistically handicapped in places like Hopewell, Virginia. So there is, indeed, no realistically promises, but there sure as hell is a free lunch.

Well, we don't begrudge them comfortable berths in Washington. At least they're not on welfare, and most of them are securely institutionalized out of the sight of impressionable children. All we ask of them, when they come into their kingdom, is that they toss us one tiny crumb, advancing thereby the cause of pedagogical theory and even saving us all a few bucks.

Our studies have shown that chimpanzees can actually grasp Bic Bananas and brandish them about, both to and fro. Whenever their Bananas happen to touch flat surfaces, they produce very interesting marks. Chimps, as you surely know, have already mastered sign language and abstract impressionism, both of which would seem beyond the capacities of a typical HEW evaluator. With a little training, chimpanzees could surely be taught to keep their Banana marks on the page, thus producing documents every bit as useful as the one quoted above.

The current evaluators wouldn't have to be displaced. We could save money simply by not hiring any new ones and training those we now have to such a level of competence that they will actually be able to clean more than just one cage each.

The Steaming Bird

IN this festive season, we like to give whatever thanks we can find to give and award the Order of the Steaming Bird to those who have made us grateful. This year's award must be shared by several worthy recipients. Here a slice and there a slice, accordingly, we pass to Martin P. Cohen, our Collection Manager (did you know we had such a thing?), and to a certain Harriet Diamond (provenance unknown), and all those jolly, carefree folk in our Adult Continuing Education Office.

In this fall's program of courses offered by that outfit, we find this description on page 17:

Grammer in Plain English--One and a Half Hours

A presentation on Ms. Diamond's frustration with the traditional approach to teaching grammer that resulted in her development and publishing of a very usable text for GED grammer with her recommendation on teaching grammar [sic!].

We can easily imagine Ms. Diamond's frustration, but it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to suffer a presentation on it. In any case, she's not frustrated by restrictive clauses, and her text, unlike the frustrating, traditional text, is very usable, not merely usable. As for that "grammar"--the last word--let's overlook it. It's probably just a typo.

We rejoice and give thanks that this booklet was mailed out to a mere five thousand homes.

Martin P. Cohen wants to "eliviate" the problem caused when visitors are given parking tickets and dunned to "Pay for" the fine. In one little letter, he achieves 7 comma faults, 3 failures of agreement, 1 run-on sentence, 1 apostropheless possessive, and some word-by-word translations from Bulgarian.

We are thankful that our visitors are given tickets rather than copies of Cohen's letter.

Feeeelings . . . wahwahwah

THE AT&T people put out a monthly thing (they probably call it an organ) named Marketing Focus. It's about as interesting as the Dubuque white pages, and we'd neglect it utterly if it weren't for the caveat on the cover: "Not for use or disclosure outside the Bell System except under written agreement." Accordingly, we quote from the works of Claud Beckham, acting director of something or other:

"The classic example in the telecommunications business is dealing with a customer's telecommunications order-processor, whose progress depends on minimizing telecommunications expense, when the customer's corporate strategy obviously requires a substantial increase in information movement."

Well for heaven's sakes, we all knew that! So what's all this secrecy business?

More on Dallas

We have had many queries and comments about the goings-on in Dallas. We can now report that what they're doing in Dallas is good, not bad. You can find an exploration of the matter, along with diverting examples of English as written by graduates of teacher-training schools, in the December issue of The Atlantic Monthly.

Opacity in Iowa

Here's a memo from a certain Marge Helsell, a "curriculum developer" in the Cedar Rapids Community Schools:

"If you know the whereabouts of the Opaque Projector that was stored in the Board Room call 2105. If this item is not located its disappearance will have to be reported as missing."

Important Notice To Glassborovians

The January issue of THE UNDERGROUND GRAMMARIAN, Volume III, Number 1, will appear during the last week of December, 1978. Since the college will be on vacation then, the January issue will not be distributed on the campus.

Lagado Lives!

FROM Task Forces and Task Groups all over the campus, we now have summaries of reports to the Middle States people. Let's hope they're all educationists who won't notice our firm grasp on the obvious and some prose foolish and boring enough to constitute a felony in any well-ordered state. In the summaries we find: a) things that everybody knows, b) things that anyone could have guessed, c) things that nobody needs to know, and d) mysteries.

In one summary, the task forcers promise that they will "identify and evaluate the physical base [?] of the college." Whatever that base might be, they never do identify it, and when they evaluate they assert an important but unelucidated distinction between "satisfactory" and "adequate." They end up discovering that it will cost money to fix things, or, as they put it, to pursue amelioration.

Another bunch--task groupers, these--thrashes its way into "distinguishing" and "operationalizing" such "key concepts as ‘goals' and ‘objectives.'" Whether or not they ever do operationalize the key concepts, we can't figure out. They do, however, distinguish them, and in such a manner that everything they want to talk about becomes a goal. They have, presumably sent the objectives to some other task group.

Stupid, pretentious jargon is everywhere in these summaries. Countless processes are to be enhanced. Some units lack sufficient viability to balance certain structures. Impacts abound. Furthermore, those who use "quality" as an adjective would surely be happier in another line of work. Cosmetics, maybe.

Now can you understand, you whining taxpayers, why we can't be bothered with teaching your feebleminded offspring? We're busy, dammit! We have to identify some physical bases and distinguish between the adequate and the satisfactory! We have to pursue amelioration! You expect us to worry about the sorry scribblings of students when you know damn well that we're busy formulating goals in a concurrence process? And speaking of goals, don't you people realize that the goals of education have been lying around here for twenty-five hundred years? Now just who the hell do you think is going to get them all operationalized and distinguished? So just stop your yapping and leave all this hard stuff to us professionals, OK?

"Reading Problems"

THE public schools often teach reading in such a way as to insure continued employment for the swarms of reading specialists, diagnosticians, and therapists who conned them into teaching it that way. If it weren't for the "professionals" of reading, most children would learn how to read almost as easily as they learn how to talk. If your child has been in school for years but still can't read worth a damn, be skeptical when the school people start talking about a "reading problem." Remember Weischadle and the NEA, and all the folk who would breathe easier if they could only persuade us that the failures of the schools were due to all those "problem youngsters" and their "learning disabilities." Remember also Marva Collins. Many of her students had "reading problems" that mysteriously disappeared after less than a year of traditional teaching at Westside.

If you have disquieting suspicions about the way your child is being taught to read, or if you'd rather teach him yourself, you should write for counsel and comfort to the Reading Reform Foundation, 7054 E. Indian School Road, Scottsdale, Arizona 85251. At the RRF, you will find concerned and informed people who do not make livings by convincing you that they are experts.

The Underground

Published monthly, September to May
R. Mitchell, Assistant Circulation Manager

Post Office Box 203
Glassboro, New Jersey 08028

Neither can his mind be thought to be in tune,
whose words do jarre,
nor his reason In frame,
whose sentence is preposterous.

* The satrap in charge of the evaluator is Thomas K. Minter, Deputy Commissioner for Elementary and Secondary Education, HEW Office of Education, Washington, D. C. 20202. If you happen to be a functional illiterate looking for work, don't despair. Try Minter. It's not his money. back

† For "professional" educationists, teachers are the grunts, administrators, the officers. Any variety of "doctorate" in education, therefore, is a way to get out of the trenches and become a vice-principal or a counsellor, an assistant director or a coordinator, a supervisor or an advisor, anything, anything but a teacher. More than 60 percent of those who manage to eke out doctorates in education, typically through tabulating the answers to an inane questionnaire, do in fact escape the classroom. [Digest of Education Statistics: 1977-78, p. 121.] Once bedded down, these folk cheerfully provide each other with meetings to attend, reports to generate, guidelines to follow, goals to implement, instruments to devise, and findings to seek. A Department of Education makes a splendid trough for their trotters. back

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