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
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
"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.
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?
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.
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
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