Volume Three, Number Two............February 1979

The Idea of Expressing
Feelings In New Mexico

IT HAD to happen. Last month we granted the world's first DEd, horroris causa, and now everybody wants one. Two new candidates present themselves, and they are not some silly educationists but bona fide associate professors of English out at what they call Eastern New Mexico University.

Laid-back folk. Arlene Zekowski, Stanley Berne. Hate apostrophes. Rules. Arbitrary. Down sentences! Up feelings expressing! Up Zekowski! Up Berne! Right on!

Or, if you prefer, On right! "We're professors of English," says Berne. (Hm. Shouldn't that be "Were professors of English"?) "We are concerned with the idea of expressing feelings. Arbitrary rules of grammar prohibit that." (Cmon, be patient. Sure he talks that tired old grammar, but only because he has to get to we elitists.) Hes wright. No, thats not expressing feelings. He rite! Wordsworth feeling-expressing fouled-up by verb-subject agreement. Shakespeare shot down--Donne undone by nonrestrictive clauses. Whitman comatose from commas.

Zekowski: "Grammar is elitism. I wish to destroy what is dead, lifeless and snobbish." Hows that for boring from within? "Arbitrary sentence structure is logical," she complains, "but the brain isn't logical. [How true!] You don't think in sentences. You think in terms of patterns and images. It's random association." And further: "Many advertisements don't use sentences or grammar. They use words to create images." (Exactly how they use the words she doesn't say. Could be they sprinklem here and there, collage-wise. Cool. Just think. If Das Kapital had been done like that, we wouldn't have all this damn trouble now. There's nothing more dangerous than a bunch of logical sentences, but what would you expect from an elitist like Marx?)

If there's one thing we love around here, it's the classing of icons, and we support the idea of expressing feelings 1,000%. That's exactly what we should be teaching these kids. For one thing, it's a cinch, like playing tennis with the net down, as Frost put it. Another: if we let them in on the secrets of logical sentences and coherent discourse, the ignorant little bastards will go on to take away some of our cushiest jobs, perhaps even as associate professors of English, and that will be the end of lifeless elitism as we know it.

However, while we applaud Zekowski and Berne for their cunning subterfuge, and while we admit that it is the first duty of a DEd to cook up schemes for job security, we cannot give them their degrees just yet. Their plan sounds good off paper, but when they write their grammarless English, we read: "Once upon a time ago. But now nevermore." Cute and expressive of feeling, sure, but clogged up with grammar. Maybe next year.

Vox inhumana, mens insana

WE now have the "Summary of Work in Progress on the Final Report of the Glassboro Self-Study Project." It is 21 single-spaced pages of jargon, inanity, and even pusilanimity. A detailed analysis would fill a fat book and cause convulsions, so we can only finger a fragment here and there. Nevertheless, you paid for it, and you should read it. Write for your copy to Wilhemina Perry, Glassboro State College, Glassboro, NJ 08028.* Pick your favorite passage and send your commentary thereon to Mark Chamberlain, President, with a copy to us.

The document begins with typical inanity in asserting that its concoctors have "actively participated in a comprehensive Self-Study." Actively. That's to assure the taxpayer that we're not just lying around letting that comprehensive self-study happen. We're doing it. Well, not exactly. We're "participating in" it, as though it were some independent entity with which we had fallen in--actively.

In such diffuse phrasing there is a shifty quality more distasteful than the ignorance that mismatches subjects and verbs. People who write like that come to think like that, or maybe it's the other way around.

Although the prose was obviously written by many hands, that first sentence foretells the nature of most of what follows--evasive and oblique. Where the doers of deeds aren't hidden in passives, they lurk in the shrubbery of verbiage. Where people disagree, we read that "there appears to be a lack of agreement relative to. . ." Instead of advocating, someone prefers to say that "it seems plausible to advocate. . ." Plausible? Instead of saying that faculty and administrators see little of each other, not at all a bad thing, another writer tells us that "contact frequently does not take place between" them. In another remarkably clumsy sentence, we read that "the self-study process included assessing whether the College's performance in maintaining quality matches its promise to strive toward excellence." Excellence.

As the hart panteth after the water-brook, so pant these professionals after excellence. Panting after the non-cognitive aspects and parameters of interpersonal relation enhancement, they must murmur: "It seems plausible to advocate that contact should take place between us, unless there appears to be a lack of agreement relative to participating in the process." To which the reply must be, in the phrases of this document: "Although a multi-purpose thrust is a problematic area that does not appear to be conducive to time efficiency and outcomes quality on an on-going basis, it might appear desirable to operationalize goals and to pinpoint a locus of responsibility for an uppermost and pleasant identification non-aligned directly with a viable relationship." And there's no lack of interfacing.

How is it that those who stridently boast that they, and often they alone in academe, are "humanistic" and "values-oriented" can think and write in language that is inhuman and vile? To put their thoughts and words into the context of ordinary human experience is to show them, not merely foolish and pompous but foul. Theirs is not "mistaken" English. They can spell and (often) punctuate correctly. Most of their verbs agree with their subjects. Their failures are not mechanical; they are intellectual and moral. Where are the human beings and human values to which they claim such noble dedication? Why are the subjects of their thoughts and clauses so regularly words like "it" and "process" and "contact"? Why do they routinely say not that a thing is but that it appears to be or is seen as being? There is nothing more human than clear language, language in which man speaks his mind and admits--indeed, affirms--that the mind and the words are his.

That's why it takes some courage to write well and why bad writing so often flows from the defensive manoeuvres of poltroonery. If we speak clearly the thoughts of muddied minds, we reveal that we are fools. The muddier the mind, the more it needs the shield of murky language. Happily, however, only the most skillful can manage the distortions of defensive prose without giving themselves away. The makers of this document are just hackers, and we need only one word to see through their silly game.

The word view appears 15 times, usually as an intransitive verb. It's no "arbitrary rule" of grammar that some verbs require objects; it is a fact of the language. The transitive nature of the verb view is essential to its meaning. Recent Bulgarian immigrants might be forgiven for uncertainty in this matter, but not the professionals of education.

Of course, an intransitive view won't work in English syntax, so these baffled scribblers are driven to devise some bizarre and inconsistent structures:

The academic deans view . . . that there has been a clear lack of direction. . . [Yeah. A clear lack is easier to view than an obscure lack, so even a dean should be able to view it.]

Some faculty view there is an implicit priority given to teacher education.

The steering committee views as problematic that commuters are left out of the mainstream.

It's not hard to see how they got into this mess. We have ridiculed educationists for saying not that a turkey is a turkey but that a turkey may be perceived as being a turkey. They don't understand exactly why the first is better, but they suspect it might have to do with the word "perceived." So that's out. (The formerly ubiquitous word appears but once in the summary; somebody nodded.) So how to replace it? How about see? No, that won't do. Civilians and taxpayers see; we're professionals. (Sure enough, when we are told that someone "saw the school as a teachers college," we're hearing about taxpayers and civilians.) So there it was: View haloo!

Inadvertently, these people have let slip a clue to truth. The citizens see the mess in the schools; the educationists view as problematic that the goals of remediation enhancement be perceived as being operationalized.

(If you laugh at people who talk like that, imagine how they laugh at you on payday.)

What they'll do now that we've obstructed their view, who can say? Maybe we can help them. They would, of course, reject look for the reason that drove them to reject see, but how about behold? If you stick it in for view in the quotations above, it doesn't change the quality of their English at all. Furthermore, it is a word at once both lofty and weighty. Just think what dignity it would lend their pious preachments of human values.

There are human values. They are implicit in human deeds. Out of what values, then, do such persons automatically choose to evade the implication of responsible human agency in the elemental structure of our language--the naming of the doer and his deed? What value is revealed when they name the simple in tortured circumlocutions and pass over the complex in simplistic jargon--their endless babble of areas, aspects, and thrusts? What does it mean that they habitually shrink from the simplest forms of the verb to be?

There certainly are values crouching in the cellars of such deeds, but they are certainly not the values of humanism. These writers might perhaps be excused from knowing that, because the enthusiasts of non-cognition are little likely to seek out mere facts about the nature and history of human thought, but by the same token they might also be debarred from pretending to the practice of humanism at the expense of the public and to the detriment of the young.

Just now, the American people are not permitted to choose between the welfare of the pseudo-humanists and the education of children. The day will come.


The Gmuca Letter has been passing from hand to hand, samizdat-fashion, through the grammatical underground. The author takes his pay in public money for his services to the Opportunities Industrialization Center of Jacksonville, Florida, 127 East Duval St., in that city. We cannot give you the zip code, which does not appear on the letterhead, but we can give you this intriguing little slogan, which does appear on the letterhead: "We Help Ourselves."

Dear Mr. Gmuca:

This letter has been afforded to you predicated upon rectification and clarification of any erroneous conception(s) that may have been acquired during the course of your deciphering the correspondence that was dispatched to you from our organization, JOIC/YACC residential operation on Sept. 28, 1978.

Needless to say, the JOIC organization has just recently procured another "arm" to its comprehensive operation, the YACC residential program; meaning that, we are somewhat novices in respect to all of the legal functions of the YACC program. And at the current duration of the inauguration of our new YACC residential program; we may be found guilty of making a few mistakes inadvertently. Nevertheless, in accordance to the correspondence you received from us in retrospect to September 28, 1978, we, very veraciously, did not have any intentions of trying to carry out the obligations of DOL (Department of Labor) in conjunction with the FSES (Florida State Employment Service) throughout the State of Florida. We were only trying very diligently to acquire as much publicity and solicitation as possible in order for us to be in a position to collect as many referrals as possible prior to the initial opening of our camp.

So, in closing, we would like for you to do or to deliberate upon doing the subsequent things for us.

1) Please eliminate and extenuate Mr. Larry Walker, a proxy from the Office of Manpower Planning, Tallahassee, Florida from all anticipated implications of the correspondence you received from us on September 28,1978. Notwithstanding, he did not advocate or initiate an advice for such correspondence to be disseminated throughout the State of Florida.

(2) Please condone us for any mistake we may have committed inadvertently. However, what happened was not intentional, but in lieu we were only trying to get our program off the ground and simultaneously receive an adequate number of applications from the ES offices.

(3) As being constituents of the State of Florida, we sincerely look forward to collaborating with you throughout the year, and we certainly do want to be as cooperative as possible.

Your time expended and consideration extended have been most appreciative in your reading this letter. Consequently, if we can be of any assistance to you at any time, please feel free to contact us.


Robert L. Reynolds, Camp Director

The In Basket

You have obviously misconstrued the quoted portion of S of MSRP in NJ: FR of M BS-AC. You failed to realize that the passage deals with alternate education of the on-the-job, manipulative variety, to wit: plumbing. Your confusion is attributable to a misprint. The word should be faucets, not facets. If you plumb the depths of the faucets you won't need extraordinary measures
(e. g. Drano); the large urban district that went down the drain might be retrievable--virtually at least. Jessica Davidson, New Fairfield, CT

Of course! We just don't know how to read that stuff. For facet read faucet throughout. Aspect, of course, should be aspic, and interaction is surely a misprint for in traction. Competency must be company tent C. All of a sudden these professionals of education are starting to make sense.

Now that you know the system, you can test your competence with the following. It comes, not exactly from the horse's mouth, to be sure, but from the National Institute of Education, so it must be the real poop:

"Competency based education [is] a databased, adaptive, performance-oriented set of integrated processes that facilitate, measure, record and certify within the context of flexible time parameters the demonstration of known, explicitly stated and agreed upon learning outcomes that reflect successful functioning in life roles."

The Underground

P. O. Box 203 Glassboro, NJ 08028
R. Mitchell
Assistant Circulation Manager

* In just the last few weeks, we have taken on lots of new readers. They are here reminded that this is not a suggestion. We expect them to do it.
    Those who write and think in educationist babble do so confident that it will never be seen outside of the club. They object to exposure by saying that dirty linen shouldn't be laundered in public, admitting that the linen is dirty but omitting that the public paid for it. When you write for your copy, you'll see how reluctant they are to display unnatural acts to civilians and taxpayers, but be persistent. If we can force them to write clearly, they will suffer at least occasional moments of lucidity and realize that they would serve society better as sellers of wind-up toys. Help them to find themselves. Write today. back

Typos and comments:

For a printer friendly version of the entire volume, go to ShareText.Com

Copyright © 2000 by Mark Alexander. All Rights Reserved. SOURCETEXT, SHARETEXT,
and others are trademarked 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 by
Mark Alexander, P. O. Box 5286, Auburn, CA 95604.

SourceText.Com and ShareText.Com are divisions of
Breeze Productions, P.O. Box 5286, Auburn, CA 95604.