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
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
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
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
(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
(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
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
(e. g. Drano); the large urban district that went down the drain
might be retrievable--virtually at least. Jessica Davidson, New Fairfield,
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."
P. O. Box 203 Glassboro, NJ 08028
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