Volume Three, Number Nine............December 1979

Bah, humbug!

The Underground Grammarian began with the idea that the work of the mind is done in language and that disorderly language is an inexcusable fault in those who take money for the work of their minds. We imagined at first that the language of ignorance and inanity was the native tongue of bureaucrats and administrators. We were wrong. It took us more than a year, a year spent in scrutinizing vile specimens, to realize that all those silly geese had learned that gabble from the Great Gobblers themselves, those wiggly-wattled, biggety birds, the Teacher-training Turkeys.

The knowable content of what they profess, what they call "subject matter," is very small. Most of it is cribbed, more often than not adulterated and simplified, from other modish pseudo-sciences, themselves blown this way and that by every puff of fashion. From vapid near beers like Pop Psychology and Pop Sociology they have concocted a sour brew of Pop Pedagogy, and our children must drink it until they die--usually in the fourth or fifth grade.

In one dialogue of Plato, in one essay of Bacon, in one novel of Dickens, there is more understanding of human learning than in all of the educationists' experiential continua put together. They either don't know that or they pretend not to, lest someone discover that a teacher needs not a dreary indoctrination in educationism but an education.

It is out of that ignorance, feigned or not, that they judge the worth of what little they think to have discovered. From the top of the midden-heap, they gobble forth the news that their assessment instruments have produced hopefully viable findings centered around the hypothesis that teachers may (perhaps) be perceived as critical variables in the learning-teaching process. Or maybe not.

These people are not funny.

The unspeakable practices of their writing arise partly from plain ignorance but mostly from the fact that they have nothing to say and many incentives to say it. They publish themselves copiously and indiscriminately in hundreds of educationistic journals, periodical vanity presses of pedaguese. They "write" dissertations by tabulating the responses of those who couldn't care less to questions about what couldn't matter less. Since the typical legislator is unable to see that they speak inanity, or even that their pronouns agree only occasionally with their antecedents, the turkeys are influential. That's why every rinky-dink administrator in academe wants to speak their gobble.

And that's why they have become, and will remain, our primary targets. Their language is what it is not because they are careless, not because they have complicated things to say, but because, wittingly or not, they are charlatans, either deceived or deceivers.

Easy targets ? Yes, of course, but this is not a sporting journal. We will shoot sitting turkeys any time we can. We will shoot turkeys in a barrel, especially turkeys that quack.

We don't even wish them Merry Christmas.

The Missouri Compromise

YOU will not be astonished to learn that there are some people in Missouri who cannot manage commas, cannot avoid sentence fragments, cannot regularly make verbs agree with subjects and pronouns with antecedents, and cannot help sounding like literal translations from Bulgarian. If you are a regular reader of this journal, you'll also be unastonished to hear that those pitiable illiterates are members of the Missouri Association of Colleges of Teacher Education.

These poor saps have finally noticed that lots of irate citizens "have indicated concern of [yes, of] the decreasing standardized test scores of students." They even know that a "sensitivity has become quite manifest in the development in state wide [yes, two words] assessment systems." But they don't seem too worried. They've cleared up the whole mess in a "position statement" called Assessment of Basic Skills Competencies of Potential Teachers.

The Missouri educationists have also just discovered, or have at least come to suspect that they might perhaps decide to assume--tentatively, what the rest of us have always known. They put it thus: "Although many factors may intervene the teacher is viewed by many as a critical variable in the teaching-learning process and, therefore, the key to the improvement in the basic skills of students." (No, we didn't leave out the missing commas. Puncuation in pedaguese is "viewed by many" as an uncritical variable to which sensitivity need not be quite manifest.)

"The teacher," they say, "must have a high degree of proficiency in the basic skills. They are expected to transmit to their students through precept and example."

Yeah. And here are some of the precepts and examples through which these Missouri Teacher-training Turkeys transmit:

"The latter [‘field experiences'] being principally in student teaching with a major emphasis on institutional planning, execution, and evaluation of subject matter to be presented." And, "Utilizing the assumption that the measuring/ascertaining of the competencies of potential teachers should be done on or about the end of the traditional sophomore year." For the Turkeys, those are sentences. So why should they care? It's the taxpayers and children who'll have to serve them.

Those, of course, are just supersaturated, freebooting participles, but this one passes understanding: "If the student does not meet the prescribed standards of basic skills and the student, before they are formally admitted into teacher education and certainly before graduation, should have remediation and reevaluation." (Wow, these people are tough! Before graduation, no less.) Any competent sixth-grade teacher would flunk such rubbish, but the Turkeys aren't worried. As long as they're in charge, there will be damned few competent sixth-grade teachers in Missouri.

"Also," say the Turkeys, "there is a question of the relationship of secondary and co-secondary schools in terms of relationships. The authors [ ! ] of this position paper agreed that such an assessment process can have a significant impact [they never discuss insignificant or mere impacts] on secondary school curriculum in turning to an assessment instrument to which the public schools might be inclined to reach toward."

Why do the good people of Missouri suffer such humbug, without turning to some blunt instrument to which they might be inclined to reach toward? We can tell you why. It's because these ugly crimes against nature are committed in private among consenting Turkeys. How many "authors," do you suppose, conspired to write, rewrite, edit, and finally to approve all that gibberish? How many of Missouri's teacher-trainers, would you guess, have read it? Was not one of them embarrassed or outraged by this sleazy display of ignorance and ineptitude? And if there was one, what do you think he did? He kept his mouth shut. It's better to suffer a momentary discontent than to attract the taxpayers' attention.

So, unhampered by pesky public outcry, people who cannot devise sentences or make sense or even punctuate will get on with the business of providing Missouri with teachers. And they don't want any interference, if you please, as they make, well, not "clear," to be sure, but at least "quite manifest," in their ghastly and ungrammatical peroration:

"There is an advantage to each institution in Missouri preparing teachers to have an institutional level responsibility rather than a state wide . . . responsibility for assurance of proficiency of basic skills. Alternate assessment processes allow for diversity of response by each institution. It [?] allows for diversity of response loads [?] by students, it allows for diversity of interpretation of what is basic [that's the part they like best] for that institution's student population, and it eliminates conflicts of perogatives [typo?] and rights of faculties of institution [from The Bulgarian Immigrant's Phrasebook] to set curriculum in means of assessing a testing or assuring of competencies."

We have some advice for the good people of Missouri. Turn those rascals out. Pension them off for life at full pay, requiring only that they never again set foot on a campus. Don't worry about the cost. In fifty years or so, there won't be any cost. As it is, you're planning to pay more and more of them for ever and ever. Once they're gone, on the day they go, in fact, your schools and colleges will become the best in the land.

A knowledge of history is one of the basic skills of which we have been deprived by the educationists' fervor for shabby social studies and smug civics. We have forgotten that the storekeeper used to pay miscreants to stay away. It worked We've gotten it backward. We pay them to hang around and smash the windows. Let's be realistic and pay the miscreants to do that one thing that we most need them to do--nothing, nothing at all.

All-Purpose Gobbledygook

HERE'S some swell news from the Newsletter of the Minnesota Higher Education Coordinating Commission:

"Minnesota post-secondary education is at the threshold of what may become the most dramatic transition ever experienced in the state's educational enterprise, according to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission. Several partially interrelated circumstances and forces are converging in such a manner as to cause a potentially profound impact on the shape of education beyond high school, according to Making the Transition, the Commission's biennial report. Minnesota post-secondary education also is faced with considerable uncertainty, says the report. . . . Some of the uncertainty stems from conflicting and changing societal forces that impinge on education, and some emanates from lack of agreement on what constitutes desirable and undesirable modifications and directions for post-secondary education."

So, did you note the remarkable subtleties of its elegant metaphoric texture? It's not the threshold of a transition; it's the threshold of what may become a transition. Circumstances and forces, partially interrelated (therefore partially uninterrelated) converge, but not in just any old way. They converge in such a manner as to cause an impact, maybe not a profound one, but potentially profound, and an impact that we might well have missed had the circumstances and forces converged in another way. And that uncertainty! Some of it stems from forces; some of it emanates from lack. And . . . enough. The mind reels.

But here's the beauty part. If you memorize that passage, leaving out all reference to schools in Minnesota, you'll find that you can speak with confident authority on any subject just by filling in the blanks! Try it. See?

Holy Cow! Maybe they are educators after all. You'll never get experiential skills enhancement like that from reading Emerson!


The back-to-basics nuts are always hollering that the children can't even write decent letters of application for jobs. Well, they may be right, by gosh. Here are some excerpts from two of those educationally deprived children, one, a graduate in "communications," the other, an Ed. D. from Boston University:

"I hope to impress upon you my ability to communicate effectively with professionals and lay persons. Having learned to critically assess personal dynamics, I can meaningfully interact with other individuals. In the following account, I purport to assure of my composure and poised demeanor in situations of central focus . . . . May I also delineate for you a tendency to adapt myself beneficially . . . utilizing available resources to construct an effective operational strategy."

"As a way of knowing, writing is crucial, a way of perceiving relationships among bits of experience and information acquired in the interaction with fact. . ..I believe that content, presented in sentence transforms and used as a means of expanding students' conceptions of possible interrelationships among social and academic structures, might address the issues of thought and expression in composition . . . . Teachers are beginning to use insisive [sic] syntactic materials as part of the drafting and re-drafting processes they facilitate in composition sequences."

The Underground

Published monthly, September to May
R. Mitchell, Assistant Circulation Manager
Post Office Box 203
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Neither can his mind be thought to be in tune,
whose words do jarre,
nor his reason In frame,

whose sentence is preposterous.

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