Naming of Parts
LIKE the counterjumper who drinks from his fingerbowl while trying to pass himself off as a peer, the academic arriviste betrays himself by mouthing words he doesn't understand. His sequenced modules and problematical parameters are Academe's versions of bronzed baby shoes and lawn ornaments in the shape of flamingos.
The Snopeses of Academe (who won't even know where to look that up) have problems not only with hard words like holistic, which they occasionally spell "wholistic," but even with simple words like phase and factor. They seem baffled by words that name the various possible kinds of parts.
Their students catch their ignorance. A few months ago, we quoted a "communications" major, a young lady who wanted to experience the segments of the field in order to pinpoint a facet to pursue. She was probably following some ga-ga creative writing teacher's rule for colorful and varied diction, but she will suffer permanent brain damage if she actually thinks that segment and facet are synonyms, or that either makes sense in naming the parts of a field. Of course, she probably wasn't thinking any such thing; she just wasn't thinking.
And that explains why our educationists and their victims have so much trouble with the naming of parts. You have to do a little thinking--not much, but obviously too much for some people--to understand the difference between a segment and a facet, and a little more to understand why the mind is not clarified by considering either the segments or the facets of a field.
Such thoughtlessness is aggravated by the cloudiness of field, which readers of pedaguese will recognize as a handy plug-in replacement for area, sphere, and domain. Educationists can babble forever about the phases of their fields and the facets of their spheres. There is no need for precise definition where there are no real things to be defined.
There are no boundaries to the happy land of Let's Pretend. If you can imagine that you are thinking as you contemplate the facets of your cute little sphere, you are only one baby step away from sucking on their aspects and their parameters. Aspects and parameters are two of the darlingest baubles of the mindless, who find them especially useful in the naming of parts. Segments and phases are in fact certain kinds of parts. If you talk about facets of a segment of your area, some rude elitist--from off the education field, naturally--may call your bluff, requiring that you describe exactly the nature of the parts and of their relationships both to each other and to the whole. You can avoid such embarrassment by hiding in the aspects and parameters, which aren't parts of any kind. If you prate about the problematical parameters of the affective aspects of your area, your playmates will give you a D.Ed., and the rude elitists, realizing that you are beyond the reach of reason, will trouble you no more. But, hoping still, they will tiptoe away, leaving you to amuse yourself in your playpen with your favorite words; luckily, they're all sharp instruments.
The Black Whole of Connecticut
"Mistah Kurtz--he transpersonalized."
The center cannot hold, you say? Poo. Come with us now, up some tranquil New England waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth and into the heart of an immense darkness. There, we will come at last to the Connecticut Teachers' Center for Humanistic Education, and it's holding very well indeed, thank you.
Dark humanistic shapes we will make out in the distance, flitting indistinctly against the gloomy border of the forest, and, chief among them, brooding over some inscrutable purpose, Emily, the Assistant Director. All we know of her is what we read in Centering, the Center's little newsletter. Here it is--sic:
Emily has experience training in the areas of Bio-energetics, Psychosynthesis, Gestalt Therapy, Arica Psychocalesthenics, Yoga and Tai Chi. Emily has been a consultant to Connecticut Public Schools . . . in self-awareness training, confluent education, and organization development.... Emily is committed to working with individuals wholistically--facilitating the integration of their emotional, intellectual, physical and transpersonal aspects.
In the hush that falls suddenly upon the whole (or "hole,") sorrowful land, do remember that Emily is only the Assistant Director. What must he be, who can direct the labors of such an assistant? And whose heads are those, their transpersonal aspects hideously integrated on self-awareness training poles, that fence these murky precincts? They look so small.
We are lost, lost in an area. Is it the area of Psychosynthesis or the area of Tai Chi? Could we be in the neighborhood of Bioenergetics or even in the immediate environs of Arica Psychocalesthenics? Who knows? They look so much alike. That's why we all need Assistant Directors, real professionals of education, with rigorous "experience training" in areas. Oh, what a mistake we made studying junk like geography when what we ought to have had was experience training somewhere in the area-awareness area. Now we just can't seem to facilitate the integration of any of our aspects. The horror, the horror.
We have, of course, no idea at all of what teachers do in a teachers' center, and we obviously never will, for the gravity of the Black Whole of Connecticut is so enormous that no light escapes. We can only guess, therefore, that teachers hie themselves there to have their Gestalten therapized in the lotus position, performing the while, quietly within the psyche, synthesizing calesthenics, whatever those may be, interspersed with an occasional aspect-integrating and big-energizing round of Tai Chi, perhaps a confluent form of Parcheesi for individuals. That would explain a lot.
That's all we can tell you. Like that other cryptic screed, our source gave "no practical hints to interpret [or even to understand] the magic current of its phrases . . . unless a kind of note . . . scrawled evidently much later, may be regarded as the exposition of a method," or, at least, of a course in methodology. "It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed . . . luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: ‘Excruciate the brats!'" And that, of course, would explain everything.
The Long Spoon Effect
IF you are considering thinking about deciding to contemplate beginning to get ready to start preparing to become an academic administrator, you had better do a little homework. As the old Bulgarian adage puts it, Who would sup with dogs must bring along fleas, or, according to another translation, He who lies down with a long spoon gets up with the Devil. Either, or both, can mean, or can be seen as meaning, that in learning to think and write in a manner appropriate to high office, you must seek experience training in the area of communicative aspects facilitation. Don't worry. It's a big area. You can't miss it. Go to the classics. Read studiously the written work of anyone who sports the word "academic" in his title. Any Academic Dean will do, but an Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs is even better.
Doyle E. Howitt is exactly one such at Kearney State College in Kearney, Nebraska. On November 8, 1979, Asst. VP for AcAf Howitt sent out a memo about IDEA, which has something to do with "faculty review and evaluation" and is either a "system" or an "instrument." Howitt tells faculty: "As a tenured member of the faculty you have access to the option of selecting when to implement and utilize the IDEA instruments." (Sorry. We forgot. Sometimes it is "instruments.")
There. In one swell foop Howitt has shown you almost everything you need to know to be an academic something or other. Keep your distance! Don't, for heaven's sake, tell people that they can select. Don't even tell them that they have the option of selecting, which is to say, and oh so bluntly, that they can decide whether or not to select. If you must tell them something, first ask somebody else to do it; the canniest academic administrators never commit writing if there's any chance of being caught. As a last resort, however, you can tell them that they have access to the option of selecting, which is to say that they are free to choose whether or not to decide whether or not to select when to implement and utilize. (Forgot that last bit, didn't you? Please stay alert until you become an Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs.)
To feel the power of language that retreats as far as possible from what it has to say, all you need to do is compare it with the amateurish forthrightness of ordinary human speech. Just think how Dewey, if only he had been an academic admiral, could have changed the whole sad history of our age. An academic admiral would have said: "You have access to the option of selecting when to utilize and implement your weapons system instruments, Gridley." Words to remember! In Spanish, of course.
SEX has addled some of the soundest pates of our age, or of any age, for that matter. Sitting around brooding on sex has never led to clarity of language and thought. The writer's problems are now aggravated by the fact that he must think about sex in order to write, as he is now expected to write, as though he hadn't been thinking about sex at all. That last sentence, with its three he's, for example, shows that the writer, obviously hypnotized by sex, was unable to achieve that clarity of mind that would permit sufficient attention to sex out of which to compose a sentence that proves the writer impervious to sexual distraction. (Now that is a better sentence--not a single he!)
Consider the plight of George Thompson, Director of Freshman Composition at Emporia State University. He's not a bad writer, and it's not his fault that his memo of last November 30 has to speak of an Exit Exam. But here's what happens to him:
Should a student have . . . conflicts with the date and time, please send he or she to my office so other arrangements can be made.
You see? He was so worried about worrying about not seeming worried that he couldn't even think of changing "student" to a plural.
The Faculty Development Committee of the Department of Management at Central State University in Edmond, Oklahoma, met on the 28th of November, 1979. The committee sends word that some "Definitive constructs were exchanged as to accountability and consensual concern produced desire to poll our colleagues for expression about priorities of factors associated with areas of accountability."
Having polished off concern for expressions about factors associated with areas, the committee went on to "develop" a "tentative but generalized view." Although it said nothing about research, the committee declared that "research service" was to be accorded "very minimal" consideration, and also thought it best "to defer... consideration as to primacy of peerage judgments." To sum it all up:
The committee expresses concern for the need to facilitate a more helpful/acceptance oriented vehicle as antecedent provision to voting for individual faculty members on occasions of promotion and tenure. We are leaning toward a periodic peerage meeting, perhaps annually, during the ongoing years of service. We lean toward openness in constructive discussion procedurally enabling peerage interaction.
We lean the same way, and we suggest that somebody send this writer and all of his pals, who evidently let this gibberish go forth, back to the wind-up toy factory at the very next occasion of tenure.
We don't know who wrote that rubbish, because our misguided informant blotted out the writer's name. That name, however, appears regularly on the checks with which the taxpayers of Oklahoma pay him for the work of his mind. That work shames the entire academic community. That we permit it is disgrace enough. To protect him who does it is to suggest that we're willing to permit it. That had better not be true.
We should have known. Goethe told us that the betterment of fools was work for fools, and St. Thomas warned us about that "invincible ignorance" against which reason can never prevail, but we didn't listen. In the December issue, speaking of the Teacher-training Turkeys and their pernicious influence, we said: "... the turkeys are influential. That's why every rinky-dink administrator in academe wants to speak their gobble."
On the Glassboro campus, you can't throw a rock without clobbering either a Teacher-training Turkey or a rinky-dink administrator, and often both birds at once, in the same flesh. It gives you a good feeling, of course, but it's futile. They are troubled not at all by severe injuries to the head. And--would you believe it?--many of them read what they can of this Journal hoping, of course, to find bad English, of which they have heard.
One of them read the passage quoted above and crowed with delight. (The crowing of a turkey is a terrible thing to hear.) Unable to keep in mind more than one sentence at a time, he concluded that "their" had to refer to "administrator." Triumphantly, the poor boob sent us his "findings."
Unfortunately, he didn't provide a "correction" for what he thought was a failure of agreement. That would be: "Every ... administrator... wants to speak his gobble." That is true, and if we ever want to say that, that's exactly what we'll say.
Come to think of it, Pope warned us too. If there's one thing you can always find at the teacher academy, it's "little learning."
P. O. Box 203 Glassboro, NJ 08028