THE UNDERGROUND
GRAMMARIAN

Volume Four, Number Three............March 1980

The Royko Papers

When you talked us in your paper you called us barbarians. It is even more rude than when you call us delinquents. You cant compare us to 50 years ago because we dont wear knickers' and deliver newspapers. All you Old Farts are the same. At Cominsky Park we were just expressing our feelings about disco, because disco sucks. If you write another column like that you will have to answer to me in person.

A letter to Mike Royko

From a high school student

I was struck by a manifest shallowness in the doer [Eichmann] that made it impossible to trace the incontestable evil of his deeds to any deeper level of roots or motives. The deeds were monstrous, but the doer . . . was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous. There was no sign in him of firm ideological convictions or of specific evil motives, and the only notable characteristic one could detect in his past behavior as well as in his behavior during the trial and throughout the pre-trial police examination was something entirely negative: it was not stupidity but thoughtlessness. . . . Is wickedness, however we may define it, this being "determined to prove a villain," not a necessary condition for evil-doing? Might the problem of good and evil, our faculty for telling right from wrong, be connected with our faculty of thought?

Hannah Arendt, in
The Life of the Mind

MIKE ROYKO is a columnist at the Sun-Times of Chicago. His essays appear in many newspapers throughout the country, thank goodness, for he has the habit of clear language and thought. Mike Royko wrote a column about those eleven people who were trampled to death at a rock concert in Cincinnati. He suggested, by no means injudiciously, that "those who would climb over broken bodies to reach a seat in an auditorium could be called ‘the new barbarians'." That suggestion must have seemed less than humanistic and perhaps even somewhat un-self-esteem-enhancing to a certain Robert Maszak, a teacher of English at Bloom Township in Chicago Heights. Maszak, probably remembering his training in the teacher academy, seized for his students this marvelous opportunity for a relevant and experiential exercise in the integration of self-awareness aspects and the clarification of values. He had them all write letters telling Royko where to head in, and proving, since they could write, that some teenagers were not barbarians. In fact, they couldn't, and they are.

Royko, to be sure, had said nothing about teenagers--or about the worth of rock music, which was stridently championed in many of the letters. Maszak, however, may well be a member of the National Council of Teachers of Eglinsh, and thus both a proponent and a practitioner of holistic reading, in which the reader must scrupulously refuse to consider what the writer actually says, a mere aspect of writing.

Maszak may also be a holistic grader, for he was not reluctant to display the fruits of his teaching, which look like this:

Dear Tenage hater

I was disapointed by what you writen on the Who concert. From what you said I can see you have know so called barbarism. You used some strong words in there with very little fact, you say everyone was numbed in the brain. I will say from concert experience maybe half or three forths were high on something or nether but I allso know that theres not one forth to half that weren't. You say everyone was pushing and throwing elbows, did you ever think that some of the thrown elbows were from people who didn't like getting pushed. You said something about when you were a kid, well times have change. . . .

Yes. The times indeed have change. Well, let's try to be holistic. Let's ignore failures of technique and, as we were instructed in last month's quotation from ETS, concentrate on "what the student has accomplished rather than on what the student has failed to do or has done badly." Let's remember as well the aggrieved whimpers of the educationists who beseech us to believe that skill in writing is obviously, while useful, much less important than humanistic things like the encouragement of self-expression, the enhancement of self-esteem, and the clarification of values.

Now we can understand why Maszak was untroubled by such a piece of work. It is, in fact, a testimony to the triumph of educationism over education. That poor student, not a villain but a victim, has indeed expressed nothing more than himself. His esteem for that forlorn and meager self is firm and truculent. And his values are perfectly clear.

Perfectly clear, too, are the values of the few students who actually mentioned Royko's topic, the death of eleven people. One saw it as a perfectly expectable concomitant of everybody's inalienable right to have what he wants when he wants it. Here's his clarification of values:

If there were someone yer looked up to and yer went to see them in person and thier were thousands of peopl just like you and wanted to see him up close would you fight yer way in?

Another shows an even keener sense of values; he gives us the very numbers by which we can reconcile ourselves to death in Cincinnati: "People die every three second. What would you do if you paid $15 for a ticket?"

Eichmann must have said as much in the still watches of the night, if he ever did say anything to himself. Jews die anyway, don't they? And Eichmann had even more than fifteen dollars at stake.

You can be sure that the humanisticists in our schools will make a profit from that last letter. They will transform it into a "values clarification module": You have paid for a ticket to hear a concert by the Walking Dead, whom yer look up to. How cheap does it have to be for you to decide that getting to your seat just isn't worth the hassle of trampling a few people to death, people who may in any case die every three second? The ensuing rap session will be quite long enough to provide yet another day's respite from the tedious and dehumanizing study of language and thought.

The children who wrote the Royko papers are juniors and seniors in high school. They are probably from sixteen to nineteen years old. They have spent eleven, twelve, or more, years in our "humanistic," "values-oriented," schools. What their teachers have praised as "creativity" looks remarkably like anarchic self-indulgence, which is what creativity must always be in the want of discipline and skill. Their much-encouraged "self-expression" cannot be distinguished from dissolute libertinism, a virulent form of self-expression where there is no self-knowledge. Their "enhanced self-esteem" has blossomed into an arrogant narcissism, a perversion of self-esteem where there is no idea of what is estimable.

Can we hope that Maszak's few students are unique, or at least unusual? We cannot. We know that there are millions, millions of children who have in effect been dehumanized by the "humanistic'' education that smugly dismisses the mastery of knowledge and skills and the discipline of the intellect as elitist adornments accessible, if they will have them, only to the few, and eagerly peddles to the many the mindless claptrap of environmental awareness and career orientation and ethnic sensitivity and doing your own thing and letting it all hang out.

Human beings only, of all living creatures, can know what Hannah Arendt has described as "the claim on our thinking attention that all events and facts make by virtue of their existence." She said of Eichmann "that he clearly knew of no such claim," although she does not say of him, as we might have to of Maszak's students, that even had he known of such a claim he would have proved incapable of paying it thinking attention.

Thinking attention can be paid only in skillful language. And, for those who want to be humanistic, there is no more distinctly human attribute than the power of language and no more distinctly human accomplishment than thinking attention.

Go and learn those things, you humanism-mongers, before you presume to instruct our children in values. And do it fast. There isn't much time. We have read the Royko papers, and we know what you have been doing. We have seen the future that you have fashioned for us, and, in words that even your victims will understand, it sucks, humanisticists, and all the young farts are the same.

An Enemy of the People

THERE is weeping in Wales, Wisconsin, where the school board invited teachers at the local high school to dream up proposals for some new courses. Fifteen teachers did so.

So the curriculum committee of the school board read the proposals, and one member, Robert W. Geweke, did exactly what a good citizen should do. He told a reporter for the local newspaper that "the spelling and grammar and sentence structure in twelve of the fifteen proposals were unbelievable." And he cited chapter and verse.

Every school board in America should have at least one such member. If we had some award to give for exemplary service in the war with the nerds, we would give it to Robert Geweke, of Wales, Wisconsin. (Local papers, please copy.)

And what have they given him in Wales, Wisconsin? Flak. Parents and teachers, especially teachers, are accusing him of trying to ruin the lives of innocent children by discrediting their high school, thus making it unlikely that they will be accepted at the colleges of their choice, where, we presume, they can always take remedial courses in the skills that were thought not important enough to fuss about back home in Wales. Teachers can be expected, of course, to excuse themselves, but you would think, wouldn't you, that parents might object to having their children taught by ignoramuses. Apparently not. They object only to having it known.

Stick in there, Robert Geweke. You have done the right thing. But we do have one little suggestion for your school board: you do need something in your high school; but, although those new course proposals proved useful in an unexpected way, something you obviously don't need is a mess of new courses. We think you ought to fire the ignoramuses--who are always panting after new courses--and find teachers who can teach the old courses.

 

The Nonredundant Interactive Relationship of Perceived Teacher Directiveness and Student Personological Variables to Grades and Satisfaction

Recent research has shown that a number of student variables -- authoritarianism, dogmatism, intelligence, conceptual level, convergent-divergent ability, locus of control, anxiety, compulsivity, need for achievement, achievement orientation, independence-dependence, and extraversion-introversion--may moderate the relationship between teacher directiveness and grades and satisfaction. There is a fair degree of moderate intercorrelation among these student variables and such intercorrelation suggests that some of the found interactive relationships may be overlapping or redundant. The purpose of the present research is to develop multivariate mathematical models of the interactive relationships using stepwise regression strategies. Such models should facilitate a more parsimonious interpretation of the interactive relationships which are . . .

We were going to show you all of that mess and even give you the name and address of the chappie who made it, but we can't. Before our typesetter was able to finish, a member of our staff borrowed the original (and only) copy and took it to Texas. There, while fumbling for his entry permit at the Immigration Control Office, he lost the evidence. Maybe it's just as well. There's no telling what those Rangers might have done had they caught him with a smoking dissertation abstract. They don't cotton much to that kind of stuff down there.

We can tell you, at least, that the original came from Calgary, Alberta, and we have to hope, if justice is ever to be done, that the Mounties don't want any of this stuff in their country either. They shouldn't have much trouble getting their man--and his sidekick--in this case. The author and his dissertation adviser were so proud of themselves that they had their photographs printed right on the page with the evidence. Perfectly decent and respectable young fellows they seemed, too. Who would have thought it?

Since personology must be too subtle a science for the likes of us, we cannot explain how "personological" variables might be different from differences in persons. We would guess, though, that student variables are young variables studying to become teacher variables. And we're a little disappointed by that list of student variables, a measly twelve items. In the better teacher academies, you'd never get a doctorate for such a skimpy, or "parsimonious," elaboration of the obvious commingled with the incomprehensible.

The most instructive thing about the passage is that its pretentiousness is eloquently, although inadvertently, undone by its timidity. Notice that all those nifty variables may "moderate the relationship." Educationists won't take chances, even on the obvious and simple. After all, how can we be sure, without multivariate mathematical models of the interactive relationships, that different people feel different about different things?

Of course, should this research achieve its goal, we might have to change our opinions. A "parsimonious interpretation" of a fair degree of moderate intercorrelation is not to be sneezed at. Before such an awesome discovery, we'd just have to back off, treading cautiously in our best stepwise regression strategies.

The Underground
Grammarian

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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