THE UNDERGROUND
GRAMMARIAN

Volume Four, Number Seven............October 1980

I'm All Right, Juanito

If the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed or birthplace or origin.

But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American. If he tries to keep segregated with men of his own origin and separated from the rest of America, then he isn't doing his part as an American.

We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans . . . and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house.

Theodore Roosevelt

There's no one that can set himself up, really, and say you must melt.

Renaldo Masiez

WHO, you may ask, is Renaldo Masiez? Well, Renaldo Masiez is a functionary at our shiny new Department of Education, where the right hand, merrily stirring up the melting pot with "citizenship education," obviously doesn't know that the left hand is concocting a tangy gazpacho of truculent separatism, of which the flavor may prove uncongenial to the American palate when we receive (and translate) a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Nueva York.

Masiez himself has melted, right into a good job in government, where he's supposed to do something about the Bilingual Education Program. The aim of that program, we were told, was to hasten the melting of some children less fortunate than Masiez by teaching them in their own languages while they were learning English so that they wouldn't have to be taught in their own languages anymore. That would not only fit them for life in this country, but it would also spare us the pain of teaching everything in seventy-two languages forever. It seemed a good idea at the time, but only to people who don't know the first damn thing about how public education works, notably a pack of congressmen, or to those who saw in it some payoff for themselves, notably a pack of congressmen. In its ten years so far, the program has cost about a billion dollars and has helped, according to Masiez, "less than one percent of those that were found to be limited English proficient." (His estimate is much too high. We make it approximately 0.0137 percent when you count in all the educationists and functionaries who don't, as Masiez puts it, "receive minimally adequate services" but are obviously, just as much as any schoolchild, proficient in limited English.)

Masiez said those things in a conversation with Jack Perkins on "Prime Time Saturday." Perkins also spoke with the Supremo Director of BE, one J. Gonzalez, who pronounced a newly discovered version of our history. The old way, in which children were taught some English as quickly as possible and put into regular classes where they could learn a lot more, was "very ineffective." When Perkins, flabbergasted, suggested that the evidence did not support such an assertion, and that the Supremo might just be talking through his sombrero, Gonzalez, visibly vexed, muttered, "Well, you could always point to some groups where it has worked."

Yeah. Some groups. Poles, Italians, Armenians, Hungarians, Swedes, Russians, Germans, Basques, Finns, Turks, Chinese, Portuguese, Ukrainians, Japanese, Danes, Bosnia-Herzegovinians, and maybe even a few Bulgarians. There may be more.

Although school work is now taught in seventy-two foreign languages, a great majority of students in bilingual programs are, like most of the people who direct such programs, Hispanic. If it weren't for bilingual education, we could expect that in a few generations those children, their children, and grandchildren, would be living all over this land and doing everything that there is to do, for such was the destiny of "some groups." As it is, we are sentencing them to remain forever in the barrios and to wait on each other in the bodegas. Masiez and Gonzalez, however, will be all right.

The Department of Education has decided that teachers in bilingual programs, once expected to be bilingual, don't need to know any English at all. Bye-bye, bi. And children who have learned enough English to attend regular classes will be shot right back into the--lingual program should their work ever fall below average. That's a valuable lesson in humility for the students and a guarantee of steady work for all those--lingual teachers.

Imagine now that it was not Gonzalez and Masiez but Ronald Reagan who said that we should not require Hispanic children to learn English, and that what may have worked with "some groups" wouldn't work with them. Suppose that it was the mayor of Los Angeles who said that the Chicano children should be "prepared for life in the Hispanic community" where they can stay with their own kind and preserve their cultural heritage as much as they like. And try this, from the Grand Dragon of the KKK: "Well shoot, they sent no reason atall fer them folks ta melt. Reckon id be better they don't, an that's a fack."

There can never be equality of opportunity in a land where class is labeled in language. Let's hope that the bilingual boondoggle never does find more than one percent of those who "need" it. Gonzalez and Masiez will still be all right (it isn't for success that they get paid), and legions of new Americans may escape lives of involuntary servitude.

Gschmrubbers Appraised to be Good

And everyone said, "How tall they've grown!
For they've been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,
And the hills of the Chankly Bore."

We're happy to report, at last, a faint signal from Glassboro's very own epical, capital ship for an ocean trip, the recommisioned Bulgarian trawler, Gschmrub, now the flagship* of our latest bold, innovative thrust into the stormy sea of excellence in teacher-training. Well, the signal isn't actually from the Gschmrub, which has maintained a prudent radio silence since last year's one transmission calling for would-be excellent teacher-trainees who had gotten through all their remedial courses, but it is about the Gschmrub. It's from the "Trustees Visiting Committee," which must have lost its apostrophe in an offshore gale.

The TVC's report includes no list of members, and it's not going to be easy to track them down. They say of themselves only that they don't have "a detailed grasp of the context in which the College operates" and that they "do not know the full meaning and consequences attendant to [sic] the resolution of the issues." While that does explain why these people were given the task of assessing our epical teacher-training program, it doesn't help us in trying to guess which trustees did the deed.

They did it as you would expect. They asked the Gschmrubbers: So how's it going? Peachy-keen, the Gschmrubbers replied. And sure enough, the TVC found that the teacher-training crew, "decreased in its uncertainty and greatly increased in enthusiasm and in feeling of excitement," had actually become "ego-involved" and had even "substantially sharpened its skills in the development of instructional modules." The "ego-involved" business we could have guessed--the Gschmrub was always meant to "protect the troops" from declining enrollments in the teacher academy, but those sharpened skills are truly amazing. Who would have dreamed, having heard about real neat stuff like "Practitioner as Individual/Self," that there were still new frontiers to be conquered in module development?

The TVC itself is no slouch at module development. Here's its Punctuator as Individual/Self as Creative Module, which teaches that trivial comma faults, bless your heart, will neither dilute your liberal education component nor exclude you from boards of trustees in higher education outfits:

Inspection of descriptions of new courses and [of?] the Pattern of required general education coursework, revealed several interesting and appropriate new courses, which together with established courses in the pattern, produce an excellent liberal education component in the program.

(While we must certainly demand more than the ability to punctuate from those who are to judge the excellence of the "liberal education component," it does seem strange that we will settle for less. The comma faults in that sentence aren't just failures of convention; they are violations of logic, which has lost its place in the liberal education component to one of those "new courses," more "interesting" to some, no doubt, and surely more "appropriate.")

Here's the TVC's Naming of Parts Module, for incipient educationists who want to enlarge their vocabularies without actually going to the trouble of distinguishing things from one another:

This feature of the program has three facets. Among them [they mean "of them"], the use of computer technology and video recording in the instructional modules has been implemented and promises to spread to other aspects of the program. The use of technology is appraised to be good . . .

(When you say that a use has been implemented) you have obviously been hanging around with the Gschmrubbers. When you say that the use in modules of a feature's facet among the facets has been implemented and that it promises to spread to aspects, presumably to be distinguished from features and modules, and even from facets of features, you have become a Gschmrubber. "Who lies down with turkeys," as the familiar Bulgarian adage puts it, "gets up gobbling." And "appraised to be good," a recurrent form in this document, is probably the closest possible translation of an obscure but useful Bulgarian idiom, a convenient form for those who prefer to avoid the moral and intellectual commitment of a mere active assertion: "It is good.")

And, especially for the oldtimers who remember when teachers gave grades for Posture--"Needs Improvement," usually, here's the TVC's Posture as Implemented Posture Module:

Other alternatives may undoubtedly appear. The point is that a posture toward these alternatives needs to be formed, and if appropriate to the posture, implemented.

(The comma troubles are the usual, and the logic of a posture appropriate to a posture is common to baffled freshmen who just can't seem to remember the subjects of their clauses, but the most revealing device in the passage is the astonishing mesalliance of the timorous "may" with the magisterial "undoubtedly." This writer either knew what he was doing, or he didn't. If he knew, he has cunningly contrived to pound one hand on the lectern while using the other to cover his ass. If he didn't know, then he was thoughtless and neglectful. It's a sad choice, especially when we realize that whichever we choose must apply equally to all our trustees. Their devotion to excellence is unquestionable, so they must have studied and approved this report.)

But let's look on the bright side. Here's one we like: the Practitioner-Producer as Individual/Self (Assisted) Self-Promulgator:

The EPIC program is now developed to the point that systematic descriptions of it, papers, small research studies, evaluations and the like should be routinely appearing locally and nationally. What plans and what assistance to faculty are projected to increase the dissemination of information about the project?

Yeah. We applaud. We cheer. We can hardly wait. Up to now, the only descriptions, evaluations, and the like to appear locally and nationally have been our own. And we will, of course, continue to do our part. But this is, after all, a community of scholars, and we'll be delighted to pay the closest possible attention to whatever the Gschmrubbers can manage, with "plans" and "assistance," to be sure, although we would have thought enthusiasm and ego-involvement incentive enough, to write.

And God saw everything that He
had Made, and He appraised it
to be Good.

Spinach

WE have been reluctant to take an editorial position on the vexatious question of sexism in language. It is true that language is both a display and a generator of attitudes and values, and that certain conventional devices of our language do suggest that our species is made up of men and special cases. (This suggestion is even more emphatic in languages that show gender in plural pronouns, so that the addition of one little boy to a band of a thousand Amazon marauders turns the whole pack into a masculine "they.") It is just as true, however, that most proposed remedies have been either illogical, ugly, or silly, and sometimes all three. What to do?

Now to our aid comes a faithful reader who has sent us the June 1980 issue of The WS Quarterly, a flacksheet all about the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District in Walingford, Pennsylvania. The only article in the issue is "Grade Repetition.............." (Those fourteen dots are sic; maybe they're symbolic?) The piece is said, perhaps with exceptionally fine editorial discrimination, to have been "prepared" by one Rose Alex, a "reading specialist" at large in the Wallingford Elementary School.

Rose Alex is a preparing specialist too. She has prepared her article in the form of a hypothetical (let's hope) conversation between a bewildered and remarkably unobservant parent and a confident, patient, knowledgeable reading specialist--a real pro. The pitiful parent asks questions like this:

My child's teacher has suggested that he/she not go on to the next grade this coming year, but repeat the grade. How can I be sure that repeating the grade is the best thing for my child?

Rose Alex replies, in part:

To try to make a child believe he/she is achieving by giving him/her tasks at a slower pace does not fool him/her when he/she sees his/her peers moving ahead of him/her.

That does it. We're ready to take a stand. We say it's spinach, and we say the hell with it.

Teratology

THIS little piece, from a dissertation abstract, is said to have been written by a man who is now teaching geology. That seems unlikely, but, in the nutty world of education, you never know:

The findings suggest that psychosexuality constructs of agency/communion can be meaningfully operationalized to reflect the degree of psychosexuality integration, with different modes of manifestation and different correlates of interpersonal behavior associated wtih varying levels on the integration continuum.

That "wtih" may be just a typo, but, in the nutty world of education, you never know.

WHERESOEVER manners & fashions, are corrupted, Language is. It imitates the publicke riot. The excesse of feasts and apparell are the notes of a sick State, and the wantonnesse of Language, of a sick Mind.

The Underground
Grammarian

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R. Mitchell, Assistant Circulation Manager
Post Office Box 203
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* We can't understand it. They always used to call it their flagship, but now they're calling it their POD, as in one of those creepy things you find in the cellar after the Alien has taken over Grampa. They're probably just being modest. While there is no one to whom modesty is more appropriate than to teacher-trainers, we still like to give what they earn. back

† In academic disciplines, the remedy for "uncertainty" is "knowledge"; in pedagogy, it's "enthusiasm and feeling." back


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