Volume Ten, Number One............February 1986

in Actual Decline!

For the purpose of systematizing public administration theory and producing a science of public administration traditional psychology does not easily resolve the democratic metaphor. However, the democratic metaphor comes into clear focus by the use of solipsistic instrumentalism, which is a deterministic, modern thought modality in the form of a transpersonal pragmatism that finds truth to be a function of evolutionary purpose. Solipsistic instrumentalism synergizes with a pragmatic modification of Freudian psychology, which also deterministically references to the autonomous psychoevolutionary machine whose substance is the biosphere.

Bruce K. Pollard, Ph. D.

WHAT a very singularly deep young man that Bruce K. Pollard must be. Of course, comforting as that thought is, he may not be all that young, and what would be excusably cute in a precocious tyke takes on a sinister flavor in a grown man who is obviously in the business that is nowadays called the "management of human resources."

Of Bruce K. Pollard himself, we know little, but we know much. We found his little essay, "The Psychology of the Democratic Metaphor," in a poopsheet called Dialogue: The Public Adminstration Theory Network, which is emitted from a school in California. Southern California. Having printed Pollard's piece as a case of "provactive thinking," the editor of Dialogue does a little provacting of his own. "To illustrate the diversity of styles and modes of thinking on the same subject, I offer a piece of my own rather than select somebody else's piece for invidious comparison." The italics are ours.

As to which of the two pieces is supposed to be in danger of suffering by that invidious comparison, there is no telling, any more than there is any useful distinction to be made between chaff and dross. But judge for yourself. Here is the first paragraph of the editor's piece, which is called "Excessive Bureaucratization: The J-Curve Theory of Bureaucracy and Max Weber Through the Looking Glass," by Gerald E. Caiden:

For some time, students of bureaucracy have been concerned with its apparent contradictions. On the one hand, its institutionalization of legal-rational authority makes it more productive than most alternate forms of human organization, especially on a large scale. Yet it manifests so many potential organizational deficiencies or bureaupathologies that it can become most unproductive. Can it be that there is in operation the same kind of process that economists and others have observed in respect to utility, namely a J-curve whereby with increasing resources, utility at first accelerates then experiences diminishing marginal returns, and finally reaches a point of non-utility? With increasing bureaucratization, does productivity first accelerate then experience diminishing returns, and finally reach a point of actual decline?

Try not to be intimidated by "writers" like Pollard and Caiden. What they say is not, as they would like us to believe, too complicated and technical for the likes of us. When you don't understand a discussion of vectors or dolomites, it is because you don't happen to know what those things are. There is remedy to be found. But when you don't understand how productivity can experience returns, or exactly what attribute it is by which a mere decline can be distinguished from an actual decline, it is because your mind is in tune and the writer's isn't. If you find yourself longing to ask Caiden to name at least half a dozen of those "alternate forms of human organization" in which "legal-rational authority" is apparently not institutionalized, and by contrast with which he pronounces bureaucracy more productive, or to require of him some definition of "utility" that would permit reproducible results in the researches of those who would like to discover that elusive "point of non-utility," it is because your reason is in frame, and he is just shooting the bull.

Pollard sounds even more formidable, but he isn't. Just try to imagine* the equivalent of reproducible results in the "resolving" of metaphors, or the supposed effect of bringing them "into clear focus." Think also of an instrumentalism that is a modality in the form of a pragmatism, and remember that it references, and deterministically, to a machine whose substance is something other than itself. Wonder also, in the still watches of the night, whether an intrumentalism is the same thing as an instrument, or is it, like other isms, the belief system of some cult.

And ask of both of these weighty experts the Big Question: In what branch of knowledge is it, exactly, that you are experts? If your essays are "on the same subject," what is the name of that subject? Where are its terms defined, and its standards of measurement laid down for all to see and use? If you are still trying to produce "a science of public administration," just what instrumentalism in the form of a modality are you using in the meantime? If you have thus far failed to make a science out of your clerkish calling, have you considered the possibility that there might be some very good reason for that failure?

All of the vast tribe of the managers of human resources would like very much to claim the rank of "scientist." Educationists and bureaucrats would find us--their resources--all the more amenable to management could they stand before us in their lab coats. With clipboards.

But there is more than science-envy in the fustian festooneries of their gobbledegook. "There is something in a bureaucrat," Gore Vidal observed, "that does not love a poem." The bureaucrat's fear and loathing in the presence of poetry are testimony to the truth of one poet's utterly unscientific observation that the "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." No bureaucrat would be able, like a Sophocles or a Dante, to bear the burden of unacknowledgement.

In fact, the poet and the bureaucrat are alike, in that both are managers of human resources. The one, however, has quite enough work to do in managing his own resources, while the other, perhaps for the lack of his own resources, is endlessly busy managing everybody else's. The one needs no justification, and is content with trying for truth, and the other, needing much, can never be content without pretending to science.

Through a Kwack, Darkly

"One should return back to those who give to him."

Ray V. Kwack, Altromoralist of Islip

NOTHING more vexes the budding Boy Scout than the little old lady who can cross a street on her own. What with NOW and the Grey Panthers, and little old ladies who are often members of both, and armed as well, a merit badge is hard to get. But Scouts need not despair. In fact, there has probably never before in the history of humanity been an age so full of opportunities for good deeds and the display of virtue. We can surely be, and may already be, the very best human beings who have ever lived.

Where our forbears had to make do with handing someone a turkey twice a year, we can sing our little hearts out and climb Kilimanjaro to show how much we care about World Hunger. We can carry a sign to the picnic on Saturday and have a swell time with our kind of people and tell all those war-mongers that we're mad as hell and that we're not going to take it anymore. Should even sterner virtue be needed, we can sell some stock, or refuse to buy fur coats, or even give up grapes.

But wait, there's more. We can also--and here's something that not even Saint Francis would have thought of for himself--join clubs dedicated to the wholesome work of seeing to it that other people sell their stock, and refrain from furs and fruits. It's easy as pie. All we have to do is send in some money. And we even have superclubs that can arrange to take a tiny slice of everybody's money and translate it into turkeys. We are good!

But, of course, we could be even better. And that's where men like Ray V. Kwack come in. Without the Kwacks of this world, befuddled schoolchildren who have never memorized "If," and who can't even tell you that "Excelsior" is also a packing material, would have to figure out all by themselves how to be good. Not bloody likely, eh?

Although Ray V. Kwack claims only the modest title of Educator of Other People, he is actually Doctor Ray V. Kwack, the Superintendent of Schools in Islip, New York. It was his plan to have every high school student in town put in, as a requirement for graduation, one hundred and twenty hours of good deeds, known also as those "services" approved by "school officials," including "the raking of leaves on school property." Students who might happen to do good deeds for unofficial civilians were to bring in signed testimony from same, including, we have to suppose, some reasonable estimate of the time spent in doing good. Since it can't take more than a minute to help a little old lady across a street, students who would like to graduate in that form of goodness would end up bringing in seven thousand and two hundred slips of paper, each of which would have to be duly approved and then entered in a big book. That work alone would justify the hiring of a dozen new bureaucrats whose labors Kwack could superintend. But he probably wouldn't mind. Our Kwacks are indefatigable, resting neither night nor day in hastening to do good.

Kwack's plan, alas, was rudely undone by a bunch of parents who seem to care very little about Other People. We have to suspect that what they really wanted was to monopolize for themselves any goodness that might crop up in their children. That's how people are in those affluent suburbs. If their kids are going to haul any trash or shovel any snow, it had damn well better be their own.

Kwack did his best. When a bunch of testy parents showed up at a meeting of the school board, he broke them up into small groups, each under the tutelage of a bona fide educationalist facilitator. And why not? It always works with school people. But these, unfortunately, were mere laymen, the sort of people who know so little of humanistic behavior modification in the affective domain that one of them could actually say that "the true spirit of volunteering is lost when it's mandatory." Amateurs.

Nevertheless, resistant even to facilitation, they prevailed, and today, in the schools of Islip, there is probably no good being done at all. Kwack's dream of making, at last, "a full and total person" of every graduate has been undone by unenlightened self-interest, and there is nothing to expect of education in Islip but more and more of those empty and partial persons that it must obviously have been producing all along.

And there it is, education in the shell of a nut, wouldn't you say? It's the difference between the full and total and the empty and partial. And who, therefore, could be a greater benefactor of other people than he who educates them, who brings them into what a Ray V. Kwack would probably call the fullness of their complete totality, the education of the whole entire child, who returns back, for at least forty-five minutes a week, something or other to those who gave something or other to him?

But there are benefactors and benefactors. Now you take your ordinary sort of Mother Teresa or run-of-the-mill do-gooder, the sort that goes out and finds someone who is sick and hungry and spoons him a little hot soup and maybe a couple of aspirin. That's nice. But how much good, speaking realistically, can that sort of do-gooder do? In the time that it takes one garden variety Mother Teresa to return back soup to those who gave to her, one Kwack can send forth hundreds, maybe thousands, of apprentice spooners, without even having to go near the kitchen, thus doing good beyond calculating to countless suffering wretches whom he never has to see.

And with education, it is the same. How much, after all, can a mere teacher do? Until very recently, no one in the whole history of education was able to bring the light of understanding into more than one mind at a time. There's room for only one student on the other end of that log. Why even Socrates, when you get right down to it, was able to awaken thoughtfulness in only a few people once in a rare while. In fact, in his whole life, Socrates could not possibly have educated as many people as any one of our Kwacks can educate in a single day, provided only, of course, that his district is a pretty large one, at least the size of Islip.

Who could be a worse citizen than the man who thinks first of himself, judging first of his own goodness, and of his own powers to know the good from the bad; and who is a better, than he who humbly puts himself last, and instructs others in goodness, even requiring it of them? Of the two, which one is the true "educator," which the fitter guide of youth? Which one is the real Kwack?

The Real Jane Austin Stands Up

ONE of the great pleasures of putting out this sheet is putting up with readers of this sheet. They are few but fine, and we hear from so many of them so often that we have bundles of evidence by which to prove just how fine they are.

One of them has just discovered for us the real Jane Austin, the one with the "i," whom we must have had in mind. Here are her works: A Nameless Nobleman, The Desmond Hundred, Mrs. Beauchamp Brown, Nantucket Scraps, Standish of Standish, and Dr. LeBaron and His Daughters. So there.

But don't be discouraged. It is just in the nature of things that someday we really will commit a very serious error.


Books are to be call'd for, and supplied, on the assumption that the process of reading is not a half sleep, but, in the highest sense, an exercise, a gymnast's struggle; that the reader is to do something for himself.       Whitman

Professors should be teaching future business managers and government officials how to write texts that proceed logically and simply from "the beginning, top down," with the main points at the start, not the end, Ms. Matalene said. . . . That idea is contrary to all writing in the belles-lettres tradition and is "generally thought by people like us to be really rather low-brow," she said. "In literary criticism it's not thought elegant to announce your structure at the beginning." She added, "It may not be too outlandish to say that every effective writer on the continent announces the plan at the beginning, and every writer who saves the ‘lead' until the end is in an English department."

BY what yardstick to measure outlandishness, we do not know. But we do suspect that it may, in fact, be too outlandish to claim both knowledge of every effective writer on the continent and also the power to judge of effectiveness. If anyone is to make such claims, however, it had better be a member in good standing of the National Council of Teachers of English, which, of course, Ms. Matalene is.

Ms. Matalene said what she said to the Chronicle of Higher Education at a confabulation of the NCTE in Philadelphia. She was far from alone in the refreshing (and more than somewhat startling) discovery that the writing taught in English departments is far too elegant and high-brow, and its lettres all too belles for the real needs of the real world. A certain Ms. Kristin Woolever, who is nothing less than the very director of technical and professional writing at Northeastern University tartly reminded all who might listen, that "readers don't have time for an adventure in learning or a mystery story. They need the point. Most humanists don't write this way, though."

Heavy charges. And properly levelled too. Not only against all those wandering humanists but, more to the point, against all those high-brow English departments, well known for turning loose among us all these "people like us," all these twerpy, precious belles-lettrists, whose elegant conceits and elaborate metaphors and lofty diction are the very hallmarks of freshman composition in our time. There isn't a one of them can meet a payroll or finalize a bottom line.

From Marcus Aurelius to Emerson, from Bacon to E. B. White, every one of those humanists blithely and ineffectively overlooked the fact that readers don't have time for an adventure in learning. More often than not, if you want to know what one of those guys is trying to get at in some elegant little piece, you have to read the whole damn thing! And even that won't always be enough. Sometimes you have to stop for a while and look out the window, and pace the floor, and waste the time that is so precious to business managers and government officials in thinking about the whole damn thing!

It is refreshing, too, to see that the National Council of Teachers of English has put both its feet squarely on the ground and come to grips with reality. Just a few years back, they were whimpering about "the students' right to a language of their own." Now they have at last understood what school is about, and what the teaching of writing is for. It's all for "future business managers and government officials," of course. Who else is there, after all? They're the ones who have a right to a language of their own. They're the "readers" who have no time for an "adventure in learning." They have important work to do.

In many societies, the teacher, most unfortunately, has played the role of the insolent servant. It seems very unlikely that even so great a teacher as Aristotle would think of asking Alexander what his needs were, and how best his teacher might adjust him to life as the Great. In general, teacherliness has been an autocratic enterprise, haughtily scornful of the needs of future business managers and government officials, and enforcing such high-brow irrelevancies as reflection and rumination on people whose work is going to be so important that they won't have the time for that sort of thing, and who really need only to know the trick of putting the bottom line right up there at the top.

Now, happily, a fresh breeze blows in Academe, and not just in the NCTE. At every level of schooling, "people like us" are coming to terms with bottom lines and learning to put aside highbrow pretensions. After all, it is almost entirely from business and government that we take our pay, and no effective agent of either will long put up with an insolent servant. And it may not be too outlandish to say that, someday soon, every effective teacher on the continent will be a servant who knows his place.


Correction: We accepted without checking the word of the Kitchener-Waterloo Record. Anthony Oettinger turns out to be not a math teacher at Harvard but a professor of government at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also not a consultant to the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, but a full-blooded member. It's a whole lot worse than we thought.


MUCH to our amazement, this is the first issue of the tenth volume of The Underground Grammarian. To all of you who have made such an unlikely longevity possible, we send our thanks, along with wishes for a happy and thoughtful new year. We are convinced that the two go together, and that the best hope of happiness is given to those who will take thought. Daily.

The Underground

R. Mitchell, Assistant Circulation Manager
Post Office Box 203
Glassboro, New Jersey 08028

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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.

* If you really want to do that, you will be further enlightened to know that Pollard later says: "The democratic metaphor is the democrat as the terminal and most efficient evolutionary program that resolves through the territorialization of the solipsistic frontier." So there. back

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