“The Great Stupid” Rampages On: Rutgers Decides That Allowing Bad English Will Help Cure Systemic Racism.

You know, when I was being sued for defamation by He Who Must Not be Named, the plaintiff told the Massachusetts judge in our hearing that (I’m paraphrasing here, just in case he’s lurking and wants to sue me again) Ethics Alarms was an insane, far-right blog with robotic followers who would march into the sea if I so instructed. This was right before he went on a rant that I was sure would end with him taking out two small metal balls and start rolling them in his hand. This is not a far-right blog, and calling it such is like calling someone who opposes Black Lives Matter a racist. I  can’t help it if almost all the ethical breaches are emanating from progressives lately, but it should not require a conservative orientation to condemn them for what they are.

A case in point: The Rutgers University English Department recently announced a list of “anti-racist” directives and initiatives, including an pledge to de-emphasize correct  grammar. Rebecca Walkowitz, the English Department chair at Rutgers University, sent the email on “Juneteenth” —she’s so woke!“—titled “Department actions in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.”

[I shouldn’t have to point this out, but I will pause to do so anyway: no department of any institution should develop policies in “solidarity” with any organization or movement. That is not their job or function.]

In order to “contribute to the eradication of systemic inequities facing black, indigenous, and people of color,” among other steps, she wrote, the English Department will begin “incorporating ‘critical grammar’ into our pedagogy.”

“Critical grammar” pedagogy “challenges the familiar dogma that writing instruction should limit emphasis on grammar/sentence-level issues so as to not put students from multilingual, non-standard ‘academic’ English backgrounds at a disadvantage,” her email states. “Instead, it encourages students to develop a critical awareness of the variety of choices available to them w/ regard to micro-level issues in order to empower them and equip them to push against biases based on ‘written’ accents.”

They have no “choices.” They have to learn to communicate clearly, or they will not succeed.

It is difficult to exaggerate how unethical—incompetent, unfair, irresponsible— the Rutgers plan is. Rather than training its ‘graduates of color’ to communicate clearly in speech and by the written word so as to be easily understood and  deemed effective and competent in communication,  an essential life competency as well as a basic workplace skill, Rutgers has decided to obliterate the standards that prevent society from deteriorating into a virtual Tower of Babel. The new policy will handicap its graduates rather than educate them. What a great plan!!!

Like so many of the misguided measures academia and the rest of society is adopting to “assist” blacks while in the grip of the George Floyd Freakout or The Great Stupid, this one will further impede black progress and be a catalyst for prejudice rather than a palliative. Speaking poor English, in addition to making communication difficult, unavoidably raises the suspicion that a speaker is unread, poorly educated, not too bright, or all three. These are often not unreasonable conclusions. Moreover, a refusal to master proper English frequently arises from laziness or disrespect for others.

The responsible and productive way to remedy the disadvantages some African Americans face in mastering standard English would be to encourage the acquisition of more books in African American households, insist that teachers master standard English themselves, educate parents to avoid speech pathologies at home and to correct ungrammatical speech when they hear it, and to make English language skills a priority, not de-emphasizing them.

If you can’t speak clear English, I’m not hiring you, and I don’t care what color you are. If you can’t write a letter without grammatical errors, you’re of no use to me in my business, though you might otherwise be a charming individual. I still won’t hire you.

And now I won’t hire you if your degree is from Rutgers.

16 thoughts on ““The Great Stupid” Rampages On: Rutgers Decides That Allowing Bad English Will Help Cure Systemic Racism.

  1. You don’t give the “Distinguished Professor and Chair” enough credit, Jack. Her department is officially woke and she just wants to make it woker.

    I tried to summarize both pronouncements (yes, I meant “pronouncements”), but such a task exceeded my meager capabilities. You need to do yourself a favor and observe the priorities and commitments of a “top 15” “English Department”.

    [Trigger warning. Keyboard warning. Mouth-full-of-beverage warning] You have been warned.

    https://english.rutgers.edu/news-events/department/5884-chair-s-message-july-1-2020.html

    https://english.rutgers.edu/news-events/department/5875-department-actions-in-solidarity-with-black-lives-matter.html

    In my estimation, these folks have become so enamored of (drunk on?) drinking their own bathwater that all they care about is finding ways to get others to pay for a bigger bathtub.

  2. The English Department’s announcement is long and contains a generous sprinkling of virtue signaling. But, in saying “Critical grammar pedagogy challenges the familiar dogma”, they are doing the right thing.
    The familiar dogma being challenged is that proper grammar is not important. That dogma came into play to cut some slack to students whose grammar was not perfect, for cultural, or native language, or other reasons. In challenging that dogma, Rutgers is saying that the phrasing of a message must be looked at critically. It may be that slang, or cultural ways of speaking are appropriate, or it may be that standard grammar is necessary. Students must know the difference and use what is right for the message and the audience.

      • Could be, although I don’t think so. I’m a fan of plain and concise writing; the English Department at Rutgers does not seem to be. I take “challenges the familiar dogma” at face value, even though it doesn’t sit comfortably with the rest of that lengthy email.

        • OK, I’m more than a little confused, and I will revisit this tomorrow. I found one detailed essay that makes the case that Rutgers is going to insist on more grammar rigor rather than less. The essay claims that conservatives intentionally misconstrued the email. Here’s my problem with that: the head of Rutgers English Dept. apparently can’t write a clear, coherent email. With all that jargon, who knows what she meant? If it doesn’t mean what I read it to mean, then she should be fired for her own lack of communications skills.

          Thanks for flagging this.

      • “This approach challenges the familiar dogma that writing instruction should limit emphasis on grammar/sentence-level issues so as to not put students from multilingual, non-standard ‘academic’ English backgrounds at a disadvantage” Read that carefully. You shouldn’t have to read it carefully, but it does pit itself against the idea that grammer should be demphasized.

  3. I can’t believe that clip from the movie “Airplane!” is still accessible to ANYone, ANYwhere, anymore.

    Most unbelievable: that the man in the aisle seat still says to Ms. Stewardess, “C–t ‘e sez ‘e can’t hang!” – completely uncensored and unedited. (Obviously, “AOC” has not seen that scene yet.) But of course, the middle-aged, jive-talking lady played by Barbara Billingsley has her final line edited. She walks away, muttering, “Jive-ass dudes ain’t got no sense, anyhow.” “Dudes” was NOT what she originally said; it was the “n-word.”

    So black-on-white misogyny is OK; white-on-black racism is not OK.
    Got it.

  4. Helay i gon no. Helay on fay no
    Helay i gon no. Helay on fay no
    Sanna chee nay ah yoan, Nay ya hay lay sak ah ya no
    Helay i go no, Helay on fay no.

    I wonder if they will find that acceptable. I don’t see why not. It is an American language. This is why the ‘English isn’t the official language” proponents are foolish. They usually think Spanish is the only other language spoken in the US and somehow that English is a colonial language but Spanish is not.

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