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.