Yesterday, I wrote about Rebecca Walkowitz, the English Department chair at Rutgers University, sending an email to the Rutgers community titled “Department actions in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.” In order to “contribute to the eradication of systemic inequities facing black, indigenous, and people of color,” she announced, 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.”
This, I concluded, was one more example of the solution to “systemic racism” being rammed down our metaphorical throats by the World’s Woke consisting of removing any standards that any segment of black America found the lest bit inconvenient or challenging—you know, like competing for jobs, SAT scores and having to obey lawful directives from police officers. I wasn’t the only one, though the report on this initiative came from the College Fix, a conservative site that reports on the leftist nonsense in our institutions of higher learning. There has been literally nothing about this episode in the mainstream news media. The New York Post—but that’s a Murdoch publication, so thus presumptively eeeevil—did have a brief editorial note about the matter:
“….Rebecca Walkowitz, vowed to incorporate “ ‘critical grammar’ into our pedagogy,” which will challenge “the familiar dogma that writing instruction should limit emphasis on grammar/sentence-level issues,” so as not to put students with poor “academic” English backgrounds “at a disadvantage.” Another goal: “decolonizing the Writing Center.” How does lowering standards serve justice? Executive dean Peter March and spokeswoman Dory Devlin didn’t respond to request[s] for comment.”
Two esteemed Ethics Alarms readers, however, argued that I, as well as the College Fix and others, got her intent backwards. Heeere’s commenter Here’s Johnny (emphasis mine):
[I]n 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.
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. Continue reading →
1. Baraboo hangover. Apparently the Wisconsin male high school students who gave a Nazi salute in an off-campus photo will not be punished. The superintendent overseeing Baraboo High, Lori Mueller of the Baraboo School District, said in the letter that the district was “not in a position to punish the students for their actions” because of their First Amendment rights. That’s right from a Constitutional viewpoint, and something good will come of the incident if it means that schools will stop punishing students for what they post on social on their own time. Here is the photo, in case you have forgotten…
The Times article sure is full of dissembling and nonsense, however. Peter Gust, the jerk who took and posted the photo, claims that it had been modified by “malevolent behavior on the part of some in society.” Sure. Jordan Blue, the boy in the upper right hand corner in the red tie, has embraced the role of ethics hero in the media, and is grandstanding and virtue signaling like mad, saying that he didn’t have time to leave the photo but that he didn’t raise his arm because “I knew what my morals were and it was not to salute something I didn’t firmly believe in.” Uh, that should be “firmly didn’t believe in,” Jordan. Then there is Brock Turkington, also in the photograph, whose story is that “As we were about to take that photo, the photographer instructed the boys to give a ‘high-sign.” The photographer instructed us to extend our arms out, no one knew what a ‘high-sign’ was. I asked another student next to me ‘What are we doing?’ He responded, ‘Stick your arm out.’” But that’s not a “high-sign.” That’s a Heil-sign.
2. I won a bet with myself! Cracked, the list and pop culture commentary website that evolved out of a cheap Mad Magazine rip-off from the Sixties, has a feature called “5 Laws From Other Countries (The USA Should Totally Steal).” Cracked is dominated by smug, if clever, social justice warriors, so I made a bet with myself that the list would contain several concepts that were unconstitutional or that would advance the Left’s dream of perpetual power. (By the way, you can’t “steal” a law.) Sure enough, the tally was three out of five. I win!!! Continue reading →
When we last visited Montclair State University Women’s Studies Professor Kevin Allred, he was about to be sacked at Rutgers for tweeting
“Will the 2nd amendment be as cool when i buy a gun and start shooting at random white people or no…?”
In that case, I agreed that the university had little choice but to remove Allred from the campus, noting that Allred, as an employee, an adult (theoretically) and an instructor, should have known better than to broadcast his provocative musings in 140 characters or less to the world at large, rather than confining them to class. He should also have known that campus shootings aren’t a joking matter after the Virginia Tech attack. If he had the sense to write “someone” rather than “I,” avoided “when” to make it clear this was a hypothetical, the situation would probably have not arisen. Then, I wrote,
“…Rutgers would only be risking outraged parents demanding to know why a prestigious school thinks it’s responsible to have their students going into debt to pay for courses like the one Allred teaches.”
After he had to leave Rutgers, Montclair State hired him to teach the same course on “the music and career of Beyoncé Giselle Knowles Carter.”
His defenders, and of course Allred, say that his tweet was just a rhetorical question to make a point. The University says that he left them no choice, or no good ones, anyway.
They both are right. This is what comes of being in Ethics Zugswang, when one is thrust into a position where no course of action is fully responsible, fair, and ethical.
The university decided that it could not responsibly assume that the tweet was benign and not a threat. What if the school did nothing, and Allred then took high ground and became Charles Whitman 2016? Having him arrested, however, looks unfair and like a punitive reaction to free speech. There was literally no course the university could take that was completely ethical. Rutgers sacrificed its teacher’s dignity for the safety of the students and to protect the institution’s liability.
The other alternatives—talking to him, shrugging it off as a poorly considered social media gaffe—placed the fate of the school and perhaps many students at the mercy of moral luck. These would seem like reasonable decisions only if the moral luck dice did not come up snake eyes. Allred didn’t say “if” I buy a gun, he said when. He added race to the equation, and there are a lot of people who seem to be losing their grip in the wake of the election. What were the odds that he meant what he wrote? 100 to 1? 1000 to 1? 5000 to 1? Is it worth the remote chance that this was a warning of an impending catastrophe not to take the safe route, and have him arrested and examined? Is it worth gambling with students’ lives? Continue reading →