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At Rutgers English department, grammar is just prejudice

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Thinking that conventional English grammar is biased, Rutgers University’s English Department is going to challenge it:

Walkowitz said the department would respond to recent events with “workshops on social justice and writing,” “increasing focus on graduate student life,” and “incorporating ‘critical grammar’ into our pedagogy.” The “critical grammar” approach challenges the standard academic form of the English language in favor of a more inclusive writing experience. The curriculum puts an emphasis on the variability of the English language instead of accuracy.

“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,” Walkowitz said. “Instead, it encourages students to develop a critical awareness of the variety of choices available to them [with] regard to micro-level issues in order to empower them and equip them to push against biases based on ‘written’ accents.”

Additionally, the department said it will provide more reading to upper-level writing classes on the subjects of racism, sexism, homophobia, and related forms of “systemic discrimination.”

Chrissy Clark, “Rutgers Declares Grammar Racist” at Washington Free Beacon

Yay years ago, I (O’Leary for News) was an equity reviewer for a big school board and was considered pretty fair. One day, the problem, above, was passed over to me: Should we be teaching standard English to minority children, given its past? This is the gist of what I replied:

– It’s quite true that English achieved its dominance, for better or worse, due to the British Navy. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is the language the student needs to know to partake in the opportunities Anglophone North America offers.

– No dialect is, in principle, any worse than conventional standard English. But the issues we face don’t turn on the excellence of a language. They turn on the fact that standard English—the English we hear on a national newscast—is the one we need to know to communicate with most people in Anglophone Canada and the United States, Britain, and many other countries.

– Students will be unnecessarily held back if they don’t know standard English. A student who enrols in the hard sciences has a big learning curve already. Wading through a blizzard of new concepts and terminology is not the time to also be figuring out how to write a grammatically clear and correct sentence in English. The student should have that nailed down well beforehand.

I’d say the same things today but would add: It may be that some time soon, AI translators will enable people to get by without learning conventional English. But this is not that day. Even if/when that day comes, it would be better not to depend wholly on such tools. Some tools can become our rulers and there is plenty of evidence for that in the domain of AI.

At the time, my view was accepted. Maybe it would be denounced today. But the students will not be the winners for that.

See also: And then they came for 2 + 2 = 4 … One thing the self-described progressive Woke perspective will certainly do is trap disadvantaged students in poverty. They will be forever consumers, not creators, of technology and the power and prosperity are largely on the creation side.

8 Replies to “At Rutgers English department, grammar is just prejudice

  1. 1
    mike1962 says:

    2 + 2 = something, I don’t know for sure.

    SUPER woke

  2. 2
    polistra says:

    Yup. In fact, the increasing use of computer translation actually pulls students TOWARD standard English. If a student is going to be working for a globalist corporation or globalist government, his written output will need to be immediately translated into all languages for immediate tyrannical enforcement. Computers don’t handle idioms well, and have special trouble with the fast-changing idioms of ‘street talk’.

  3. 3
    Bob O'H says:

    So which standard English will be used? English from England?

    Those of you who enjoy watching sports like football (of whatever stripe) or basketball on TV should spend a bit of time listening to the language used by commentators. They often don’t use standard English, but a dialect that has evolved to be condensed so that the action can be described in real time (“he shoots – he scores!”). But it’s still understandable even though it’s a long way from Received Pronunciation.

    My point is that there isn’t a single Standard English, but a lot of dialects, and we understand and use several in different contexts. “Standard English” is a formal form of the language, which does need to be taught, but doesn’t have to be studied as the only form.

  4. 4
    BobRyan says:

    Bob O’H

    The standard English varies from one country to the next. It is based on words having meaning, such as racism being defined as the belief that one race is superior to all others. It is not based on any specific skin color and anyone who believes the color of their skin makes them superior is a racist. A black raised fist is the symbol for black power and used by people who are racist. They believe being black makes them superior to all other races.

  5. 5
    News says:

    Bob O’H at 3: Students who have spent a lot of time listening to the patter from hockey arenas especially need to nail down standard English, the different national forms of which are usually intercompatible. A post-secondary course or a new job is not the time to be addressing stuff like that.

  6. 6
    TimR says:

    Speaking of standard English, one thing you North Americans could do would be to spell words correctly. Endeavour, colour, specialise, etc etc.

  7. 7
    BobRyan says:

    TimR

    There’s no need for the United States to go back. The Canadians are slowly catching up to Americans. If the Canadians can do it, it is only a matter of time before Brits get around to doing something right.

  8. 8
    Bob O'H says:

    News @ 5 – I would expect a course looking at sports-speak would be more about studying it (how it came about, why it takes the form it does, variations between sports etc.). University is precisely the time to study these aspects of language, because it’s a way of developing students’ thinking and analytic skills.

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