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It's Getting Harder and Harder to Distinguish Satire from Earnest Wokeness, II

Rutgers English Department says grammar is racist.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Via College Fix, the Rutgers English Department purports to challenge "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." So far so good. Helping students who struggle with standard English is exactly what an English Department that wants to helps disadvantaged students should do.

Instead, though, Rutgers goes even woker. Rather than merely deemphasizing standard grammar, the English Department declares that standard grammar is "biased," and endorses "critical grammar," which "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."

In short, the Rutgers English Department wants to make sure that students who come to Rutgers with a poor grasp of standard written English not only remain in that state, but come to believe that learning standard English is a concession to racism. I remember when keeping "people of color" ignorant was considered part of white supremacy.

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70 responses to “It's Getting Harder and Harder to Distinguish Satire from Earnest Wokeness, II

  1. After all, if blacks ever overcame their disadvantages, and became similarly situated to whites in terms of economics and education, they might vote similarly to whites, too. And then where would the Democratic party be?

    It’s not really in the interest of Democrats that any of these problems ever go away.

    1. “And then where would the Democratic party be?”

      That’s an easy one . . . still in control of shaping American progress and winning the culture war!

      1. “…where would the Democratic party be?”

        Looking for another minority they could convince that they couldn’t better themselves without the Democrats to do it for them, and that they could forget their promises to the day after the election.

        1. You stick with the Confederacy-fondling bigots, the gun nuts, the evangelicals, the anti-abortion absolutists, the gay-bashers, the immigrant-bashers, and the poorly educated clingers, Jerry B. . . . indeed, I’m counting on it, with the rest of the Democrats in the liberal-libertarian mainstream.

          1. We know Artie, you think that you are superior, and should be able to rule over us plebs. You sound like Lex Luthor, though not in the same universe of intellect. All of the delusions of grandeur, none of the brains.

            1. Here is what I think is superior, Vinni:

              Education is superior to ignorance.

              Reason is superior to superstition.

              Tolerance is superior to bigotry.

              Science is superior to dogma.

              Progress is superior to backwardness.

              Inclusiveness is superior to insularity.

              Modern, successful communities are superior to desolate backwaters.

              Strong, liberal-libertarian colleges and universities are superior to low-ranked, conservative-controlled schools.

              Reason-based public schools are superior to downscale homeschooling and backwater religious schools.

              1. Education is superior to ignorance.

                Racist.

              2. “Education is superior to ignorance.” Yes. And you should get some. Note that education is not synonymous with higher education degrees. There’s not even a very good correlation between the two. I know quite a few very well-credentialed ignoramuses. I also know more than a few very well-educated people who never stepped foot in an “institution of higher learning”.

                “Reason is superior to superstition. Science is superior to dogma.” Obviously. You could try using some actual reasoning and logic occasionally instead of your superstitious belief that all Rs are evil, all Ds are good and anyone who doesn’t exactly line up with your definition of a good D must be an evil R.

                “Tolerance is superior to bigotry. Inclusiveness is superior to insularity.” Again, obviously. And you should try it sometime.

                “Progress is superior to backwardness.” It depends. What are you progressing toward? If you are progressing toward authoritarianism and censorship, a little backwardness might be entirely in order. Progress is not an inherent good.

                “Strong liberal-libertarian colleges and universities are superior to low-ranked conservative-controlled schools” is obviously true regardless of political affiliation. Your blind assumption that all liberal schools are strong, however, is wildly untrue. There are some crappy little conservative schools out there. There are also a lot of crappy little liberal schools.

                “Reason-based public schools are superior to downscale homeschooling and backwater religious schools.” First, there are no “reason-based public schools”. They are government schools with all the biases and distortions that come from public funding. As to being superior to homeschooling or religious schools, the statistics flatly disprove your assertion. Homeschooled students regularly outperform public school students on standardized tests, college acceptance measures and pretty much every other evaluation of performance. So do private school students on average. Are there some bad homeschoolers and bad private schools out there? Yes. But we can also point to plenty of truly awful public schools. Yet totalitarians like you want to force those students and their parents to stay in those horrific public schools and deny them the opportunity to choose a better option.

                Despite your constant talk about tolerance, you are by far the least tolerant person who comments in these threads.

      2. Math’s not your strong point Rev.

        1. Math is not my strong point. Nor are particle physics, French, Russian literature, biochemistry, art history, and plenty of other fields,

          I must settle for being on the right side of history and the winning side of the culture war.

          Your envy is obvious and understandable.

    2. So blacks are too ignorant to be able to vote in their best interest?

      Is that your point?

      Or is it that educated people are Republicans? Doesn’t look that way toPew

      Higher educational attainment is increasingly associated with Democratic Party affiliation and leaning. At the same time, those without college experience – once a group that tilted more Democratic than Republican – are roughly divided in their partisan orientation.

      In 1994, 39% of those with a four-year college degree (no postgraduate experience) identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party and 54% associated with the Republican Party. In 2017, those figures were exactly reversed.

      Democratic gains have been even more pronounced among those who pursue postgraduate education. In 1994, those with at least some postgraduate experience were evenly split between the Democratic and Republican parties. Today, the Democratic Party enjoys a roughly two-to-one advantage in leaned partisan identification. While some of this shift took place a decade ago, postgraduate voters’ affiliation with and leaning to the Democratic Party have grown substantially just over the past few years, from 55% in 2015 to 63% in 2017.

      In 2017, 49% of white voters with a college degree (and no additional education) aligned with the Democratic Party, compared with 46% for the GOP. As recently as 2015, 51% of white voters with a college degree aligned with the Republican Party, compared with 43% for the Democratic Party.

      And among voters with postgraduate experience, the Democratic advantage has grown. In 2017, 59% of white voters with at least some additional education beyond a four-year degree identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic, while 37% identified with or leaned toward the Republican Party; as recently as 2015 that balance was slightly narrower (52% to 41%).

      By contrast, white voters with no more than a high school education have moved more to the GOP over the last 10 years, though there has been little change since 2015. As recently as 2009, these voters were divided in leaned partisanship. Since then, Republicans have held significant advantages, including a 23-percentage-point lead in 2017 (58% Republican, 35% Democratic).

      No wonder you guys hate universities.

      1. “So blacks are too ignorant to be able to vote in their best interest?

        Is that your point?”

        What IS the matter with Kansas, anyway? I thought it was being too ignorant to be able to vote in their own best interest…

      2. “So blacks are too ignorant to be able to vote in their best interest?”

        No. However, African American voting patterns are somewhat of an outlier. You can break down who people vote for any number of ways. Ethnic group, gender, age, income, education, and more. And there were always be tendencies, one way or another. But it usually doesn’t exceed a 70-30 ratio. Sometimes, rarely an 80-20 ratio. Even LGBT voters are typically in the 75-25 range. The outlier is the African American vote, which is typically 90-10 or higher. It is a little unusual, and it can lead to the African American vote being taken “for granted.”

        If the African American vote ever came more in line with the generalities seen in every other group, Democrats would be in for a world of pain.

      3. Poor bernard. Keep telling yourself that your Gender Studies degree means you are educated. If you believe it hard enough…

    3. Anti literacy laws featured prominently in Democratic policies in the South. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-literacy_laws_in_the_United_States

      Now denying literacy to Blacks has to be more subtle than it used to be.

    4. Looking at the comments, the article, and the Rutgers letter I find a few oddities: 1) If you greatly struggle with standard English writing/grammar
      how did you get into the School? 2) If you greatly struggle with standard English writing/grammar why would you go into an English Program. 3) Some comments assume this is a black person weakness as opposed to English as a Second Language or other which is a bias issue. 4) Trump is not relevant, but Rev… doesn’t know how to stay on topic, 5) If you expect Twitter to have excellent grammar you are a fool.

  2. So Rutgers encourages students to “develop a critical awareness of the variety of choices available to them …”
    Seems the key words there is “DEVELOP” and “CHOICES.”
    I don’t see — from your description — where Rutgers is telling anyone to remain grammatically ignorant.
    Just the opposite.

    1. Yes, where the “choices” are between using correct spelling and grammar, and continuing to make mistakes.

      1. What’s your take on Trump’s Tweeterator, Brett . . . and the rubes who eagerly consume that stream of illiteracy?

      2. Particular language usages are only correct or not in context. For example, people sometimes make fun of the AAVE usage “he be verbing,” but it’s a consistent grammatical construction that indicates a habitual grammatical aspect that standard English cannot convey through grammar alone. If the goal is to write in standard academic English, yes, it’s an error. In AAVE? It’s not—and it does something standard academic English can’t.

        Rutgers is saying that sometimes standard academic English isn’t what’s called for. They’re not saying it never is. And they intend to give their students the tools to write in whatever dialect is appropriate.

    2. Complete the quote, sir. Rutgers “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.”

      What, praytell, are “micro-level issues?”
      What “choices” are there for dealing with whatever “micro issues” are?
      What is a bias based on “written accents?”
      Since when do written words have “accents?”
      And what does this sentence even mean?

      1. Number 2 – The e-mail’s language is not particularly clear, which of course is a problem from the English Department. However, I don’t think that it’s a big deal. It appears to me that the intent is to focus on content rather than grammar, since many students might not have standard English as their first language. There’s nothing wrong with that, as far as I can tell.

        1. “It appears to me that the intent is to focus on content rather than grammar, since many students might not have standard English as their first language.“

          That’s curious. I thought part of learning a new language was learning its grammar. When I took Latin in high school and German in college, no one told me I could disregard Latin and German grammar because they were not my first language.

          I am also under this quaint impression that one needs a firm understanding of grammar in order to make one’s written content understandable. Poor grammar gives rise to countless contract law disputes precisely because it makes content ambiguous and difficult to interpret.

          1. Sure. I actually like grammar, and agree that it’s important. I don’t think that anyone is proposing that grammar be ignored, but rather that in some instances mistakes can be overlooked in an effort to focus on something more important – namely, the content of the communication.

            As noted elsewhere, the e-mail is pretty opaque, so I’m not certain exactly what they’re proposing, but it seems to me that this isn’t something to get all that worked-up about.

            1. As noted elsewhere, the e-mail is pretty opaque, so I’m not certain exactly what they’re proposing
              But the email has “critical awareness,” so it’s not important whether any of us can understand what Rutgers is proposing.

              The only way everyone can understand what everyone else is writing is if all of us use the same grammar rules.

            2. If I were a parent paying tuition for a student majoring in English at Rutgers, and I saw her instructors uncorking a monstrosity of a sentence like that, which neither you, nor I, nor anyone else can interpret, rest assured that I’d be worked up.

    3. Yeah, that’s what I saw, as well. I also reviewed the text of the e-mail, and I don’t see anywhere that Rutgers declares standard grammar to be “biased.” I could be missing it.

      1. Perhaps if you used your browser’s search function and entered the word “bias” you would have seen these (bold emphasis mine):

        “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</b? based on ‘written’ accents.”

        Walkowitz explained in the email that since 2012, the Rutgers English Department has had a Committee on Bias Awareness and Prevention.

        1. This site really needs an edit function.

        2. I actually saw those without using my browser’s search function, but thank you anyway. Neither of those examples supports Prof. Bernstein’s assertion that the English Department has declared that standard grammar is “biased.”

    4. But that much was a given in the initial portion on the quote in paragraph one of the article. That they go beyond this is where an issue lies.

      Grammar matters. Man-chasing dog. Eats, shoots, and leaves. Any of the other myriad examples of why grammar is important for clarity. The whole point of communication is to get a specific idea from my head into yours. If I do not take care in doing so, I will have failed at sharing that idea with you. At best you are confused by me. Somewhere in the middle you judge me (correctly I might add with these givens) as some degree of stupid. At worst you take what I say as a threat (because the words I used, when assumed to be used correctly which is a prerequisite for common communication, do constitute a threat despite my stupidity to such) and you respond defensively and one or more of us gets hurt.

      So just waving away accuracy in communication is a very real issue for those who would like to see an ever increasing number of humans get sufficiently past the grunting stage of human development.

  3. A fan of accurate grammar should learn the difference between it’s and its (see previous post).

    1. And you should know the difference between typos and not knowing the rules of grammar.

      1. I always spell it “typoes” just two see whose paying attention.

  4. “In short, the Rutgers English Department wants to make sure that students who come to Rutgers with a poor grasp of standard written English not only remain in that state, but come to believe that learning standard English is a concession to racism.”

    Our language appears to be under assault from all sides. From woke Rutgers to illiterate conservatives expressing disdain for “elite” English — from Tea Party spelling and Trump-style random capitalization to the general illiteracy of half-educated clingers — it has become open season on standard English.

    1. Ok BoOmEr

    2. This is extremely silly. By this definition, “standard English” has been under assault since the dawn of the language.

      Every year, there’s another reason why English is falling apart (omg, ‘irregardless’ means ‘regardless’!). And yet, overall, our English test scores gradually float up. Remember when texting was going to ruin everyone’s ability to spell forever?

      1. Ummm,
        F,
        O,
        U,
        R,
        E
        V
        A
        H…

        How did I do?

      2. Yeah, I could care less about the assault on standard English.

        1. English tastes better lightly salted.

  5. So I can pass the class if the teacher is not able to understand my non-standard grammar?

    1. Since when do writings have “accents?” Is that like the sound of a color?

      1. Perhaps different fonts?

        1. That’s a bold assertion.

          1. I underscore this comment.

      2. Most people can usually tell if a person speaking is black by their accent and use of language. It is often possible to tell if a writer is black when those speech patterns are reflected in their writing.

  6. To reiterate David’s point, proper sentence structure and grammar are critical, especially in properly illustrating the point you want to make. It’s even more important across a wide, diverse audience.

    Failing to teach this (and worse, deliberately not teaching this) is actively detrimental to minorities, and those people who need it most. It severely damages their long term prospects and economic growth potential. It is, in many ways, actively racists.

  7. Hey Sarcastro, this seems apropos to whether ‘success is racist’ still exists ‘in the wild’.

    1. Not seeing it. Could you lay it out? I see a system to not judge people’s talents by their grammar.

      In Prof. Bernstein’s short and cryptic scorn-filled post, I never managed to gather how a critical read of grammar meant no one can learn grammar.

      1. That’s just nonsense. Part of “people’s talents” includes the ability to accurately and persuasive convey an idea, and do so in a way that minimizes ambiguity. Grammar is one aspect of that.

        I can smash the keyboard with my fists, call it Shakespeare, but that doesn’t change it from incomprehensible nonsense. That’s true even if I was thinking of a beautiful sonnet as I did it.

  8. That’s a really black view of the situation.

  9. Is David over-reading this? I don’t see where in the email the Rutgers English Department declares that grammar is either “racist” or “biased.” (Admittedly, the depressingly high level of jargon doesn’t clearly spell out what they mean to do.)

    1. “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.”

      Walkowitz explained in the email that since 2012, the Rutgers English Department has had a Committee on Bias Awareness and Prevention.

  10. The statement is incoherent from Rutgers, but we should all reject pointless prescriptivism. Language has a purpose and should be judged on that purpose. Prescriptivism is useful in so far as it helps two speakers of the same language find common ground. But strict prescriptivism prevents us from evolving language, simplifying it, abandoning poor usage, etc. Appalachian slang “teached” is superior to proper “taught”, and the demonstrative “them” (“them boys”) is awesome. There is nothing wrong with “y’all” or “ain’t”. There is no council of grammar elders to whom we all have to submit. Why shouldn’t English departments teach students both the predominant rules (prescriptivism) and how to argue for change?

    1. It’s a double standard, and if it only applies in order to boost black grades, it’s racist, condescending, and patronizing.

      No one takes college-level grammar course to be told to keep doing what you’re doing, or at least shouldn’t. Any educational course, no matter whether kindergarten or PhD, should exist to teach and should be taken to learn. This nonsense just confirms that too many people go to college only because HR departments demand a diploma, any diploma.

      My personal suspicion has long been that government trying to make college cheaper while at the same time actually making it more expensive is yet another example of government overreach to satisfy bureaucrats who justify their existence by the size of their budgets.

      1. “Any educational course, no matter whether kindergarten or PhD, should exist to teach and should be taken to learn.”

        Right. To learn about the English language, arguments for how it can be improved, etc. That doesn’t strike me as controversial.

    2. There is a huge difference from slight changes of dialect over generations, or even the injection of slang in a specific context (both of which are disruptive to the rules of the language) versus wholesale inability to contract a sentence.

      As a history teacher with lots of ELL students of varying skills I get the broad point of what Rurgers says in the first part of the article. If a student writes that “Leonardo is good paint Mona Lisa” I am giving them leeway and credit. I understand enough to “get it.” (This is similar to some of the stuff I get from 10th graders… sadly some who are not ELL or SPED)

      However, if we are dealing with something a bit more complex like the French Revolution and I get “France Revlushon good or bad maybe cause Robespeeyar rain” then no… that’s a fail. Sentence structure and grammar do matter. Is the student saying the Reign of Terror was good or bad? We can accurately assume they do not even grasp the idea of good or bad of the French Revolution in English terms… how then am I supposed to know what they “know”?

      1. It’s not at all clear that’s what Rutgers is talking about.

        But enjoy your narrative, I guess. Prof. Bernstein sure is.

      2. sparkstable-
        If you think that giving leeway and credit to a high school student, of any color, who writes, ““Leonardo is good paint Mona Lisa,” is doing that student a service, I will respectfully disagree with you.
        That student will at some point in her life be filling out job applications. If she is taught that “Leonardo is good paint Mona Lisa” will get her leeway and credit in the business world, or anywhere in the real (non-academic) world, she will not do well, and will not know why.

  11. This is just an example of the poster in the preceding article. “Black English” is not a variant, it is simply wrong and shows that the person who speaks or writes it doesn’t want to assimilate and become truly American. Let him bear the consequences until he changes his mind.

    1. That point applies equally to Trump’s Twitter content and the disaffected rubes who eagerly consume it.

      I do not expect clingers to acknowledge or perhaps even apprehend that point.

    2. “Black English” is not a variant, it is simply wrong

      John McWhorter disagrees with you.

      and shows that the person who speaks or writes it doesn’t want to assimilate and become truly American.

      Um, I’m pretty sure that blacks are truly American, and therefore the use of the word “assimilate” does not even apply.

  12. koret spelin is fo whyte folkz.

    1. Christine from Las Cruces agrees with you, Jimmy.

      Trump welcomes her to the stage a minute and one-half into NBC’s coverage.

      How much self-awareness must a clinger lack to participate voluntarily in a discussion concerning literacy or education?

  13. There is a real danger here. Imprecision in language (e.g. grammatically incorrect) leads to imprecision in thought.

    RU is going downhill anyway, hiring and retaining antisemitic professors (i.e. Jasbir Puar, Michael Chikindas, Mazen Adi). Once it was a great school. Now it is a cesspool.

    1. Thank goodness America still has Liberty, Hillsdale, Regent, Bob Jones, Ouachita Baptist, Wheaton, Ave Maria, Biola, California Baptist, Grove City, Franciscan, Cedarbrook, Colorado Christian, Cornerstone, Oklahoma Christian, Houston Baptist, Baptist Bible, Faith Baptist Bible, Clear Creek Baptist Bible, Heartland Baptist Bible, Calvary Baptist Bible, Practical Bible Baptist, and a hundred low-ranking, conservative-controlled, nonsense-teaching schools just like them.

      1. JFC. You know that if one of those schools came out and said that, given the upbringing of many of their students, the administration has determined it should no longer consider grammar when evaluating papers, you’d be falling all over yourself laughing at how poor their education was, talking about how they can’t find people smart enough to attend, and making all sorts of derogatory remarks about the school, faculty, and intelligence and upbringing of their students.

        Stop acting like you’ve got some principled stand on this issue.

  14. Update from Rutgers: “Words are biased. We now endorse ‘critical communication,’ which includes grunting.”

  15. “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.”

    Set aside the debate about whether we should evaluate a student’s work based on grammar. Any English department that publishes a sentence so vapid and filled with buzzwords is in no position to be teaching anyone anything about the language. It’s a Rorschach test of a sentence.

    If I wanted to read someone use as many words to say as little as possible, I’d serve a set of interrogatories on opposing counsel.

  16. I guess in you haste to repeat the sites on The Fringe, like ZeroHedge and PJMedia, that you neglected to check the link to Rutgers from The College Fix – Because the Rutgers link they provide says no such thing.

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