educationality

Date: Thu, 13 Oct 1994 09:10:08
From: vox unpopuli
Subject: educationality
To: Cybermind@world.std.com

From: IN%"rd3w+@andrew.cmu.edu" "Richard Douglas Davis" 12-OCT-1994 18:09:56.56

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>>    It's the year 2020, your daughter Emily is 9 years old, and she
>>    can't read or write.  Is this your worst nightmare about our schools
>>    come true?  Nope, Emily just doesn't need to read or write anymore.

wanna bet, it _is_ your worst nightmare...if yankeeland is anything like here, emily's teachers will have such a piss poor grip on reading & writing themselves she won't have a chance...i'm the only person i know under about forty who's got any clue about grammar & spelling (which is a fluke, i had a freak german teacher in the 3rd form who told us "you can't learn another language until you know your own!" & made us copy out the parts of speech & other arcana more times than i care to remember) & the people i know are the ones at varsity, this is meant to be _higher_ education for fuck's sake, this is where emily's teachers are coming from...& they're not up to scratch, they can't spell or string a sentence together, just look at any day's posts...it's all these fucking trendy lefties who taught us..."self-esteem is what's important" from all these dipshit english teachers, jesus... imho the sixties has shafted my generation, kinda like edward 2, with a red hot poker...the amount of absolute shit people talk constantly astounds me, noone's got any sense of history or science or anything really...it's just a jumbled mass of barely understood & unrelated facts, mixed with a liberal dose of out & out bullshit...

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In his theory of discourses, James Paul Gee links literacy with what he calls metaknowledge, which basically is one's understanding of the grammatical rules of one discourse community applied to another. This, i think, is a useful way of thinking about grammar understanding of a language (as opposed to heard or discursive understanding) -- it's pretty tough to compartmentalize and reduce your native tongue because you have acquired it (you weren't taught it), but once you begin to learn another language -- that is, once you are taught another language in a formal classroom setting--you start with the basics of grammar and work your way up to the level of discourse.

Now, the specifics of what you learn in that second language -- things like articles, gender, sub-verb agreement -- spill over into your first language. You start noticing things like articles in your native discourse/language, and realizing what's going on grammatically when you reflexively -- unthinkingly or subconsciously -- use 'a' instead of 'the.' now, Gee's point is that knowing grammar is useful, but it is not a way to acquire literacy in a given language (or discourse community). You can be a grammar whiz, you can shit sentence diagrams, but you won't be able to communicate; all you'll have is this metaknowledge of the substrate of language formations. So, i don't think that having grammar rammed down one's throat is a very useful way of becoming literate -- although it is useful if one wants to compose so-called proper prose in a inky-paper format. But as the net is a quasi-oral environment, how useful is said ability? I mean, look at the spew above; that's the kind of stuff you expect to hear coming out of a phone at full volume and you're holding the phone about a foot from your head and who is this person? What's scary is when ideology starts masquerading as absolute truth (i guess that's what ideology always does); and when grammar pundits link their so-called ability in with other ideological truths; and when huge generalizations are induced from a minor and purely anachronistic observation such as 'net users don't know proper grammar.' the net is more like a trendy cafe than a book, and it turns into a bar at night, and just think of the spew in the air there.

I don't think that we can link the lack of net grammar to the so-called crisis (richard ohmann has lots to say about this so-called crisis) in education today, nor can we blame everything on lefties when the right wing of this country has been shoring up their fortress of capital and shoving so-called (my phrase of the day) morality into people's faces in place of things like fair wages and dignity. In the 18th century 2% of england's population held 90% of the capital; we're not too far from that here. When the grammar pundits and the cultural literacy buffoons get their way, all they'll do is promote a 'literacy' that might be gramattical, but will hardly be a mode of redress for the totally fucked 90% of this country. All cultural referents will be in support of the power elite, dissenting/minority voices will be uncannonical and thus beneath teaching, and we'll all be in one big grammatical unhappy lorded over by the same kind of -- albeit eloquent -- schmuckos we fought a war against 200 years ago. Resist totalizing discourses. And only eat wheat bread.


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