Okay, so while I’m a huge supporter of education. There’s an article from the Wall Street Journal that is something else. And it’s not the fault of the article or the reporting. It’s what the English teachers are doing to their students that I find abhorrent. It’s downright repellent that these instructors are telling their students that they cannot use certain words that are, in effect, the glue of our common language in a sea of over 500,000 words that make up the English language.
Think about that. There are over 500,000 words in this terribly fucked-up language we speak. The history of the language is so convoluted that if you turned it into a story, people would hate you because it would make no sense. English is the little language that could and it probably shouldn’t have if you look at how many times it came close to being wiped out by other languages. But, somehow it morphed into a massive mutated multilingual murdering monstrosity maintaining a lexicon of words.
Nobody remembers half of these words anymore, yet they’re maintained in the ginormous catalogue that is the Oxford English Dictionary along with all the variant spellings of words nobody cares about since they’ve fallen well out of favor for no other reason than they just did or someone’s standardization of spelling. And nobody cares unless they are either English majors or English language historians, and even then these are the people who describe how the language works without telling you how to use it.
So, this is where the problem with these asshats comes in. They’re telling kids that they have to chuck out all the words that essentially make up the core of good, concise writing for international business English. You know, the words everyone who speaks English with any level of skill has to know. These poor kids haven’t even gotten comfortable in their own skins and these fucking teachers have the audacity to tell their students that they can’t use words the teachers consider “dead?” Seriously? What in the ever loving fuck is this shit?
These failed writers are telling your kids that they have to be more expressive when they’re still trying to learn the basics of the language. I’m pretty sure that either these horrible people are trying to live vicariously through the writing of their students or want to make them feel as miserable as the teachers do and want to snuff their dreams in the cradle. If you’re not upset by this, you really should be. Just look at this little gem from the article:
Megan Riley, a sixth-grader in Mt. Lebanon, Pa., recently joined her classmates in chanting the words that their English teacher has pronounced dead: “Good, bad, nice, a lot, OK, fun, thing and stuff.” Later, the students were told, they might hold a mock funeral to bury those words.
A mock fucking funeral?!?! For “dead words” sixth-graders aren’t supposed to use anymore? These kids are experiencing all the terrible things hormones are doing to their bodies to make them feel self-conscious and awkward as hell and you want to pull out the rug from under them for the words they’re allowed to use? Who the fuck do you teachers think you are?
Look, I have no illusions that I’m an awesome writer as I’ve been doing this as a profession for 11 years now and buying a website had to be weighed as a monetary decision that was feasible and necessary. If I was awesome at this shit, I’d have a pile of money I could use to pay for websites without debating whether I should and it’s taken me years to get to the level I’m at. It was 10 years after high school that I fumbled through shitty draft after shitty draft before I could make a coherent thought artful enough to get paid for it.
Now I get wanting kids to expand their vocabulary, but that’s why we should be encouraging reading everything and anything available. We want kids to feel they can express themselves and to have all the tools at their disposal to do just that. This doesn’t encourage them to do so. It encourages them to be wordy and artistic before they’ve learned how to write the truth of their own observations? Besides, do you honestly think a business proposal avoiding “dead words” would be taken seriously?
All this purple prose bullshit is arrogance in the extreme. The students aren’t being taught how to use language effectively, but rather how to call attention to the very artifice that makes bad writing so terrible. If I proliferated this rant with nothing but profanity or used the largest words I could just to prove a point, there would no value to reading this or justifying the time I wasted figuratively throwing up in your eye holes.
So, here are a couple more gems from this article that should make you want to pressure the schools to get rid of these teachers who are harming their student’s education.
One recent afternoon after school, Josie and Josh agreed to take a stab at editing famous authors, starting with the closing words ofJames Joyce’s “Ulysses”: “….yes I said yes I will Yes.”
Head down, her pigtails brushing the paper, Josie examined the phrase and then suggested a small amendment: “…yes I hollered yes I will Definitely.”
Josh decided to let “said” stand, given Joyce’s reputation. He did, however, insert the commas neglected by Joyce.
No, no, no, no! This is truly audacious. The teachers have students “correcting” James motherfucking Joyce! Does no one understand that the whole of Ulysses is a deliberately designed piece of art that relies as much upon mythic structure as it does linguistic sound qualities? It seems that the teachers don’t as they’re allowing their students to misuse the very tools they’re trying to instill in their students.
“Said,” “walk,” and other such words are dry and factual and can be overused just like any other linguistic expression (clichés anyone?), but there’s a huge difference between expressing the emotional content in a character’s words as there is in the delivery of those very words. I don’t need to know that someone exclaimed or ejaculated a string of words if they’re followed by an exclamation point. I don’t even need to know how angry someone is or that they ambulated their way across the page if it’s clear what’s going on from the context alone.
At best, the words will be redundant; at worst, the writing will be tortured and a clear example of telling, not showing. And this is what these teachers fail to keep firmly in mind. They are quite literally failing their students and instilling in them a sense that language is used for reporting, not expression. Writers have to trust that their readers are smart enough to pick up on the emotional and literal context of their work.
So, when the kids stated:
Second-guessing famous authors was tricky, Josh cautioned: “It’s almost as though they’re given a free pass” to flout the rules. Josie submitted that she wasn’t sure they should get that pass.
Her brother winced: “You’ve got to remember,” he lectured, “most of these guys are dead.”
This shows you exactly how arrogant this practice is and that wince should speak volumes of the discomfort the kids should feel for what they’re being made to do, not to the structure of the literary works of Joyce and Hemingway. Letting the work speak for itself is what the teachers should be instilling. Understanding the hows and whys of written works is what you study after you have a firm grip on the basics.