Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why You Shouldn't Listen to Your English Teacher

Kids, very important lesson here today and so I want you to understand this.

Most English teachers are lousy at English.

They only know the structure and logic of the language, they have no ability to speak or write. And they certainly lack the creativity to engage a reader in pretty much anything. Ergo, they are forced to teach a language they're not only fluent in, but to kids who are also fluent in the language. The reason I bring this up is so that you're not concerned if you are only getting "C's" in English. Chances are it's your teacher simply not liking you and using the amorphous nature of English to knock you down a grade or two (notice I used the word "amorphous" and I also flunked out of 7th grade English).

Why do I bring this up? See below, it's a comment from this post here. I don't want people being told by the the "English Profession" they're not good at English. There are negative consequences, consequences nobody has to go through because some 20 something moron who couldn't major in a real subject decides to boost their ego by ripping or nitpicking on others' English ability.

A college degree was the equivalent of a high school diploma in the Fifties? If only.

My father was born in 1924 in a tiny fishing village — an island in the Chesapeake Bay, actually, remote and isolated from mainland life — and there were maybe 12 graduating seniors in 1942. But Pop was not among them. He quit high school at the age of 16 because he simply could not get a passing grade in English. He served in WWII (survived the entire Battle of the Bulge) and earned a two-year business degree on the GI Bill. But he was so sensitive about what he considered to be his poor grammar, Mom did all of his writing assignments. Pop was good at math, just couldn’t write worth a darn. Or so he thought. He was a cost accountant for most of his working days and always felt inferior to the college grads who were paid more and promoted more often.

So I took it on faith that Pop was a dullard when it came to writing.

My parents went through a horrible divorce in ’72, and went their separate ways. I received a one letter from him when I was a college sophomore, read it, and promptly forgot about it. Pop died in ’76, still a relatively young man.

Then, one day when my wife and I were preparing for a move (this must have been around 1984), I found the letter he had written. And re-read it. And I wondered, who was this man? It was a very well-written letter, in his own bold cursive writing style. By this time, I had been reading National Review for almost twenty years, and had thoroughly digested the writings of William Buckley, Hugh Kenner, James Burnham, Joe Sobran, and the rest of that talented bullpen. I could not kid myself: this was not the writing of a poor writer. This is the writing a thoughtful, sensitive man whose anguish at the mistakes he had made was palpable. It was easily better than typical college-student writing, and technically more correct than my own from a grammatical perspective.

Let me repeat: this was from a high-school dropout.

It seems to me that many of us paid thousands of dollars for a college degree and for the most part received a license to feel entitled.

Oh, and kids, before you head off to college, buy my book. It's worth more than all of your English classes combined, plus it's likely to get banned in your high school.


Anonymous said...

I found in university that most of the English department were tongue-tied near-illiterates. On the other hand, the philosophy people were brilliantly articulate. It would be far better if the teaching of English were left to them.

Why is this? The first point is that the English tradition in philosophy is to treat difficult matters and concepts in plain language (not the German or French tradition, obviously). Hence in reading, say, Berkeley or Hume, or Bertrand Russell, you may find difficulties, but those difficulties do not come from their clear expositions.

The second point is that English literature deliberately excludes any writings that are factual (no history), or which present serious arguments, or anything about war or commerce; everything which is included in the Greek and Latin classics. For example, although David Hume was not only a brilliant philosopher but also a good writer on history; and although Bertrand Russell won a Nobel Prize in Literature; their works are never studied in English departments. So to study English is to take a bath in pretty illogicality and unreason.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree with most of what you said. When my high school calculus teacher died (he was over 80), I had to go to a community college in 11th grade to take the course because my school wouldn't pay for a newer, qualified teacher.

However, I still had to take 4 years of English bull$#17. Fortunately, my instructor was a very nice
(albeit commie) person who would sometimes bring French pastries for the entire class. If it weren't for her, I think I would be just as unhappy as you.

Oh, how exactly did you flunk 7th grade English? Was your teacher the bad type of commie?

Just1X said...

"the bad type of commie?"?

what, a breathing one?

Just joking, if it weren't for commies, there'd be no teachers. Teaching is the acceptable 'also ran' way of earning a living for people unable to hack the real world.

Anonymous said...

The internet is quickly taking over that function, happily :)

In a possible future there might still be "teachers", but they will just be speaking to a large audience via video. The rest of them are going to be SOL, and rightfully so.

Anonymous said...


Is it a woman... Is it a man... No it's.... a LIBERAL!

Joan of Argghh! said...

I was looking at my transcripts today, just to smugly note where I had Clep'd English Comp --at the grand age of, well, never you mind. Suffice it to say that I had been out of high school a long time. I didn't even study for the Clep. Just walked in and saved myself a semester of heartache. Decided to clep four semesters of Spanish while I was at it.

amcz said...

Any English department (high school or college) that requires feminist "literature" as a core curriculum is a sham*. They're basically telling half their pupils (males) to go take a long walk off a short pier.

Read http://paulgraham.com/essay.html and http://www.paulgraham.com/laundry.html to get a better idea of the corruption of essay writing in English classes.

*Which basically includes every high school English department in America.