My Friday posts have lacked quality lately because of a
massive number of out-of-town trips, severe bouts of depression regarding our
house sale and my day job.
When you take on the job of teaching online classes and you
make all of the homework due on one day (in order to help students remain
flexible with their time), you have to pound the crap out of a lot of papers
all at once. With a Friday deadline for homework and a requirement that they
can’t start the next week’s set of work until they get their grades back, this
means I’m often locked in the basement for marathon grading sessions from late
Thursday night until late Friday night.
Teaching is and has always been important to me. Mom still
does it as she’s pushing toward 70. My aunts, my uncle, my cousins and more are
all in some way attached to education. We range from second grade through
college and from social studies to PE when it comes to whom and what we teach.
One constant, however, has been the severe drop off in
writing skills we have seen over the years. For some of us, it’s spelling and
grammar. For others, it’s flow and pace. The thing I’ve noticed, working in a
field that prizes facts above all else, is the replacement of research with
assumption and hyperbole.
My most-common reporting edit on my students’ papers is
“Says who?” The second? “Where did you get this from?” (Yes, I know this is
crappy grammar.) The point I’m trying to get across is that you can’t just say,
“This is!” You have to tell me how you know that to be true.
Source attributions have slacked from “According to the Jan.
1, 2001 issue of the New York Times, page C1” to “According to the New York
Times” to “sources said” to “well… duh… I wrote it… “
It’s like that line from “Biloxi Blues” about how when
things are written down, something magical happens and people believe these
things to be true. If that doesn’t send a shudder down your spine, nothing
The current political climate has indicated that you fight
fire with fire. They filibuster your stuff, you filibuster theirs. They use
unsubstantiated allegations, so you use more of them while waving a sheaf of
papers in the air to punctuate your distain. They call you a dummy doo-doo head
for not supporting a bill, and you call them a super, extra, mega dummy doo-doo
head squared for supporting it.
In response to a House member’s letter to John Boehner
regarding immigration, Takano corrected the piece the way he would a draft from
a wayward student. He offered specific edits, sought additional support for the
writer’s thesis statement and noted factual errors that needed correction.
Takano also told his colleague to “come by my office” so that Takano could
explain the bill to him.
I find it highly unlikely that this will lead to any changes
in the letter. I worked with arrogant students who have told me “I believe my
style of writing is quite good” right after they flunked an assignment an
eighth-grader could accomplish. I taught students who could care less about hate my
class and have specifically ignored my edits because “it’s too hard to go back
through this paper and make all these changes.” I think if you combined both of
those types of students, you’d get the author of the letter Takano corrected.
Still, I love the approach because public embarrassment is
the only thing to which some people respond. Vince Lombardi repeatedly fined
Max McGee for breaking curfew. When the fines didn’t work, Lombardi told McGee
at a team meeting that the next fine would be $5,000, a giant sum in 1967. He then
said if McGee met a woman who was worth the $5,000-fine, “call me and I’ll go
When my wife and child were stranded at the Minnesota
airport as part of what we call “Delta-pocalypse 2012,” her pleadings with the
service-counter workers and our calls to the customer service line fell on deaf
ears. Finally, when we took to Twitter and stirred up a public mess, Delta got
the problem resolved and provided some decent compensation to boot.
Takano is only a first-term congress critter, so understanding
how to navigate the “traditional channels” or “behave in a way commensurate
with the office” probably isn’t his strong point. I admire his approach,
although the tight-assed folk in D.C. probably will take him to task for this.
That said, he used what he knew in the way he knew to drive
home a point.
Bullshit is bullshit and sometimes it can only be called out
through the use of a red pen.
Dear Mr. Takano,
The fear that you would find this post and red-pen the crap out
of it prompted me to re-read it four times. I found four comma splices, two
misplaced modifiers and several typos/poor word choices. If you find other
errors, just drop me a comment and I’ll fix them. I appreciate your dedication
to your craft and your common-sense approach to government. You rule.