Elsewhere (243)
Friday Ephemera

The Psychology Of “Social Justice” Is A Thing To Behold

Want to thwart the life chances of black students? Then hey, become an educator. Say, a professor of Medieval literature at the City University of New York

In an op-ed for Inside Higher Ed, Dr A W Strouse argues that colleges should support “greater linguistic diversity” and “affirm and embrace” language differences among students, such as the use of slang and African American Vernacular English. Affirming students’ use of non-standard English is important, he says, because students who speak nonstandard English may feel discouraged if called out for it. 

Correcting errors of spelling and basic grammar can, we’re told, “make students feel bewildered, hurt, or angry.” Yes, personal growth can do that, especially when overdue.

“Already, scholars of rhetoric believe, as the consensus view, that instructors should not try to change their students’ speech patterns,” Strouse writes. “In the classroom, students shut down in the face of pedantry because they hate when bossy teachers tell them how to talk, especially in cases in which bourgeois white teachers dictate ex cathedra about what speech is ‘correct.’”

Bourgeois white teachers. No prizes for guessing where this is going. And it occurs to me that whether speech patterns are ‘correct’ may depend on whether you’re being understood, or sufficiently precise - say, in class. Or on whether you’re employable.

Further, he declares that the academic norms that privilege standard English should be suspect, because they can justify the judgment of “people’s intelligence based on dubious standards.” 

Well, if you’re an employer and trying to thin a pile of job applications, repeated errors of even simple grammar and spelling are, inevitably, going to be a big help, given their tendency to correspond with, and thereby signal, both carelessness and intellectual imprecision. If someone is apparently too distracted to proofread their own job application, that’s unlikely to inspire great confidence. However, Dr Strouse has foreseen this practical problem and proposes a bold, if unorthodox, solution:

When asked why he believes it’s important to embrace and support alternative types of English, especially those that are typically frowned upon in the workplace, Strouse said employers shouldn’t dictate how their employees speak. “The workplace has way too much power and should not be allowed to determine something as fundamental as how we speak,” he declared. “People need to tell their bosses, ‘Fuck you.’”

And a long and satisfying employment history will no doubt follow.

You see, Dr Strouse is - in his mind, at least - “dismantling linguistic racism.” And he’s doing this using minority students as his little foot soldiers. How very brave of him. And that ungrammatical job application, the one enlivened with incomprehensible sentences and lots of inventive spelling, will do just fine. Because by the time any sufficiently credulous students have pinned their hopes upon it, it won’t be his problem.

A few months ago, following this related item on the Writing Centre at the University of Washington, Tacoma, where grammar is dismissed as “racist” and an “unjust language structure,” I said:

It’s strange, to say the least, to see so-called educators, self-styled champions of “social justice,” functioning more as saboteurs. In that, if you were spiteful and wanted to undermine the practical life chances of black students, and leave them resentful, unskilled and racially fixated, and heavily in debt, it’s hard to see what you’d do differently.

Evidently, all this woke posturing requires sacrifice. Specifically, spending money on an education that leaves its supposed beneficiaries sounding uneducated.

Readers with an academic bent will be thrilled to hear that Dr Strouse’s dissertation is titled Literary Theories of the Foreskin. This work of tremendous cultural and intellectual heft “investigates a school of thought in which the prepuce, as a conceptual metaphor, organises literary experience.” It also, apparently, “demonstrates that, within the school of preputial poetics, the male anatomy queerly embodies the plasticity and multiplicity of rhetoric.”

And in the notes to which, we find

Why do San Pellegrino cans come covered in a thin film of aluminium? This superfluous skin is, for me, a preputial stylization. It is the redundant foreskin that ornaments the phallus. The can’s design, with its Mediterranean palette, evokes the zest and the flare that we attribute to Latin culture — the passionate eroticism that we ascribe to Latin men. Pellegrino’s metallic foreskin is the objet petit a of circumcised, Protestant America’s mad desire for uncut, Roman Catholicism fleshiness.

So yes, your children should be seeking out career advice from him.