Forget student literacy metrics for a moment. Has anyone tried measuring educator literacy? One parent made a press release from the Arlington Education Association into an English grammar extra-credit project for her kids. The teachers union president flunked, and flunked badly:
— ellengallery (@ellenfgallery) December 30, 2021
The point of the press release was to demand more protection for teachers against COVID-19 transmission as a condition of reopening schools in Virginia, the epicenter of the parents-rights movement. As the New York Post gleefully suggests, the letter raises the more basic question of whether parents ought to send their children to Arlington schools at all:
Despite the letter only consisting of five paragraphs, the Twitter teacher spotted roughly 20 blunders and highlighted them in green pen.
Addressed to Arlington Schools Superintendent Dr. Francisco Duran, the union letter highlights the recent spread of the coronavirus and argues for a delayed resumption of classes in January to address the issue.
The document also asserts that continuing with indoor lunch in the midst of the surge creates “super-spreader” events inside schools and that teachers are having to make the “ultimate sacrifice” as Omicron cases multiply.
The “ultimate sacrifice”? That’s not a grammar failure; it’s a rhetorical absurdity. Teachers have had all the opportunities to get vaccinated that everyone else has — and more, since they were prioritized while vaccines were still being rationed. Furthermore, Omicron has barely moved the needle on deaths, and it’s still not clear that we have any more than a handful of cases worldwide where Omicron caused a death. Or even one, as Matt Taibbi and Matt Orfalea point out (video NSFW), nor are teachers unions the only one indulging in rhetorical absurdities:
Matt Orfalea does a hilarious job — that’s him in the DEATH suit, by the way — of stitching together an homage to the latest moral panic. So many great little details here, from the “Way Too Early” background to one reporter’s premature death report to the “aggressive Covid vice” imagery, the dramatic Biden-cough, and so much more.
It was the world’s loudest record-scratch when the WHO in the first week of December said the ominous “Omicron variant” of Covid-19 had been detected in 38 countries, but without any known deaths.
No deaths? How could that be?
It could be that Omicron isn’t fatal at all, not even with co-morbidities. Or we might discover that it’s marginally fatal among the unvaccinated, but until we get our first Omicron-caused death, we don’t have evidence of lethality at all. The AEA wants to leverage the panic created by the media and public officials to demand protection from something that may well turn out to be less lethal than the annual flu that teachers acquire from their students. If teachers don’t want to get vaccinated, that’s their choice — but the burden of risk assumption for that choice should be on them, not the students or their parents.
But the ultimate embarrassment isn’t this ridiculous hyperbole — it’s the functional illiteracy evident in this press release. Bear in mind that this letter was created as a public argument on behalf of educators by educators, and no one apparently noticed multiple grammatical errors before releasing it. Some of these are formatting and style demerits (such as an Oxford comma alert, near and dear to my pedant heart), but there are a number of flat-out comma faults as well. Plus, no one apparently told AEA president Ingrid Grant the difference between “are” and “our”:
“The fire departments in are region are exemplifying domino outbreaks as well,” the missive states.
Uh … they may be experiencing domino outbreaks, but they’re not “exemplifying” them. One could write that the potential for “domino outbreaks” is exemplified by current fire department absences, but fire departments don’t “exemplify” outbreaks. This letter does, however, exemplify the incompetence of the AEA: even apart from what’s noted above, it also has at least two verb-subject errors, several run-on sentences, missing prepositions, plus other assorted venial grammatical sins. Mostly it’s just plain ol’ bad writing, so much so that the incompetence swallows up the message. That’s exactly what education is supposed to prevent, especially among professionals who have to communicate for a living as well as educate others.
If this is the best that Arlington educators’ representatives can do on their own behalf, just imagine what they’re doing for children in the classroom. Until recently, all parents could do is “imagine” it. Now that they want more accountability from teachers and school districts and produce pushback from the unions, parents are likely to get quite an education themselves about the public schools that want supremacy over their children.