Are you thinking of sending one of your children off to learn about writing at Rutgers University in New Jersey? Great news, parents! Starting next semester, they won’t need to fret over learning all of those annoying rules about, er… writing. The College Fix has uncovered a fascinating change in programming plans for the English Department and Writing Center at Rutgers. You see, teaching all of the rules of grammar, sentence structure and where to put the nouns, verbs and adjectives is apparently insensitive. To whom, you might ask? Well, the title of the memo detailing all of the proposed changes is, “Department actions in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.”
I’m guessing that some of you are casting a few nervous glances from side to side by this point and for good reason. One of their “anti-racist directives” includes an effort to deemphasize traditional grammar rules. So you’re going to be “deemphasizing” grammar… in the English department? Let’s peer a little deeper into this hot-button topic, shall we?
Titled “Department actions in solidarity with Black Lives Matter,” the email states that the ongoing and future initiatives that the English Department has planned are a “way to contribute to the eradication of systemic inequities facing black, indigenous, and people of color.”
One of the initiatives is described as “incorporating ‘critical grammar’ into our pedagogy.”
It is listed as one of the efforts for Rutgers’ Graduate Writing Program, which “serves graduate students across the Rutgers community. The GWP’s mission is to support graduate students of all disciplines in their current and future writing goals, from coursework papers to scholarly articles and dissertations,” according to its website.
If you start winnowing the rules of grammar out of your pedagogy, one of the first changes you’ll probably notice is a lot less of your graduate students who have any idea what “pedagogy” means. But maybe that’s just me.
Does Rutgers have any idea how racist and insulting this proposal is? They’re directly tying this proposed change into their efforts “in support of Black Lives Matter,” so there’s not much wiggle room when attempting to discern what they’re really saying. The obvious implication is that some of their Black students come from “multilingual, non-standard ‘academic’ English backgrounds.” In other words, by the time you were ready to head off to college, you still hadn’t mastered all the fundamentals of speaking and writing basic English.
The specific students this proposal is targeting are, according to this memo, the ones who are preparing for work that will involve writing “coursework papers, scholarly articles and dissertations.” But to avoid looking like a bunch of racists, you’re going to “de-emphasize” the rules of spelling and grammar, allowing the budding authors to just sort of wing it with the linguistic rules of the road they grew up with.
And these are the students who will be graduating with degrees in English and heading out to seek careers in the writing professions? How many academic journals are going to peer review and publish an article submitted to them that’s full of grammatical errors and incorrect punctuation? Is the New York Times going to start hiring people who lack the basic skills required to perform copy editing?
The assumption that students of color are coming to college with not only an inability to master English grammar but the lack of potential to learn it while they are there is, as I already said, both racist and insulting. And the failure to fully prepare your English majors for the requirements awaiting them in their careers in either the public or private sectors is equally dismal. If you truly believe that Black Lives Matter, you should also believe in giving your Black students (along with all the rest) the best possible education and preparation for successful careers after graduation. This is insanity.
On a related topic, go check out a similar initiative at Evergreen State College, where English tutors for illegal alien students will not be correcting their grammar, but rather “providing culturally sensitive feedback on writing.” Hoo boy. The future’s so bright I’ve gotta wear welding goggles.