I was reading a post from my friend Joe’s blog COMING OF THE TOADS titled : How To Teach College Writing To Nonreaders .
How indeed !
I was reading the weekly Sierra Madre paper yesterday about a homeless guy spotted in town who hangs around behind Howie’s Market . A local lawyer resident wrote a long letter to the paper about how letting this homeless man hang out in town brings down property values , etc. , and opens the proverbial floodgates to Sierra Madre being overrun with homeless people . He wrote to the local police , too , and was told by the Chief that the police were aware of the man but that he had caused no trouble .
Several people wrote letters in response to the lawyer which were published in following issues . They , I will say , were eloquent counter-arguments renouncing the lawyer’s intolerance . Turns out the man spotted by the lawyer comes to town every few months and repairs fountains for some local homeowners . He has regular customers and people in town know him . He’s Jim the Fountain Guy . He’ll be gone in a couple of weeks and he’ll be back again later in the year .
“Jim has been coming to our town longer than you have ,” someone wrote to the lawyer .
But here is the point of my story about Jim the Fountain Guy : Although the letters to the editor were eloquent responses to the intolerance of the lawyer , most of them were poorly written . I thought , at first , that the weekly paper needed to hire a better proofreader . But , no proofreader could be THAT bad . One writer spelled homeless “homless” . One person didn’t use any capital letters ( as I do in my titles ) . Apparently the editor of the paper sees no need to edit for spelling or grammar . There were sentences as fragmented as ” Just like you and me. ” and as “run -on” as ” He has chosen this life , he has two dogs and a bike” . One sentence reads ” Along with not caring about the persons grammer”.
Terrible ! None of these writers would pass a basic English writing test .
But , nevertheless , they made their points effectively . They expressed a general outrage at the intolerant guy who complained that the homeless man hanging out behind Howie’s would undermine the culture of the wealthy foothills community and rapidly destroy the city .
I wish that these letter writers would have used proper English , but they didn’t . If they had used proper spelling , grammar , and syntax , then I would not have to worry that the world is doomed to a quickly disintegrating culture because language is an integral part of culture . Where was the newspaper editor when we needed her ? Where were their writing teachers ? What is the world coming to ?
I’m going to write a letter of complaint before it’s too late ! But , who do I write it to ?
Teach college writing, Joe ? Didn’t I hear on the radio today that most U. S. Congressman communicate at 5th grade level ? Perhaps all is lost already .
Advice to Joe : trying to teach writing to non-readers seems to me to be like teaching a pig to sing . You won’t be able to do it and you’ll eventually frustrate the pig .