Monday, November 17, 2008

The sad, sad state of college English

It's surprising not that writing not able to read cause of schooling when younger could be better.  Got? >> Michael Olesker
Some people collect sports memorabilia, or rare coins, or sea shells from the beach at Ocean City. Wilson Watson collects sentences.

He taught local community college students for 35 years and has now slipped gently into retirement. But his students’ sentences trail behind him like ship’s anchors, evidence of the sinking of American writing skills.

Or, as one of Watson’s scholars wrote so succinctly: “Some people use bad language and is not even aware of the fact.”

Or, another: “It’s good I’m doing something with my self; Therefore, I can do better in the foochure.”

Or, “People who murder a lot of people are called masked murderers.”

Some of this feels like masked murder of the English language — such as the student who explained in a note, “I was absent on Monday because I was stopped on the Beltway for erotic driving.”You want more examples? How about these beauties:
• “The person was an innocent by standard, who just happened to be the victim of your friend’s careless responsibility.”
• “Society has moved toward cereal killers.”
• “Romeo and Juliet exchanged their vowels.”
• “Willie Loman put Biff on a petal stool.”
• “Another effect of smoking is it may give you cancer of the thought.”
• “The children of lesbian couples receive as much neutering as those of other couples."

Or, when asked to use the past tense of “fly” in a sentence: “I flought to Chicago.”

Some sentences reflect a lack not only of basic thought, but also of historical awareness. Such as:
• “Benjamin Franklin discovered America while fling a kite.”
• “Christopher Columbus sailed all over the world until he found Ohio.”
• “Many attempt to blame Kurt Schmoke for the decline in the population, yet Donald Schaefer suffered the same oral deal.”
• “Michaelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sixteenth Chapel.”

“All these sentences,” Watson says, “were written by college students who were not intending to be funny. But they don’t read much any more, and they haven’t had much exposure to language. And it’s gotten worse over the years.

“The thing that’s really concerned many of us is the inability of many students to think clearly. It’s reflected in their writing. Some of it’s just gibberish. It reads as if written by someone for whom English is a second language, with mixed-up phrases and ideas. You ask them what they mean, and they can’t tell you verbally, either.”

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