My older child is taking AP English this fall, and has to do some reading and write some essays even before school starts. I was intrigued by two of the essays:
Francine Prose’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Cannot Read : How American high school students learn to loath literature (Harper’s Magazine, 1999) and Richard Rodriquez’s Aria : A memoir of a bilingual childhood (American Scholar, 2001). What’s amazing about both of these essays is that they go against the dominant narrative controlling high school English classes all over the nation.
Regarding Prose’s essay, I’m too lazy to search for links right now, but I know that I’ve railed repeatedly against high school English classes that have nothing to do with the English language (grammar, composition, artistry, and elegance), and everything to do with advancing a Leftist social agenda, complete with victimization, racism, white evil, and the elevation of emotions over rationality and morality. Back in 1999, which doesn’t seem that long ago, someone could still write an essay that would be published in a major magazine making exactly those points. Prose doesn’t phrase it in terms of the Marxist takeover of education, but that’s the underlying subtext to her complaint about the — you should pardon the expression — crap that high school students have to read, none of which advances the cause of the English language.
Oh, and while we’re talking about English language bastardization, please read Dennis Prager’s latest, in which he comments on a decision Leftist publications have made to act unilaterally to rename the Washington Redskins. For purposes of this post, here’s the killer quotation, made as part of Prager’s slashing analysis of Slate’s self-righteous stance:
Slate Argument Three: “Changing how you talk changes how you think. . . . Replacing ‘same-sex marriage’ with ‘marriage equality’ helped make gay marriage a universal cause rather than a special pleading.”
Response: It’s nice to have at least one left-wing source acknowledge how the Left changes language to promote its causes. When more and more people began to suspect that global warming was not about to bring an apocalypse, and that, at the very least, it is in a pause mode, the Left changed the term to “climate change.”
The substitution of “marriage equality” for “same-sex marriage” is just one more example of dishonest manipulation of English.
The Orwellian manipulation of language by the Left would be reason enough to oppose dropping “Redskins,” a name representing a nearly 80-year-old tradition venerated by millions.
As for Richard Rodriquez’s article, he says what my father always said: “bilingual education,” which really means teaching an immigrant child in his native tongue without ever exposing him to the English language, is a mistake. At least, it’s a mistake for the child. For the Leftists (this is me talking, not Rodriquez), it’s a great thing, because it creates a perpetual (Democrat-voting) ghetto class made up of people who do not speak sufficient English to break into the great middle class.
These articles are old, and I doubt that many more like them are being written. I’m delighted, however, that at least one high school teacher is keeping them alive.
I should note that neither of these articles has anything to do with the English language either. That is, this class has nothing to do with learning how to venerate and recreate the best kind of writing. But at least it’s not PC crap.