Readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic

During the 25 years I have taught writing, I have complained frequently about how K-12 educators pay little attention to the building blocks of grammar, punctuation, and style.

In the past, students have accepted the need to learn these elements of writing. Now that’s changed.

I am teaching a month-long course in journalism history, which requires a great deal of writing.

For the first time ever, students feel emboldened enough to complain publicly that I deduct points, generally a full grade, when they make three errors or more.

“You keep dropping me entire letter grades for tiny, insignificant grammatical errors. I’ve never had a teacher complain about my grammar,” one student wrote. “Considering most of your students are juggling school, work, and the ramifications of a global pandemic, I don’t think this is the time for harsh grading.”

Another told me he checked with a website editor who said the grammar was fine. I noted 18 errors in a submission of 500 words.

Here’s what I wrote to all of the students:

After more than 25 years as a journalist at The Associated Press, Newsweek, and ABC News, I decided to teach writing. Since I joined academia, I have written and edited seven books. I’ve also written for newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and online publications. 

As such, I take writing quite seriously.

If a writer fails to understand the basic tenets of grammar, punctuation, and style, myriad problems occur.

First, readers and viewers get hung up on the errors, known as creating “noise” in communications theory. For example, I once did a major investigation of prisons, which began with a visual of geese over a Wisconsin jail. I referred to the geese as Canadian geese. Such birds are called Canada geese. At least 100 of the 20 million viewers of the documentary scolded me for the error. That means that at least 100 people stopped watching something important because I made a style error.

Second, readers and viewers may question the accuracy of the information provided if basic rules are not followed.

Third, I had the luxury of having excellent editors who would challenge almost anything I wrote. Today, there are virtually no editors who look over reporters’ shoulders for errors of grammar, punctuation, style, and most importantly, accuracy.

Lastly, if you seek employment in journalism, advertising, or public relations, you will likely have to take a writing test, which is intended to determine your abilities in accuracy, grammar, punctuation, and style.

Since this course is a writing class in the Department of Journalism, I think it’s essential that someone care about such matters.

Shades of Lunenberg at Pelosi’s House

About seven years ago Lunenberg Massachusetts became a national story.

A mixed race family with a 8th grade black child on the high school school had graffiti spray-painted on their house with the words “knights don’t need niggers” (the “knights” being the name of the football team) and the town was rocked.

As this was the Obama Deval Patrick years the FBI and state got involved, it was a huge story covered all over the nation and even internationally. The town and school was pilloried, their annual thanksgiving game was forfeited and the season cancelled (and in pre-covid days this was a big deal) The School had all kinds of “diversity” events added. There was a candlelight vigil and “Lunenberg High” became a synonym for racism…

…that is until the investigation took place and some interesting inconsistencies came up particularly with the graffiti itself which oddly was despite supposedly done by a bunch of kids at night managed to be painted only on a surface that was easily painted over while missing spots that would have entailed expense to fix. In the end the investigation pointed to the mother of the boy.

As I said at the time:

Where does the town of Lunenburg go to get their reputation back, where does the football team go to get their Thanksgiving game back and who pays for all the police, local state and federal that were used in the attempt to sell this BS?

And will the sites in AtlantaMetro USThe UK Daily MailSports IllustratedFox Chicago and the Huffington Post be reporting on these new developments with the same gusto?

None of those media outlets were interested in the correction. Only folks like Stacy McCain,

This story immediately came back to mind when I saw this post about the Antifia “vandalism” at Nancy Pelosi’s house:

Andrea Widburg at the American thinker takes up the story.

Unless the spray can coincidentally stopped spraying paint just as it got to the “three o’clock” side of the circle, it looks very much as if the graffiti artist went out of his (or her) way to protect the bricks from getting paint splashed on it, perhaps by taping off the area before spraying. This care is important because it’s easy to repaint a garage door and “notoriously difficult” to get spray paint off of a porous surface such as brick.

Likewise, the encircled “A” on the left side also has a completely vertical stripe on its “nine o’clock” side, which again looks as if someone held up a barrier to ensure that no paint got on the bricks:

Because as you know Antifa is supercilious concerning how they do their vandalism to minimize the costs of those they hit. She closes thus:

It’s entirely possible that this was an Antifa effort and the person spraying paint had some residual compassion for Pelosi. But it’s also possible that this is a false flag effort. I am not offering any suggestions as to who might have raised this false flag. I note only what others have pointed out before: Something’s peculiar here. 

I have to disagree, it’s not at all possible. This was an attempt to gain sympathy and empathy and I suspect to put pressure on the far left in congress to provide the votes she needed for speaker from those on the left like the squad which fell into line.

Everything about these people is false, start from this premise and you will no go far wrong.