Thursday, April 13, 2006

Insert 'Write/Right' Pun Headline Here

Dennis Dutton puts his finger on the root cause of the decline of writing: How do you expect students to write comprehensible English sentences when their teachers can't?

While everyone moans (rightly) about the decline in student literacy, not enough attention has been given to deplorable writing among the professoriate. Things came to a head, for me, a few years ago when I opened a new book aptly called The End of Education: Toward Posthumanism. It began:

“This book was instigated by the Harvard Core Curriculum Report in 1978 and was intended to respond to what I took to be an ominous educational reform initiative that, without naming it, would delegitimate the decisive, if spontaneous, disclosure of the complicity of liberal American institutions of higher learning with the state’s brutal conduct of the war in Vietnam and the consequent call for opening the university to meet the demands by hitherto marginalized constituencies of American society for enfranchisement.”

This was written by a professor of English. He’s supposed to teach students how to write.

Dutton's article contains a link to The Bad Writing Contest, which "celebrates the most stylistically lamentable passages found in scholarly books and articles published in the last few years." The exhibits there are mind-boggling. Just keep reminding yourself, "this is not a parody."