Monday, October 18, 2004

How English Teachers Destroy the English Language

My school uses The Writing and Revision Stylebook, by Gregory Heyworth and Rosette Liberman (the latter is a teacher at the school, which may explain why we have so many copies). I was glancing through the book to see how in compares to great stylebooks like Fowler’s Modern English Usage and Strunk & White, and I was horrified to find a section entitled, “Using non-sexist controlling pronouns.” The Writing and Revision Stylebook explains:

“Non-sexist terminology emphasizes the equality of men and women by injection gender-neutral nouns and feminine pronouns into writing…In a short piece of writing, the hybrid pronoun he/she or its cousin his or her can be non-intrusive.”

The stylebook admits that the ‘he/she’ type of thing can be cumbersome, and demonstrates this by example. Just as you think the book is about to get serious and tell you the truth about pronouns, it gives instead the following commentary:

“This example can be corrected in several ways. The controlling voice can be converted to the plural they, to the objective one or to the exclusive use of either the masculine or the feminine throughout [in which case] the controlling pronoun can alternate between female and male from one example to the next.”

The English language does, of course, change over time – it becomes simpler and more elegant. What you see here is an attempt by feminist teachers to change the language in order to accommodate their political views.

9 Comments:

At 1:28 PM, Blogger Gnack said...

I read your piece on the weekly standard website and couldn't agree more about the status of our public schools casting appeasment toward our historical enemies on unsuspecting and often ignorant students.

Thank you for what you do. I also have a blog but have not been able to derive traffic.

www.right-of-way.blogspot.com

 
At 2:19 PM, Blogger Eric said...

Dan,
I also read your piece in the Weekly Standard. Nice work. I was hoping that I could somehow get myself a copy of your little red folder...or that you could at least direct me to where I can find the info for myself. I can't find for the life of me Bush's grades v. Gore's. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Keep up the good fight,
Eric Wright
eric.wright@insightbb.com

 
At 2:34 PM, Blogger Randomscrub said...

Just wait until you get a theology prof refusing to allow you to capitilize pronouns referring to God, or a humanities prof that forbids you from using "man" in the "humanity" sense because it's not inclusive. It drives me up the wall how teachers are trying to control us through controlling the terms of intellectual dcsourse.

 
At 2:34 PM, Blogger Randomscrub said...

Just wait until you get a theology prof refusing to allow you to capitilize pronouns referring to God, or a humanities prof that forbids you from using "man" in the "humanity" sense because it's not inclusive. It drives me up the wall how teachers are trying to control us through controlling the terms of intellectual dcsourse.

 
At 7:45 AM, Blogger jklbarrett said...

Dan,
I couldn't agree with your Weekly Standard article more. The brainwashing of America is frightening. But I do have to respond to your feminist teacher comment. I am a Republican and a woman and I can't stand when men deride the word feminist. I also hate when you freak out about inclusive language.

I use the pronoun "they" rather than "he" or "she." Why? Because my English teacher at my private high school could not give me a good reason why "he" is used in preference. I was at a single sex school, so why not use "she" in our classes instead? In fact, our school did begin to implement inclusive language. And wow, I started to feel included.

Gaining the right to vote, to an education, to reproductive rights is just the beginning. Women have been excluded from too many spheres of influence for too long, including language. Language changes often for many good reasons, to incorporate more sophisticated expressions, more unsophisticated but contemporary expressions, different cultures, etc. But what is most important is that language is empowering. Perhaps this one should NOT be left up to the William Safires of the world, but to the more than 50 percent of the population that says we won't be excluded from power anymore.

Look, I am a Republican, I think Bush has done a pretty amazing job considering what he is up against, and I am voting for him in November. But I am sick and tired of male Republicans scoffing at issues that are vital to women and their inclusion and empowerment in the world. No wonder Bush and most Republicans still don't get it when it comes to women. Include us in your rhetoric, include us in your dialogue, and perhaps we'll start listening.

 
At 12:40 PM, Blogger Republican Dan said...

I'm not surprised that no one could give you an acceptable reason as to why we use 'he' instead of 'he/she' or they. I don't think anyone could give you a logical reason as to why the we conjugate our verbs the way we do (but I don't expect you'll be switching to a different system just because the current one isn't logical). You'll note that certain things in our language are allways feminine (such as nations) which other things are allways masculine ('mankind').

 
At 8:35 PM, Blogger Right Wing Conspirator said...

I am a conservative female, but I do not approve of changing he to they or he/she. There are no real reasons why we use "he" instead of "she" or "they" except that it is how our language developed. It is similar to Latin where if there is a group of people (both male and female) it defaults to male. This isn't sexist, its how the language works.

I personally do not believe in enforcing a change in the language just to suit your own personal/political agenda. While languages do change gradually over time it is merely because of a gradual change in speech patterns and vocabulary, not because a group of liberal English teachers believe that they can suddenly change the English langauge because they say so. Words are power and liberals will not forget that.

While this might seem minor, it isn't the only way in which liberals use language. The first examle that jumps to mind is how they use "Pro-Choice" instead of "Pro-Abortion" and how they are very reserved and/or roundabout when asked what is it exactly they are choosing. Or, as someone else mentioned, they won't let you capitalize pronouns referring to God. If it were merely pronouns that this was about I wouldn't mind so much, but there are many other examples of how the meaning of words is being changed by liberals, sometimes so much that the truth can be hard to find in all the politically correct phrases.

 
At 8:35 PM, Blogger Right Wing Conspirator said...

I am a conservative female, but I do not approve of changing he to they or he/she. There are no real reasons why we use "he" instead of "she" or "they" except that it is how our language developed. It is similar to Latin where if there is a group of people (both male and female) it defaults to male. This isn't sexist, its how the language works.

I personally do not believe in enforcing a change in the language just to suit your own personal/political agenda. While languages do change gradually over time it is merely because of a gradual change in speech patterns and vocabulary, not because a group of liberal English teachers believe that they can suddenly change the English langauge because they say so. Words are power and liberals will not forget that.

While this might seem minor, it isn't the only way in which liberals use language. The first examle that jumps to mind is how they use "Pro-Choice" instead of "Pro-Abortion" and how they are very reserved and/or roundabout when asked what is it exactly they are choosing. Or, as someone else mentioned, they won't let you capitalize pronouns referring to God. If it were merely pronouns that this was about I wouldn't mind so much, but there are many other examples of how the meaning of words is being changed by liberals, sometimes so much that the truth can be hard to find in all the politically correct phrases.

 
At 2:43 PM, Blogger Ken Brewer said...

Having taught my first high school English course in 1970, I agree with you totally, Dan. However, "all ways" and "always" should not be confused. This type of error drives me almost as nuts as professors failing students for saying "dyslectic" instead of "person with dyslexia." The former error is caused by overdependence on computer spelling and grammar check technology, while the latter error is due to small-minded "demigods" who want to dictate how the rest of us think.

 

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