The Underground Grammarian

On a lighter note. Somewhat lighter anyway. I’ve been reading Susan Haack’s wonderful new book Defending Science – Within Reason, which I strongly recommend you all read without delay. I was amused to find her twice (at least) quoting the Underground Grammarian – whom I also suggest you read without delay. This amused me partly because only a few days ago a reader emailed me with an apposite quotation from the dear Grammarian, and added that it was via B&W that he’d learned of that irascibly witty writer. That did make me feel useful.

Here’s a brief sample – although not as brief as usual, because there is no worry about copyright: the dear Grammarian gave blanket permission to use as much of his material as our little hearts desired, and the site continues that tradition.

The truth, at last, can be told. That Aristotle fellow was, in fact, not a literate man. He never developed positive feelings about barbarians. Indeed, the more he came to learn about them, the less he appreciated them. Franz Kafka wasn’t literate either, you know. Like so many other illiterate “writers”-who can count them?-he was never able to develop any positive feelings of self-worth and importance…But don’t worry about it. Our schools are doing everything they can to assure that we will be less and less troubled by such pseudo-literates. The true literates are in the sphere—or is it the arena?—of education. In that sphere, or field, it is almost impossible to find anyone who hasn’t developed impregnable feelings of self-worth and importance…The quality of their relationships with others is amazing; they never, never disagree or contend, and they always hail enthusiastically each other’s bold innovative thrusts and experiential programs of excellence. And what could be stronger testimony to their fulfillment of individual potential than the fact that they have somehow persuaded the rest of us to pay them for all the stuff they do?

And a bit farther down (this is volume 6 number 2, by the way):

Among the great successes of our schools is the fact that they have always been able to prevent serious and widespread outbreaks of hyperkinetic reading behavior syndrome. This is a remarkable feat, since most young children, even when they first come to school, already exhibit morbid curiosity behavior and persistent questioning behavior, dangerous precursors that must be replaced quickly with group interaction skills and self-awareness enhancement. (Children who are properly preoccupied with themselves and with some presumed distinctions between individual whims and collective whims hardly ever fall into hyperkinetic reading behavior syndrome.) Although a few intractable cases can still be found, we realistically expect, and before long, to eradicate this crippling disability and usher in the age of true literacy.

The Grammarian did not think much of US schools of education. He didn’t worry much about hurting those schools’ feelings, either. He was a lovely fella.

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