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Writing Good 4 Woke Capitalists

Melinna Rivera writes a chalk message on the sidewalk during a protest by teaching assistants and tutors at the University of California, Irvine. Rivera is a fifth-year senior. (Photo by Paul Bersebach/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

A reader sends in the following e-mail, which I’ve edited slightly to protect his/her identity:

I’m a frequent reader of your blog. Your posts, especially about wokeness in America, have been especially helpful to me in navigating the current political climate over the past several years.  I felt affected by it, but only today do I realize just how directly affected I am, or will be, in the next several years.
I am an undergraduate student at [large public university]. I am taking a course this semester on technical editing, and have learned, along with the rest of the class, that our professor is “committed to anti-racism.”
upon opening it up, was greeted by the professor’s statement that she is ‘committed to anti-racism’ and that if we wanted to know more about how this would affect our course, we could look further in our online course description.
The reader sent me a copy of the professor’s statement. After consulting with the reader, I decided not to post it word for word, to protect the reader, who is not far from graduation, and fears retaliation by the professor (whose name and school I have). I am going to paraphrase it, though.
The professor — this is a professor of writing — says that she is committed to “anti-racist pedagogies,” and as such, refuses to accept that technical writing and editing is about correct grammar and mechanics. This reproduces racism by upholding the idea that white American English is the only correct form of writing in the workplace. Therefore, the professor has decided in her course to root out the racism in the way she was taught, and to respect language diversity in her students’ work. She will no longer teach as if there is a correct standard for grammar and writing. Students are free to choose how to write, but they must argue for why their choices were the right ones; they can’t fall back on claiming that they are writing what they were taught was correct English.
The professor warns students that she foresees “uncomfortable conversations” along the road to establishing an anti-racist classroom, but that’s just how it’s going to be, because we’re all on a “journey to antiracism.”
The reader writes:
Obviously, I don’t agree with one sentence of it. It’s posturing, plain and simple. Both my academics and the jobs I have worked in the past (I have been, for many semesters, an academic tutor of English Writing) have proven to me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the issue with English writing and reading has nothing to do with ‘whiteness’ and everything to do with a slow and crushing de-emphasization of humanities studies by our public school system for the last 20+ years. The notion that there is anything ‘white’ or ‘racist’ about grammar standards is particularly ludicrous, but beyond that, look to the course title. This isn’t a class in ‘Woke Creative Writing’ but a course in technical writing and editing. As in, you know, editing, for business. For professionals. For companies and corporations. Or at least, that is what it should be, what I expected it to be. But no, this professor has bravely taken it upon herself to reformat our course into a months-long lecture on anti-racism, and I can only pray I can manage to half-heartedly scrape by without drawing attention to myself. This is the world we live in now.
This university professor is actually making her students stupider, for the sake of political correctness. Back in 2013, NBC News reported:

Can you tell a pronoun from a participle; use commas correctly in long sentences; describe the difference between its and it’s?

If not, you have plenty of company in the world of job seekers. Despite stubbornly high unemployment, many employers complain that they can’t find qualified candidates.

Often, the mismatch results from applicants’ inadequate communication skills. In survey after survey, employers are complaining about job candidates’ inability to speak and to write clearly.

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were a net 204,000 new jobs created in October, though the unemployment rate rose to 7.3 percent. The numbers easily topped economist expectations of 120,000 new nonfarm payroll jobs for the month.

Experts differ on why job candidates can’t communicate effectively. Bram Lowsky, an executive vice president of Right Management, the workforce management arm of Manpower, blames technology.

“With Gen X and Gen Y, because everything is shorthand and text, the ability to communicate effectively is challenged,” he said. “You see it in the business world, whether with existing employees or job candidates looking for work.”

Others say colleges aren’t doing a good job. In a survey of 318 employers published earlier this year by the Association of American Colleges and Universities and conducted by Hart Research Associates, 80 percent said colleges should focus more on written and oral communication.

William Ellet, an adjunct professor teaching writing at Brandeis International Business School, says the problem starts earlier. He points out that when the Department of Education in 2012 published what it called “The Nation’s Report Card: Writing 2011,” just 24 percent of eighth and 12th graders were proficient in writing. From colleges on down, he said, “nobody takes responsibility for writing instruction.”

Think about those students, paying over $10,000 per year (I checked this university’s tuition) to be taught how to write good business and technical English, and instead getting this woke professor teaching them that anything goes, because antiracism. When these students apply for jobs, and it turns out that they can’t write standard English, they will not be hired — and whose fault will it be? Even the wokest businesses can’t afford to hire people who cannot write standard English. Those kids are being cheated out of the education they’re paying for.
This is happening at a big public university in a ruby-red state! If students get an A in this class, but end up unable to land or hold a job because they can’t write, they will be tempted to blame racism. They ought to blame their professor, and their university. This is infuriating. If that were me — or my kid — I would be writing to my state legislator. On the other hand — and this is where they get you — the student who wrote me is probably right that the professor would punish as a racist anyone who complained. The reader just wants to graduate and put this school in the rear view mirror. I don’t blame the student at all. But after the student gets that diploma, I hope he/she will write me back to remind me of this, and I’ll post the professor’s name, university, and the full statement. Students, prospective students, and the taxpayers of that state ought to know the fraud being perpetrated on that university’s students in the name of antiracism. Graduates of this writing program may be unemployable, but at least they’ll know how to chalk protest slogans on sidewalks.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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