The other day, my brother Marc posted this to my facebook wall:
Damn; that came out small. Here’s what it says:
‘I don’t understand why my grade was so low. How did I do on my research paper?’
‘Actually, you didn’t turn in a research paper. You submitted a large, awkward, random assemblage of sentences. If fact, the sentences you apparently kidnapped in the dead of night and forced into this violent and arbitrary plan of yours dearly seemed to be placed on the pages against their will. Reading your paper was like watching unfamiliar, uncomfortable people interact at a cocktail party that no one wanted to attend in the first place. You didn’t submit a research paper. You submitted a hostage situation.”
I got a hostage situation in my stack of essays from Not-So-Local Community College. Observe:
“Two people and two different times but both can be compared to one another in American history; Martin Luther King, Jr. a civil rights activist and the President of the United States Barack Obama. Racism is found thought Americas history and until recently there was a big gap between our just and in-just laws. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” and President Obama’s speech on Reverent Wright both have many similarities as well as many differences. President Obama speaks out on accusations of an extremist for the modern day civil rights movement which accuses him to be a follower. Though Obama said he had personal connection to him he disproves his belief in his views.”
That’s as far as I got. I didn’t even grade it; the author and I will have a conference tomorrow to see if we can get to the bottom of this.
So, I got this in an email this morning from one of my jobs:
Please accept this invitation to attend our ALL STAFF MEETTING on Sunday, October 5th, 2014, at 7pm. We will be closing the building an hour early, and will be meeting in the basketball gym. We have a lot of fun and informative information planned.
This came from the office of the executive director. I have no idea whether the executive director himself wrote the thing or not, but it bears his name, so he’s got at least some responsibility for it.
I’ve been engaged in some really interesting discussions lately about the ways in which people communicate. The start of the school year brings renewed frustrations from my teacher friends (and, not for nothing, from me, too) about how students seem to think that as long as THEY understand what they’re trying to say, the responsibility for understanding it is the audience’s. My brother, who teaches high school science (and will tell you that he spends a lot of time – too much time – teaching writing, as well), is bumping up hard against this; kids expect the reader/listener to figure out what the writer/speaker means, and they get belligerent when their ambiguity – or incomprehensibility – is pointed out to them.
Here’s the thing, though; how much right do we have to hold our students to high standards of written and verbal communication when, as evidenced by the brilliant piece of writing showcased above, we can’t even expect it from people who call themselves “executive directors”? “MEETTINGS”?! “Informative information”?! REALLY?!
I have half a mind to send this back to Mr. Executive Director with corrections, but I think I’ll just skip the “meetting” instead; I’m sure someone will let me know what the informative information is.