iWrite
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My posts for the MKCREATIVE Blog & my occasional Tweets
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Scooped by Christopher Gardner
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Grammar Is Dead, Long Live Grammar Nerds − And The Logic They Encourage...

Grammar Is Dead, Long Live Grammar Nerds − And The Logic They Encourage... | iWrite | Scoop.it
Some of us never forget the first sentence we conjugated. Others of us are, like, LOL, WTF?

I have been teaching university undergraduates for just over a decade now, and I have spent a significant amount of time teaching (as a long-term substitute) at some elite private high schools in my city of Baltimore. Though students can find many, many ways to give their teachers pause-for-thought (or bemused smiles or outright headaches), the one that continues to raise my ire is when students attempt to distinguish grammar from logic.

The problem arose with Post-Modernist challenges to the truth claims of the Humanities in the 1940s and 1950s. Post-Modernists argue(d) on the whole that language is a tool of authority and is used by differently by groups who might be victor over or victim of another group's use of language. The fallout of that (admittedly simplistic) position for the historian (like myself) was to treat any historical account or document not as a 'fact' or a claimant of true information but as a 'text' created by the powerful to rationalize their position (or by the defeated who either unwittingly co-opted the terms of the powerful or sought to fight back with subaltern narratives of their own choosing).

Grammar? Merely the elite's efforts to stifle the vitality of other modes of narrative. Though Post-Modernism offers numerous relevant, necessary, and true challenges to how we understand knoweldge, narrative, and language, it fails at the last (or the first?) by denigrating grammar to the weapon of the elite.

As Jen Doll argues in this article for The Atlantic Wire, grammar IS the weapon of the elite. But what makes the weapon so powerful is not (as Post-Modernists and undergraduates claim) that it embodies a closed code that only the initiates 'get' and is devoid of meaning as long as the jist of the the narrative is conveyed. The weapon is powerful because it carries logic and specificity in its payload. To write "After being whipped fiercely, the cook boiled the egg" (Doll's example of a dangling participle) is not to present an argument against the hegemonic linguistic customs of the WASP male. To write such a sentence is to admit that precision is not really the reason one bothered to put pen to paper, keys to keypad, or tongue to roof-of-mouth. Instead, one simply thought one should utter anything about eggs and cooks and just leave it to the reader/listener to figure out what the reader/listener wants to figure out.

Much of our contemporary political debate is carried out in a similar manner. As long as the debt or the war on (whatever) is mentioned in the same sentence as our political leader (or theirs), we only need to allow our followers to figure out whatever connections they want. The less vague the grammar, the less vauge the logic.

The dangling participle or the confusion of 'its' and 'it's' or the use of 'LOL' is hardly the stuff of the end of civilization itself. But the use of 'LOL' whether trying to agree that something is funny, or trying to be ironic that, in fact, the point is not funny, certainly could be. Roman authors of the fourth and fifth centuries rarely complained about the conduct of specific wars or the adjustments of particular taxes. But they often complained about the lack of proper grammar and the concommitant loss of political engagement for the good of the empire.

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Scooped by Christopher Gardner
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#CIVICS: Apple's Billions In Tax Dodges Come Under Scrutiny

This post I wrote for the MKCREATIVEmedia blog came from some excellent investigative journalism from Charles Duhigg and David Kocieniewski of The New York Times. They traced the network of paper offices that Apple has created to avoid tax liabilities throughout the world. None of what Apple did is illegal, but I argue that such activity creates a de facto regressive tax system that has undermined such powerful geopolitical entities as imperial Rome and early-modern France. Moreover, corporate tax dodges are eroding the very infrastructure and educated populace that first helped build those successful corporations.

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