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· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·

· Wherein Some Administrative Rubber Meets the Pedagogical Road ·

Revision musings have just prompted from me a new thought. Why not make my stylistic revisions even more eye-appealing? For in my recent Mind's Ear post, I used the formal trick of paired columns to suggest my aim. I thought: "Why not go directly to the power of the screen to make it more colorful — maybe giving readers implied 'earfuls' of heard representations?"

So here's a draft of a memo I edited some time back, one marking the score in a classic game between school administrators and college teachers. It happily suggested itself to me just now. You'll see its point in the end, but note first my play among dark words (text originals), blue (strike outs), and red (scores), all playing themselves out fully, but still subtly, in my text. Naturally, styled instruction is my aim.

A Brief Curriculum Committee Report, 2001

Summary: Throughout April, May, and June, five members of the English faculty participated in a series of meetings devoted to discussion of teaching and learning in English 101. Topics covered included student preparation, pedagogical and technological changes, evaluation standards, desired outcomes, the ideal vs. the real, and the expected role of writing skills in our students' lives. The consistent focus throughout all sessions, regardless of topic, Regardless of topics, throughout our meetings the consistent focus was the relationship between college English our own courses and those in K-12 English, or between the desired student learning outcomes in composition and the desired proficiencies articulated in the Washington State Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs). Unfortunately, although time constraints prohibited us from realizing the fullest intents of our original project our implementing all goals fullywhich involved collaboration including collaborating with the English teachers in the local K-12 schools our K-12 colleagues — we were still able to accomplish the primary goal of refining the project's primary goal: refining the our common English syllabus in terms of required essential outcomes and assessments. Further Indeed, all participants came away in possession of with new strategies and fresh perspectives that will should be useful to us in the future.

Evaluation: Ultimately, the English faculty who participated in this project are satisfied that although our teaching styles are distinct differ and our approaches varied, vary — student learning experiences in our various sections of English classrooms are similar in many meaningful important ways. We surely agree upon the importance of several outcomes essential to students' success in 101, including the following:

  • thoughtful use of appropriate information in essays
  • reasonableness/plausibility of the connection between claims and support
  • unity within the essay and the paragraph
  • coherence and sequential development of ideas
  • clarity of expression
  • mature usage use of the Standard English language
  • stylistic precision, economy, and freshness
  • and use regular employment of reflective revision strategies

Our secondary finding as a result of this project is Unfortunately, we are today forced to conclude that the criteria listed for the tenth-grade writing EALRs are unrealistic in both ambition and specificity — mainly by being too pedagogically idealistic. Indeed, all participants we all agree that we would be much surprised to find high-school students or recent high-school even graduates who met or surpassed these criteria. In fact, we now agree that in our more than 75 years of collective teaching experience we had never have rarely encountered a student who, upon graduating with an AA degree, could consistently score passing marks based on the criteria set for all tenth-graders.

Recommendation: Together, we will continue to help students improve their skills and knowledge in composition , modifying and enhancing our methods along the way by modifying syllabi and improving methods. Along the way, we will continue to consult each other one another in order to maintain in keeping a degree of needed professional uniformity in our class offerings. In fact, we will continue to be mindful that some of our students will go on to become K-12 English teachers, and we will approach our classes accordingly. But we will not put too much stock in the particulars of the Washington State Writing EALRs.

Just imagine what I can still hear in these dialectical alternatives to what our committee in fact discussed. Unfortunately, that old dialogue — as you might now guess — is almost wholly unprintable.

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· For the Mind's Ear: On the Harmonies of Style ·

This past week I've been something of a music teacher. I've been reminding students to use their ears more, and it's difficult work. Students are always inclined to use their eyes instead, reading left to right, as they've been taught, for key words at sentence starts — mostly sentence subjects, verbs, and connectors. Although these are all quite essential, I've in mind sentence ends rather, where the more subtle music of stylish prose resides.

In "The Harmony of Prose" from his book Style, F. L. Lucas focuses on the topic. He denotes it, musically speaking, in heard stresses. As Lucas claims, "the sound and rhythm of English prose seem to me matters where both writers and readers should trust not so much to rules as to their ears." He cites even Flaubert to the effect that "a good style must meet the needs of the respiration."

In illustrating as much, Lucas focuses on word order, "which concerns both rhythm and clarity alike. . . . Just as the art of war largely consists of deploying the strongest forces at the most important points, so the art of writing depends a good deal on putting the strongest words in the most important places." As Lucas claims, they are often at the end. To illustrate, he cites a short passage from Alexander Bain, revising it for better, more pointed stress. His improvements are marked in this F. L. Lucas, Style, New York: Collier, 1962, 212, 215, 231; 234 below.


The Humour of Shakespeare has the richness of his genius, and follows his peculiarities. He did not lay himself out for pure Comedy, like Aristophanies; he was more nearly allied to the great tragedians of the classical world. . . . The genius of Rabalais supplies extravagant vituperation and ridicule in the wildest profusion; a moral purpose underlying. Coarse and brutal fun runs riot. . . . For Vituperation and Ridicule, Swift has few equals, and no superior. On rare occasion, he exemplifies Humour and, had his disposition been less savage and malignant, he would have done so much oftener.

The Humour of Shakespeare has the richness of his genius. He did not, like Arisophanes, lay himself out for pure Comedy; he was more nearly allied to the classic Tragedians. . . . The genius of Rabalais shows a wild extravagance of satire and ridicule, underlaid by moral purpose. His work is a riot of coarse and brutal fun. . . . In vituperation and ridicule none have surpasssed and few equalled Swift. But he rarely shows humour; he might indeed have done so oftener, had his temper been less savage and malignant.

Lucas's stresses give marked, italicized substance to Swift's famed dictum about "proper words in proper places," and with that in mind, consider an example I've just made, one adducing, on a separate page, the still subtler stresses of my own recent music teaching. Do enjoy.

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· Nature's Double Bill, Locally and Stylishly Displayed ·

In only three days this holiday I've seen thousands of migrating shore birds, two Italian operas, and the subtle operations of Nature in the fullness of her motherly moods, suggesting today that spring has really sprung. Mama mia! Talk about your unity in variety!

It's of course the old life-death theme; for you should have seen the dog-fight of a Merlin chasing a small Western Sandpiper Friday. Even at telescopic distance, it was like no aerial ballet I had seen. Much like the mother-birders on our boardwalk, I was rooting, myself, for the sandpiper.

But then Saturday night, hearing the often-paired productions of Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci, I knew that death's cold knife can pierce human life forms, too. Those sopranos, I mean, knew what they're doing, but, oh, what glorious singing!

Then today, in celebrating Mother's Day — happily the Seventh Sunday of Easter this year — to be having, along with Stylish, a breakfast courtesy of a loving son, well, it doesn't get much better than that, does it?

Best of all, both of us shared blue cheese and champagne at lunch before heading to a nearby nursery for our pick of summer plants. Indeed, we're going to have ourselves a pleasant, colorful place this year.

Come and see things for yourselves.

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· A Belated May-Day Post — Olds Folk at Home ·

A few intrepid Google searchers landed here Sunday. May Day apparently brought them out, and they read — or pretended to, at least — my May Day! post on political correctness. With its take on that stylish old cripple, Nancy Mairs, it ended on souls too timid to say what's what in any straight, labor-intensive English. So goes my work here.

I begin this way because I don't want to make that mistake now, surely not in describing my old Oldsmoblile. The thing's a fine 1963, a Holiday 88, sadly banged up a year ago in the neighborhood. Though it's somewhat crippled, it still has style. I took it out Sunday to our family rest home up north, an old barn, where it'll have to continue rusting unobserved. I mean, there's a time when everything has to go.

But I can still get sentimental. On Sunday I thought again about us Stylechoices, all four of us, indeed driving off across the country in 1982. Stylish and I read Huck Finn aloud to our sons Smart and Suave, a fresh breeze whipping around as old Pap — our two kids loved him — came stepping along with that cross in his heel. Again, in 1989, in Detroit, only Stylish and I heard that big black truck dude remark one evening, "Where'd you get that thing? I think I made it." Such music to American ears!

I got it, in fact, in North Hollywood in 1977, for only $450. It had 23,852 miles on it. Though it needed valve seals and new paint, it was like the sixties all over again. I've had to rebuild the engine since and paint the body twice, and I've put several sets of brakes on and even stitched some new seat covers, most recently, two years ago. I could almost think I made it all myself, but that's, of course, something of an exaggeration.

In any case, it's not your daddy's Oldsmobile any longer, but it's maybe ready now for organ (I mean part) donation since son Smart has another one much like it.

As I say, we Stylechoices (short of auto-resurrection) do trust in family values.

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