It May be Astroturf (But That Doesn’t Make It Less Sad)

I’ve been buried in papers that, for instance, argue Bradstreet’s reference to the riches of the east demonstrate her identity with the British colonization of India. I take a break and see Instapundit put up a video of today’s Washington. Was it this that brought our educational system to its knees? No, but I suspect it tried.

My students – at that purveyor of “discount knowledge”, a junior college – are willing to wrestle with Edwards’ sermons, the implications of the plain style. They want to think about the Bill of Rights and why (and when) we are sheltered by its authority. (A colleague e-mailed, noting D’Souza was on Beck this week. He gave a talk at our junior college a couple of years ago, while Said’s picture graces the walls of the department at the big school, where he lectured for considerably more money.)

Their vocabularies – of words & of sayings – is limited. Without Big Brother, the rhythms of Mother Goose and the power of words have been limited; parsing sentences and memorizing poetry were practically gone from my education – people my age have great grandchildren. Many teaching fads and have come & gone in those years and their marks are on those students. When I ask for precision, they have few words to exchange for the vague one they’ve put down. Their reading has seldom challenged them, seldom asked more of them. My parents subscribed to Time and the New Yorker: they wanted for their children the breadth of words they used. Now they text.

However, I have consolations. One is the spikes in book sales after a mention on Beck; smaller ones from appearances on C-span. (And before someone scoffs at Beck, I’d like to remind them that his mention of Hayek took all the publisher had – and then some. A hungry public may be used to chips but is apparently willing to devour the steak of a Nobel economist’s work.) Second, if the plain style, domestic vocabulary can be used with the precision of Bradstreet then beauty may appear.

Anyway, here’s one my students love (and so do I) and others can be found here.

To My Dear and Loving Husband

If ever two were one then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife were happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor aught but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let’s so persevere
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

4 thoughts on “It May be Astroturf (But That Doesn’t Make It Less Sad)”

  1. “papers that, for instance, argue Bradstreet’s reference to the riches of the east demonstrate her identity with the British colonization of India”…do you think (s)he really believed this, or had (s)he simply noted that this is the kind of thing that goes down well with most instructors and assumed you were the same?

  2. People still have 2000 word vocabularies – same as they did 200 years ago. Today they know words for things that did not exist 200 years ago (not even in dreams). Some fine old words, like otiose, have drifted into disuse largely because people spend more time learning to use gadgets and the latest version of Windows than they do learning the word-for-the-day.

    Inteligence is shown by cramming complex ideas into computer code rather than into poems or prose. Computers have very limited vocabularies. Perhaps one might annotate student papers with cryptic error messages similar to those produced by a compiler.

  3. The thing about The Road to Serfdom is that a layperson can read it and understand it. But was it written specifically for a larger audience?

    At any rate, if you try and read a journal article outside your own field these days, the language itself is incredibly opaque. I’m not talking about being confused by difficult ideas, but strange jargony locutions.

    T. Greer (sometime commenter around here) had a nice post about older American legislation – very important legislation – and it’s easy readibility compared to the long and obsure bills of today. Or, something like that.

    Lovely poem. I always say I never “do” poetry, and yet, I find it so beautiful.

    – Madhu

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