Wednesday, October 17, 2007

op-Ed Columnist

Tough, Sad and Smart

Published: October 16, 2007

The absence of fathers, and the resultant feelings of abandonment felt by boys and girls, inevitably affect the children’s sense of self-worth, he said.

Mr. Herbert: Mr. Cosby and Dr. Poussaint are right about the Black dilemma. But Mr. Cosby diminished his status as a preacher by his own conduct as has Jesse Jackson, adulterers both.

I taught college English for twenty-eight years. My few male Black students coasted, counting on teacher's passing them despite lack of performance. Their race had suffered enslavement. Passing without performing was reparations. My Black male students acted out the post-slavery choreograph that white society expects, even hopes for: that black men will perform ill and perpetuate their own enslavement. Black male students acted out these malignant expectations in my classes.
The Oriental students right off the boats meanwhile whizzed along in mastery of a foreign language that they had to conquer to succeed. They dogged me during office hours to explain once again the nominative absolute.

Whatever psychological mystery motivated the Orientals made them strive to master what they needed to master to get into graduate school. Their performance compared invidiously to the black boys' having given up the day they walked into class.

I guessed that the Black fellows had internalized their worthless valuation from our slave society's aftermath but reasoned that their psychological status didn't neutralize my grading them on performance, not psyches. The Black girls did well. They seemed to intuit that their survival and their family's depended upon their taking up the slack the Black boys as men would download onto them.

Every teacher faces the dilemma of understanding why a student is doing well or ill but of carrying on with the duty of wielding the red pen as a neutral instrument of performance nonetheless. Passing those that don't pass ranks mistaken compassion: it perpetuates the situation.
Black male students either dropped out of my classes when they saw I wasn't going along with the system of passing them despite their lack of performance, or they stayed and flunked. In the latter case, I inferred that they blamed a racist white woman for their failure, not their lack of effort.

In the sentence above cited from your column today, you have a subject-verb agreement error: a grammar felony. Your commas wrongly cut off as non-restrictive element a part of your subject: "feelings." If you dumped those wrong commas, your subject and verb would agree. "Inevitably" is one of those flabby adverbs that Strunk & White eschews. These vitiate a sentence. Forego them.

lee drury de cesare


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