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TSE  December 2004

TSE December 2004

Subject:

Re: (OT) Internet : an overkill ?

From:

George Carless <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Mon, 20 Dec 2004 22:07:25 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (83 lines)

> Well, on namecalling, I do not recall anyone (certainly not me)
> "claim[ing] in a loud voice that they are the downfall of civilization."
>  That is another form of namecalling or at least ad hominem/ad feminem.

I have perhaps extrapolated or exaggerated too far, but I was not
suggesting that you had made such a claim--but I hope you would not
mistake my hyperbole for a direct quotation.  This is a matter of style,
and if I do exaggerate the literal sense of what Vishvesh has said then
it is because I have seen his line of reasoning time and again, and
because I do think it's an incorrect and a rather foolish view.  Again,
I do not for a second believe or argue that grammar is unimportant, and
nor that syntax and style can be policed by software.  But I simply do
not agree with the assertion that the Internet, or software, or indeed
any modern technology, can be blamed for whatever increase in 'sloppy
writing' that you may have observed.  Now, I admittedly do not have the
experience to say categorically that there has *not* been an increase in
such sloppy writing as a result of technology--I'm quite fully within
the system that I defend, having been using computers for most of my
life, since the early 80s; nonetheless, I do feel that there is
sufficient evidence out there, for those who care to look for it, that
standards have not fallen across the board; or that if they have, this
decline cannot be attributed simply to 'technology' or to 'the
Internet'.

Again, I believe that the only people who will believe that 'checkers'
do "encourage the assumption that one need not learn any syntax or
style" are those who would not otherwise have made the effort *to* learn
syntax and style.  There are many such people, but I suspect that there
always were.  You may well have a point about teaching of English,
though--for my part, I don't recall ever having been taught anything
much about grammar or style or syntax or anything much beyond a few
simple rules that could and invariably should be broken under many
circumstances; but I agree with you that understanding of these things
can perhaps only be gained by reading and by learning from the best, and
from developing a love of language.  And I do think that this is an area
in which the Internet has a great deal to offer: I would argue that we
have never before had such access to such a wide range of intelligent
opinions, analyses, deconstructions, explanations, definitions.  We do
need to be vigilant, of course, to separate the wheat from the chaff--
but again, I think that the Internet will mature to the point where the
good writing, the good information, will rise to the surface while the
dross will sink.

But if students have read less, perhaps their education--or, present
company (of course!) excepted, their educators--are to fault, rather
than technology.  Or perhaps they are expected to read the wrong things,
or in the wrong way.  It may be that new technology demands a new
approach to learning--but this does not mean that the new technology is
intrinsitcally bad.

Now, I grant you that people do seem to like to butcher perfectly good
words, or to abuse the apostrophe.  But are you certain that it wasn't
always thus, only we never realized because people were not able to be
heard?  I do understand, Nancy, that you are, as a professor, in a
better position than I am to observe this kind of change, but I also do
wonder whether you can so certainly say that this kind of change is
wholly because of 'grammar checkers' or the Internet or whatever else.
I also wonder whether all traditional standards for literacy etc. still
hold true: might it not be that there are more well-educated, literate
people who are simply not following the traditional academic routes and
who are therefore not entering your radar, so to speak?

I am perhaps too young and too inexperienced to speak with authority in
this area, but I do feel that it has always been the way for the older
people to believe that the younger people are more stupid, less
well-informed, more lazy, than were previous generations.  I dare say
that I shall before long start to view things the same way (and I
already tend to think that the kids' music today is generally fairly
dreadful), but I will try to remember that there's always a larger
picture.  I think that's the case when it comes to the Internet and to
new techology.  It may even be true that the highest standards are
dropping; but are not the lowest standards perhaps being raised?  Again,
I think that what Vishvesh is looking for is an elite, select few who
can write brilliantly while the masses can write barely at all.  What I
think can be worked towards, with the help of software where necessary,
is a masses that can write reasonably--and a select few that can still
write brilliantly.

I have, however, had quite a few glasses of wine and so am probably
rambling incoherently.

Cheers,
--George

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