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THE LEANING TOWER OF BABEL And Other Affronts by the Underground Grammarian by Richard Mitchell

THE LEANING TOWER OF BABEL And Other Affronts by the Underground Grammarian


Pub Date: Aug. 14th, 1984
Publisher: Little, Brown

A barrage of squibs--64 mini-salvos--that, whatever hits they score on the bastions of bad writing, soon wear down the reader's patience. Mitchell (Glassboro State, N.J.) has become something of an academic folk hero, and media personality, since he began making these ill-tempered, astringently witty assaults in early 1977. To be sure, he's earned some of that attention: the ""educationists,"" whose nebulous thinking and turgid prose he belts, ought not to get away with gobbledygook. So when Mitchell hears about ""administrator perceiver specialists"" or ""the evocation of intrapersonal peaks of performance potential""; when mushy-minded social science types offer courses in ""bachelor living"" and label pubescent hoodlums ""emotionally impaired""; when high school principals reveal total ignorance of grammar, or reading specialists send memos cramming six he/she, him/her, his/hers into one sentence--he lashes out. He has every right to, of course, but the contests are one-sided and monotonous. And Mitchell is on much shakier ground when he abandons English Comp. for politics--when, for example, he damns bilingual education or charges that public schools have too much money. (""They spend it on gimmicks and gadgets and programs and proposals and whole legions of apparatchiks and uneducated busybodies and Ladies Bountiful manquÉes."") His stern appeals for no-nonsense intellectual discipline (curiously undercut by his habit of italicizing so many words that the diction sounds effete) are as naive--or disingenuous--as Reagan's campaign for overnight, cost-free scholastic excellence. Spirited but dubious.