Trouble with the King's english

SUBHEAD: What ever language you speak should be spoken with some mastery and art. 

By Juan Wilson on 2 November 2015 for Island Breaeth -

Image above: Graphic for Cab Calloway's "Are You Hip to the Jive" record set with 22 tracks.  From (

I read the two articles below this morning with some amusement. Jerome Irwin and James Kunstler are both correct in thinking that using English without some mastery of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation leads to weakened ability to communicate as well as think clearly. In Irwin's example it is the drunken slur of Australian whites, and in Kunslter's case it is the jive street talk of American blacks.

The mastery out English language leads to higher education, professional accreditation, solid employment. The lack thereof leads not only to fuzzy thinking, but poverty.

However, neither Irwin or Kunstler address issue of any cultural or social advantages to those populations that speak a dialect. Nor due they evaluate in any depth the culture identity of those who speak a dialect. Both the Briritish whites originally exiled to Australia and the African blacks brought to slavery in America have been   "associated with "violent criminality and other anti-social behaviors."

Both the Australian criminals and African blacks had a reason to have their own "secret" language.

Another point not mentioned is that other languages than English describe other realities for other cultures. Those who identify as Americans here in Hawaii often complain about Pigeon English spoken by Polynesians and their descendants.

A bit like Spanglish,  Pigeon English is a mixture of English and another language - here in Hawaii that language would be Hawaiian.

The Hawaiian culture was one carried by the spoken word - without a written language.  It was a rich culture that mastered sailing the Pacific Ocean a millennium before English the speaking British and Americans.

That meant that all their culture as well as technology was carried through the spoken word - navigation, engineering, agricultural practice, etc. The Polynesians thrived on the Pacific Ocean islands for centuries without bringing on the level of destruction we see today.

The little I know of the Hawaiian language has shown me that every word seems to have several meanings even in context, thus mixing the profane with the spiritual and the serious with the amusing.

It does pay to know your own language and speak it with some mastery and art.

Linguistic Attack In Australia

SUBHEAD: Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Under Attack in Australia

By Jerome Irwin on 2 November 201 for Counter Culture -

Dean Frenkel – a singer, voice coach and public speaking-communication lecturer at Melbourne Australia’s Victoria University – is on the hot seat for a controversial theory he recently put forth (“Australia, we need to talk about the way we speak”, The Age, October 26th, 2015).

The gist of Frenkel’s theory is that the by now infamous “G’Day Mate” drawl, that has come to embody the essence of Australian culture, is actually nothing more than a ‘lazy’ accent caused by the ‘alcoholic state’ of Australia’s heavy rum-drinking early settlers who regularly got drunk together on their new-found Down Under continent.

According to the laments of Frenkel, this original drunk-induced linguistic trait has since been passed down from generation to generation by all those descendants who, whether drunk or sober, have unknowingly added an alcoholic slur to the fact that they only use two-thirds of their mouth to speak and hence has become part of the Aussie national speech pattern.

Frankel contends that consequent sweeping effects have occurred as a result: poor communications is evident among all sectors of Australian society; a gaping hole in rhetorical training has been created in the Australian educational system; a subsequent diminishment has occurred in critical thought-processes, problem-solving, judgment and poor speech skills that have led to a lack of confidence and the internalization of emotions and thoughts that have contributed to difficulties in relationships, loneliness and stalled development.

In short, Frenkel’s theories hold that Australia’s linguistic accents, moulded by booze, have led to a general inarticulateness among the people as a result.

By contrast, Frenkel holds up the example of the ancient history of Australia’s aboriginal peoples spoken word and storytelling abilities that otherwise artfully uses rhetoric as an integral part of the recounting of the Australian Dreamtime to pass on to each generation their special spiritual and survival knowledge.

He contends that Australia’s western-centric civilization has instead created a “dumbing down” of speech in Australia that has “created holes in our education system that reflects holes in our culture.” Frankel declares, “Australia, It is time to take our beer goggles off. It’s no longer acceptable to be smarter than we sound.”

Yet whether Frenkel, as essentially a singer and voice coach, is qualified to theorize on such sweeping historical-sociological-psychological matters is a bone of contention.

In 2011, Aidan Wilson, a PHD graduate student at the University of Melbourne, challenged Frenkel’s qualifications to assess Australian politician’s qualities based upon their accents (“Beware of speech experts bearing science”, Crikey, Nov 2, 2011 & Oct 29th, 2015). At the time, this spawned a language blog debate between the two. (“A Reply from Dean Frenkel”, Crikey, Nov 7th, 2011).

Yet a far more important question exists behind such professed theories.

Is the ultimate objective in Australia, or wherever else in the world, to eventually get the entire world’s populace to speak in some uniform, standardized, sanitized “General Australian”, “General American”, or “General Whatever” way?

The obvious continuing mass disappearances of regional accents worldwide, and the negative attitudes of lower social class status and inferior traits that are often attributed to regional accents, symbolize what is a constant attempt by certain controlling forces in the world who are intent upon constantly reducing or utterly eliminating all such cultural human uniqueness or biological diversity on the planet.

During the 19th & 20th centuries, in Australia in particular, the attempt was made by still others to perpetuate an inferior cultural mentality in the people in relationship to their original British origins. Those who ever attempted to excel in whatever endeavour were shown resentment or ridicule with such pejorative terms as, “stop trying to be a tall poppy” or “you’re just another Plastic Brit.”

From the very beginning of the literary arts, Australian writers were decried as mere plagiarists of some Rudyard Kipling or Robbie Burns.

In 1950, A.A. Phillips, the Melbourne critic and social commentator, coined the term “cultural cringe” to describe the post-colonial literary arts in Australia as being deficient when compared to the work of their British and European counterparts.

Back then, Australia was being made out to be synonymous with failure, just as theorists like Frenkel now attempt to reduce Australian’s speech patterns down to the level of the hard-drinking drunkards of Australia’s early colonial days.

Apparently, as some would have us believe, the only way that Australian’s now can build themselves up in the eyes of the world, and especially in the ears of elocution experts like Frenkel who speak the British mother tongue, is to learn to pronounce proper “King’s English”. Is the intended net effect to encourage Australian’s to once again redefine their cultural heritage not only as convict stained but now as drunken stained?

Good Little Maoists

SUBHEAD:American education does not put enough emphasis on teaching standard spoken English.

By James Kunstler on 2 November 2015 for - 

Image above: From ().

ometimes societies just go batshit crazy. For ten years, 1966 to 1976, China slid into the chaotic maw of Mao Zedong’s “cultural revolution.” 

A youth army called the Red Guard was given license to terrorize authorities all over the nation — teachers, scientists, government officials, really just about anyone in charge of anything. They destroyed lives and families and killed quite a few of their victims. 

They paralyzed the country with their persecutions against “bourgeois elements” and “capitalist roaders,” reaching as deep into the top leadership as Deng Xiaoping, who was paraded in public wearing a dunce-cap, but eventually was able to put an end to all the insanity after Mao’s death.

America’s own cultural revolution has worked differently. It was mostly limited to the hermetically-sealed hot-house world of the universities, where new species of hierophants and mystagogues were busy constructing a crypto-political dogma aimed at redefining status arrangements among the various diverse ethnic and sexual “multi-cultures” of the land.

There is no American Mao, but there are millions of good little Maoists all over America bent on persecuting anyone who departs from a party line that now dominates the bubble of campus life. It’s a weird home-grown mixture of Puritan witch-hunting, racial paranoia, and sexual hysteria, and it comes loaded with a lexicon of jargon — “micro-aggression,” “trigger warnings,” “speech codes,” etc — designed to enforce uniformity in thinking, and to punish departures from it.

At a moment in history when the US is beset by epochal problems of economy, energy, ecology, and foreign relations, campus life is preoccupied with handwringing over the hurt feelings of every imaginable ethnic and sexual group and just as earnestly with the suppression of ideological trespassers who don’t go along with the program of exorcisms. 

A comprehensive history of this unfortunate campaign has yet to be written, but by the time it is, higher education may lie in ruins. It is already burdened and beset by the unintended consequences of the financial racketeering so pervasive across American life these days. But in promoting the official suppression of ideas, it is really committing intellectual suicide, disgracing its mission to civilized life.

I had my own brush with this evil empire last week when I gave a talk at Boston College, a general briefing on the progress of long emergency. The audience was sparse. It was pouring rain. The World Series was on TV. People are not so interested in these issues since the Federal Reserve saved the world with free money, and what I had to say did not include anything on race, gender, and white privilege.

However, after the talk, I went out for dinner with four faculty members and one friend-of-faculty. Three of them were English profs. One was an urban planner and one was an ecology prof. All of the English profs were specialists in race, gender, and privilege. Imagine that. You’d think that the college was a little overloaded there, but it speaks for the current academic obsessive-compulsive neurosis with these matters. 

Anyway, on the way to restaurant I was chatting in the car with one of the English profs about a particular angle on race, since this was his focus and he tended to view things through that lens. The discussion continued at the dinner table and this is what ensued on the Internet (an email to me the next morning):  On Oct 29, 2015, at 4:37 PM, Rhonda Frederick wrote:

This is what I posted on my social medias, am sharing with you and your agent.

Yesterday, novelist/journalist James Howard Kunstler was invited to give a talk at BC (see his bio at

At the post-talk dinner, he said “the great problem facing African Americans is that they aren’t taught proper English, and that … academics are too preoccupied with privilege and political correctness to admit this obvious fact.”

No black people (I presume he used “African American” when he meant “black”) were present at the dinner. I was not at the dinner, but two of my friends/colleagues were; I trust their recollections implicitly.

Whether Kunstler was using stereotypes about black people to be provocative, or whether he believed the ignorance he spouted, my response is the same: I cannot allow this kind of ignorance into my space and I am not the one to cast what he said as a “teachable moment.” I do think there should be a BC response to this, as the university paid his honorarium and for his meal.

Here’s some contact information for anyone interested in sharing your thoughts on how BC should spend its money:

Lowell Humanities Series at Boston College (


That is not quite what I said.

I said that teaching black Americans how to speak English correctly ought to be the most important mission of primary and secondary education for blacks in order for them to function successfully in our economy. Moreover, I said that anyone mounting an argument against this was hurting the very people they pretend to help.

I stand by those statements.

Your attempt at Stalinist thought policing is emblematic of something terribly wrong in higher education, especially since you were not present.

James Howard Kunstler
“It’s All Good”

So I was subjected to attempted character assassination via social media by this Rhonda Frederick person — faculty or student, she did not say — who admits to not having been present at the incident in question. This is the new fashion in academia: slander by Twitter and Facebook. It is fully supported by the faculty and administration. While they have been super-busy constructing speech codes and sex protocols, it seems they haven’t had any time for establishing ethical norms in the use of the Internet. 

As it happened, I offered to come back and publically debate my statements about the benefits of teaching spoken English to black primary and secondary students — they’d have to pay me, of course — but received no reply on that from Rhonda Frederick. I also received no reply from James Smith (, director of the Lowell Lecture Series, when I emailed my objection to being vilified on the Web by his colleague.

Now, as to the substance of what I said to this table of college professors. I’ve written before in books and blogs about the issue of spoken English and the black underclass, but for the record I will try to summarize some of my thoughts about it (trigger warning).

True, there are various dialects of English among us, but it must be obvious that they have different merits and disadvantages. There is such a thing as standard grammatical English. It evolves over generations, for sure, but it shows a certain conservative stability, like the rule of law. It tends to be spoken by educated people and by people in authority. 

This implies people in power, of course, people who run things, but also people at large in the professions (medicine, engineering, etc.) and the arenas of business and government. Standard grammatical English tends to be higher status because competence in it tends to confer the benefits of higher living standards.

It also must be self-evident that there is such a thing as a black English dialect in America. With perhaps a few lingering regional differences, it is remarkably uniform from Miami, Florida, to Rochester, New York, to Fresno, California. It prevails among the so-called black underclass, the cohort that continues to struggle economically. 

Despite its verve and inventiveness, this black dialect tends to confer low status and lower standards of living on those who speak it. In popular mythology and culture, it is associated with violent criminality and other anti-social behaviors. If you don’t believe this, turn on HBO sometime.

I argue that black people who seek to succeed socially and economically would benefit from learning to speak standard grammatical English, not solely because it is associated with higher status and living standards, but because proficiency with grammar, tenses, and a rich vocabulary helps people think better. 

After all, if you employ only the present tense in all your doings and dealings, how would you truly understand the difference between now, tomorrow, and yesterday? I submit that it becomes problematical. You may not be able to show up on time, among other things.

Some of my auditors have argued that “code switching” allows black Americans to easily turn back and forth for convenience between two modes of speech, black and “white” (i.e standard grammatical English). I’d argue that this is not as common as it is made out to be. 

Not everybody has the skill of entertainer Dave Chapelle, a master amateur linguist (whose parents were both college professors).

It’s my opinion that American primary and secondary education does not put enough emphasis on teaching standard spoken English to those deficient in it. The pedagogues have been hectored and browbeaten by the hierophants in higher ed not to press the matter. It is not regarded as important (probably because the task seems too painful and embarrassing and may hurt some feelings). The results are plain to see: academic failure among black Americans. (Not total but broad.) 

Instead, we concoct endless excuses to explain this failure and the related economic failures, the favorite by far being “structural racism” (despite having elected a black president who speaks standard grammatical English).

Now to the touchier question as to why this is. After all, other ethnic groups in America are eager to fully participate in the national life. For example, I gave a talk to a large honors freshman class at Rutgers University a year ago. 

Due to the current demographics of New Jersey, the class was overwhelming composed of Indian (Asian, that is) youngsters, many of them as dark-skinned as Americans of African ancestry. They had uniformly opted to speak standard grammatical English. 

They were all succeeding academically (it was an honors class, after all). They were on a trajectory to succeed in adult life. What does this suggest? To me it says that maybe some behavioral choices are better than others and the color of your skin is not the primary determinant in the matter.

Here’s what I think has happened to get us where we are today (second trigger warning). I think the civil rights victories of the mid 1960s generated enormous anxiety among black Americans, who were thereby invited to participate more fully in the national life after many generations of hardship and abuse. (If you argue that this was not the sum, substance, and intention of the Voting Rights Act and Public Accommodations Act of 1964-65, then you are being disingenuous.) 

However, they were not comfortable with the prospect of assimilating into the mainstream culture of the day. They either didn’t believe in it, or feared it, or despised it, or worried about being able to perform in it.

Many would attribute this anxiety to the legacy of slavery. Can a people get over a particular historical injury? American blacks are not the only group traumatized by circumstance. 

When do you decide to move forward? Or do you nurse a grievance forever? Anyway, it was not a coincidence that in the mid 1960s a new wave of black separatist avatars arose around the time of the civil rights legislative victories. Malcolm X, Stokely Charmichael, the Black Panthers, to name a few. 

That was the moment when much of the black population slid into what has become essentially an oppositional culture, determined to remain separate. Language is part of that picture.

The diversity cult of the day is a smokescreen to disguise this fundamental fact of American life: much of black America has simply opted out. They don’t want to assimilate into a common culture — so common culture has been deemed dispensable by the confounded keepers of the common culture’s flame, the university faculty. 

Much of black America doesn’t want to play along with the speech, manners, rules, or laws of whatever remains of that common culture after its systematic disassembly by the professors, the deans, and their handmaidens in progressive politics — heedless of the damage to the basic social contract. We remain very much a house divided, as Lincoln put it, and he could see clearly what the consequences would be.

Is it racist to try to air these abiding quandaries in the public arena? Apparently so. And why is that? Because of the awful embarrassment of political progressives over the disappointing outcome of the civil rights project. 

Black news pundits such as Charles Blow of The New York Times constantly call for “an honest conversation about race,” but they don’t mean it. Any public intellectual who ventures to start that conversation is automatically branded a racist. 

Hey, I couldn’t even have a conversation at a private dinner on the merits of speaking standard English with three college professors whose life-work centers on race. They had a melt-down and used a proxy (who wasn’t even there) to slander me on the Internet.

They are cowards and I am their enemy.

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