Back to Index

The English Language, err., you know

     Previous Stanford University administrations (of course, not this one), have committed some terrible deeds, against which I protested vocally but unsuccessfully. The Geography Department was abolished, and then the Speech Department. It was thought elitist to write and speak well. The English Department encouraged students to do their own thing. As a result, in my seminars I spent hours going over papers, checking every word. The er., authors protested, well you know, wondering why, hum, I was wasting their time.
     In general, the standard of speech in this country is depressingly low. It is a pain to listen to most TV speakers, whereas Spanish TV sets a high standard both of speech and of grammar. Spanish is a beautifully clear language.
     There is hope. Ruth Simmons, president of Smith College, is leading a national campaign to raise speech standards throughout the college with a program called "Speaking Across the Curriculum." Insight (3/15/99) says Stanford is among the institutions considering similar plans.
     I have asked various Stanford administrators about this and have drawn a blank, just as when I raise the question of geography. At many universities both subjects are being ressucitated, but at Stanford, the miracle of Lazarus is beyond the powers of our administrators. Is there hope? The friends of Lazarus were skeptical at first.

Ronald Hilton - 04/22/99