Higher Education?

Phil Goldstein

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When me and him went their to see if they’re vegetables was as good as everyone said, and there staff couldn’t help us, I figured its not a place your going to find me shopping at again until it gets it’s act together.

If you have no issues with the preceding paragraph, stop reading; otherwise, read on:

One of my post-retirement, part-time jobs is with an executive search firm. We assist colleges and universities in filling administrative, faculty and athletics positions—presidents, vice presidents, department heads, head coaches. I recently was interviewing candidates’ references on behalf of a university seeking a Dean of Libraries. One of the references was a young lady with a master’s degree, currently studying for her PhD. Three times during the interview she referred to interactions with the candidate, her supervisor, as “me and her…”  Now while I hear this particular corruption of the English language almost daily, this is as close as I have come to correcting someone (in this case of course, ‘she and I’).

Then, only a day later, I was reading a story about the latest freshman basketball sensation at a prestigious private university where the annual cost of attendance exceeds $80,000. Among other language-bending quotes in the story that would seem to belie the young man’s academic eligibility for said institution in the first place were: “I kept looking at the score, and I just made sure we was up and we was winning. That’s something that I look at all the time. I don’t really care about my points or nothing like that.”

In an interesting twist, as I typed the above grammatical errors, my computer’s spell/grammar check attempted to correct the mistakes. But obviously, none of the language-challenged academician’s highly educated faculty peers have seen fit to correct her, nor have the highly paid coaches thought it important to correct the athlete whose public comments reflect negatively on the entire institution of ‘higher’ learning for which he plays.

One of my more memorable classes as a school of journalism undergraduate at West Virginia University was taught by Frank Kearns, former CBS foreign correspondent, purported CIA ‘connection’ and distinguished professor of journalism there at his alma mater. While Kearns’ classes were popular, mostly for the gritty stories he told about his former global exploits, what stuck with me the most was his answer to why we impressionable students should want to write. He simply said, “Because you have something to say.”

I suppose I have always had something to say about… whatever, but I did not realize how much I had to say until I started writing for various area publications, especially North Forty News with its extensive printed edition reach and even wider online reach. Inspiration for much of my writing—particularly the satirical columns that I favor—comes to me via everyday observations of people and their foibles, follies and faults. And while, interpersonal inconsiderations and irresponsibilities top the list of offenses, cringe-worthy written and verbal communications make the annoyance list as well.

One reason for writing is that it is therapy of sorts—addressing the irritations, frustrations and disappointments I encounter. Believe it or not, just putting it down in writing for others to read is surprisingly beneficial for my offended psyche.

The process of published writing also justifies my late parents’ investment in a college degree that I then did not take advantage of for over 40 years. I would give anything if Mom and Dad were still around to read my work.

But the main reason I write is just for the satisfaction of seeing if I can do it—how much I can stretch myself. And I am not so naïve to think that anything I write will influence anyone’s bad grammar, let alone bad behavior. 

At a recent dinner party, I had the pleasure of getting to know an accomplished writer of travelogues. As we discussed our different literary genres, he asked me something that, strangely enough, nobody has asked in my five-plus years of writing for four different publications, namely, did I enjoy what I was doing with my work?

The answer is a resounding ‘yes’ because I know from the comments I receive from readers that many of you relate to and agree with what I have to say, and that makes it all worthwhile. And, as Correspondent/Professor Kearns also told his students, even if you only reach one person with what you write, it is still gratifying.

Meanwhile, back to the language-challenged academician. She closed our reference interview by letting me know that she would sure appreciate it if my associates and I would consider her for the next open dean’s position. My answer: “Why certainly, me and them will absolutely give you a call.”

Be well… and at least use spell and grammar check.

Phil Goldstein writes Tales from Timnath periodically for North Forty News. Phil is a 12-year Timnath resident who proudly serves the Town of Timnath as chair of the Timnath Planning Commission. Phil is finally using his journalism degree after getting sidetracked 49 years ago. The views expressed herein are Phil’s only. Contact him with comments on the column or suggestions for future columns at NFNTimnath@gmail.com.

 

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