We’ve secretly replaced their regular Bête Noire. Let’s see if they notice!

When I was in college in Florida, a thousand miles from home, my mother would call regularly. We would chat: I’d tell her some – certainly not all! – of the things going on at school, and she would relate the contents of the A&P sales flyer for that week. At some point in the conversation, she would put my father on the phone. Here’s how the dialogue usually went:

  • Me: “Hi, Papa, how are you?”
  • Father: “Good, good. How are you?”
  • Me: “Fine. School’s good.”
  • Father: “How’s the car?”
  • Me: “The car’s fine. The odometer went this week, so that leaves no working gauges on the dash, but it runs and I keep a gas can in the trunk.”
  • Father: “Good, good. Are you changing the oil?”
  • Me: “Yes, yes. The oil’s fine.”
  • Father: “How’s the clutch?”
  • Me: “Still working. Mostly.”
  • Father: “Good, good. Are you happy?”
  • Me: “Yeah, yeah. Things are good. School’s good. I’m happy.”
  • Father: “Okay. Here’s your mother.”

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and I think of what gift my own father might have liked to receive. Then I remember these conversations from my college days and I know that the only things my father cared about were that his children had good working cars and that they were happy.


Today is also the two-year anniversary of my blog. Writing it has made me very happy. Just writing at all makes me happy. I know my father would have liked to hear that. So, to honor him today, I am posting two things: a picture of my car, and evidence that I’m happy, which is the post that marked my debut into the blogging world, two years ago today.


It’s World Sauntering Day! (originally posted 20 June 2009) Continue reading

Who will inherit the language?

Last week, I shared some examples of the writing I see from students at the community college where I work. Most of it comes from essays written before they take writing classes, so the hopeful assumption is that they will improve as they go through their college career. In reaction to that post, Renée over at Lessons from Teachers and Twits brought to my attention this video posted on Profesorbaker’s Blog. It is an interview of Professor Andrea Lunsford, Stanford University’s Director of Writing and Rhetoric, who conducted a longitudinal study of writing abilities, following 190 students at Stanford for almost six years. She explains that she found no significant influence of technology on the quality of writing.

What can this study really tell us? How accurately does it reflect what is happening in schools and colleges these days? Can we really conclude from it that technology is not exerting any influence on the English language or writing skills? Or must we limit our conclusions to more modest proportions? Continue reading