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Excerpt



Part of an email I sent to a friend last week:

I love working with students, and I hope the feeling is mutual for the most part. There's no workplace I've ever found that's more invigorating than the classroom.

But our students (I deal with freshmen exclusively) communicate by liking, by following, by voting thumbs up or thumbs down, by tweeting, by texting, by LOL-ing and OMG-ing, and by slinging words and/or pictures on communications platforms I've never heard of. They don't understand the value of what I try to encourage them to learn. Subject-verb disagreement? Fused sentences? Comma splices? Sentence fragments? The parts of speech? They've gone through middle school and high school without being taught this stuff, and they've been making these errors ever since they've been punching keys on their smartphones, and it hasn't mattered in terms of their being able to communicate effectively—so far as I or they know, anyway.

Maybe (slight shudder here) these things have no value. If so, then why should they buy into my message? Why should they worry about paragraphs that hold together to develop an idea, or essays that flow logically from paragraph to paragraph? There are of course exceptions, but their number dwindles by the year. It seems to me most students don't care about these things, as much as I try to stress how important they are. Perhaps they're apathetic because good writing is unimportant to an increasing number of adults, but that's a rant for another time.

I'm not knocking students. I truly enjoy working with them. It's just that communications is constantly evolving. We once sent messages via the Pony Express. Now, we watch TV on iPhones. Teaching communications today requires somebody who can speak the new languages of modern media, not somebody who thinks it's a really good idea to put a period at the end of a sentence.

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Wish I'd Said It

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“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

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"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”

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