It May Be Terminal

In: Mish-mash, Mom's Oracles, Red Said

Ms Mohs ties for first place as my all-time favorite teacher, of which I’ve had many, because she was unwavering in her resolve to maintain a standard of excellence. It was in her classroom where I was introduced to the “List of 50 Prepositions”, which, to this day, I can still recall from memory. Lord knows how I do appreciate skilled writing and Ms. Mohs was instrumental in my own personal  development. It was not from her, however, that I adopted one of my life mottos which is: Learn the rules and then learn why, when, where, with whom, and how to break them.

In addition to memorizing the prepositions,  there were  so-called “rules” regarding them, one of which was that I ought never to end a sentence with one. Handily, there was a little tune that I learned them to. (See what I did there?) “About, above, across, after, against, along, among, around, at…” and then those that began with “b” and so on. (Oops, I did it again!). 

 You, too,  have undoubtedly heard the self-righteous grammarians who claim one must never end a sentence with a preposition. (They are often the same who claim that you may never begin a sentence with “and”.)  And I am here to tell you, that is absolute hogwash. If you wonder at how it came to be that the English language developed with such a rigid criterion, it has to do with Latin not using a terminal preposition and the educated class trying to fit the language into the Latin-sized box. Oh phooey! It is nearly a dead language for a reason! (Just kidding, Omar!)

And if you are one of those who still insist that you are correct about this ill-thought-out mandate, well we will have to part ways on that. You be you in your tiny, little box, and I’ll be me, happily in very good company!

I say you shall yet find the friend you were looking for. (Walt Whitman)

Mrs. Bennet had many grievances to relate, and much to complain of. (Jane Austen)

The domestic man, who loves no music so well as his kitchen clock and the airs which the logs sing to him as they burn on the hearth, has solaces which others never dream of. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Then she remembered what she had been waiting for. (James Joyce)

Finn the Red-Handed had stolen a skillet and a quantity of half-cured leaf tobacco, and had also brought a few corn-cobs to make pipes with. (Mark Twain)

There was a little money left, but to Mrs. Bart it seemed worse than nothing””the mere mockery of what she was entitled to. (Edith Wharton)


Amherst Disappoints

In: Red Said


Having been a mother of two who have gone through the college application process, including the testing, interviews, campus visits and admission, I think that I can safely say that I am hip on the current procedure. And my opinion is that the entire thing is utter and complete bullshit. However, since Bloomberg was once again so kind as to provide fodder for me, I’ll pick a bone with a few of the issues regarding Amherst, the currently-ranked #2 liberal arts college in the US, and the admissions department.

First of all, unless your hands are damaged, or you are dexterously inept, you do not “feel badly”, Mr. Dean. Second, one divides “our” applicants, not “are” applicants, Ms. Dean. And then, I realize this is nit picky, but what is with the use of “got”? I understand that it serves as a catch-all in casual conversation, but when you are representing a top-tier school, judging who is to be admitted, and being filmed and interviewed with the POV of an elite group who has the tough job of gleaning the few exceptions from the gathering of superb, the standard for your communication really must be indicative of the standard by which you judge others.

But most important is that there is a crisis in this society where people are rewarded for overcoming what is fairly typical social conditions. Alcoholism is not so uncommon as to make someone truly exceptional if they’ve had to endure a parent with the disease while ambitiously steering their way through school. And financial woes? All but a few have not had those, so once again, economic struggles hardly make one unique. It was sickening to see how these kids (and I am certain they were encouraged, as my son was, by their school officials), to highlight their sad and pathetic situations, playing the emotional card as if hardship is a criterion for admission.

I absolutely believe that overcoming adversity and striving for excellence, despite circumstances that are not ideal Petri dishes for growing flawless product is wonderful, but ideal doesn’t exist within humanity anyway. Everyone has problems and issues. However, this insistence that “out-of-the-box” means “misfortune” is going to do a terrible disservice to the students, their peers, and those who are not admitted because their mom wasn’t an alcoholic, nor dad a speculator who lost his shirt. The good news is that those who are truly exceptional and “out-of-the-box” will reject the mediocrity and create something better. I want those kids on my team.