The Role of Language in Alternative Higher Education

Spoken and written language reveals instantly to anyone familiar with dialects, accents and erudition a great deal about the speaker/writer.   This is particularly true in academia, though American academics tend to be anomalously careless in that regard.  In the effort to establish a viable and reputable alternative to mainstream university study, the use of highly polished spoken and written language must be a priority.  Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) this is easier than it sounds as  the unscripted language of American academics can so often be easily improved upon.


From SAT ACT TOEFL College Prep English Practice:

Spoken Language in the USA

Though Standard Edited English is, for all practical purposes, the same in America as it is anywhere else, American scholars seem to stray further from the written standard in their speech than does the rest of the academic world. Even highly educated professors in the US, noticeably more than their foreign counterparts, tend  toward an informal and generally very sloppy form of English that would require a great deal of editing to become acceptable on any college paper. It seems that most British, German, French, Swedish, Danish scholars speak flavors of English that are much closer to acceptable edited prose. It’s hard to know exactly why Americans are so slovenly in their speech, but this auditory environment certainly explains why American students have such difficulty mastering standard written English.

A case in point: In a DVD accompanying an Astronomy text, a number of  eminent astronomers (who shall remain nameless) gave short presentations on and explanations of astronomical phenomena.  In this video, SAT errors were committed frequently by the American astronomers, far more than by the Belgian, Danish or British scientists. That scholars in the US appear to put little effort into polishing their informal spoken language is very evident in these examples and its absence in a work that is presented as an example to students is particularly distressing.

Everyone makes mistakes in speaking. Elsewhere in the academic world however, it is not at all uncommon to hear a speaker straying briefly down an ungrammatical path, becoming aware of the problem and making an instantaneous correction.  But in the US, speakers charge ruthlessly,  unabashedly and remorselessly on, callously  mangling and mutilating their spoken language with unconscionable, indiscriminate abandon and utterly without embarrassment or contrition.

The author goes on to adduce examples from the Astronomy DVD.

It is very easy for academics to dismiss the work of out-of-the-loop scholars as amateurish and worthy only of disdain and contempt.  However, the ignominy and opprobrium directed at the uncollegian and unaffiliated everlearner is far more difficult to take seriously if the level of language and of scholarship equals or indeed surpasses that of the establishment academic.  Let’s keep this in mind as alternative higher education continues to make its mark, publish its papers and establish a reputation of its own.









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