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'The New Illiterates'

May 19, 1991

It's interesting to note that Gitlin is a sociology professor. Thanks to Scantrons and multiple-choice tests, it is perfectly feasible that said professor never sees a student essay, or that--in his obedience to the academic imperative to publish or research--he never actually discourses with the students he so ardently defends against D'Souza's "caricature" of contemporary trends in higher education, students the reviewer tries to protect from the "hysteria (that) will only exacerbate the illiberal mood" on most college campuses.

As an English instructor at four community colleges in Southern California, I not only read hundreds of examples of student writing each week, I am also hypersensitive to the pluralistic students I work with.

Few would argue against revising the canon to include literature that reflects the varied ethnic elements that comprise American culture, or to include the amelioration of unjust, myopic, anachronistic viewpoints inherent in many "classics." Surely D'Souza was not suggesting that our students, native-born as well as recently arrived, should be denied the tools that will help them forge a new social order, some of which require revision.

I believe the whistle D'Souza was blowing played a tune that must be aired, because, even with the attention to works that reflect our multinational heritage, the students are in trouble. . . .

In the name of multicultural revision, the standards of English grammar, diction, syntax, punctuation, spelling have been deconstructed to match the jargon of the workers of the world. If the trend continues, the workers of the world will be united in common illiteracy and ignorance--a condition I doubt anyone, including Marx, wishes on civilization.

RHODA GREENSTONE, LOS ANGELES

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