Sunday, November 3, 2013
Nit picking a candidate's grammar
In a recent article concerning women candidates/elected officials in New York state, Lovely Warren, the winner of the Democratic primary for mayor in Rochester, N.Y. - and given the party control of the city, the likely winner in the general election - observed of political women who went before, “I think we have just started to turn the tide in politics, and we stand on the shoulders of many other great women that have ran for offices in New York state.”
Given that it was an interview for which she presumably was prepared, as opposed to an off-the-cuff remark, her grammatical slip is regrettable. Now I'm an English teacher, and when I'm talking in front of my class I make errors. In private conversations, we all break the rules. But for an interview, for something that's going to be published, I would be far more circumspect. Moreover, having heard her speak before, this kind of an error is not an anomaly.
But what makes this really embarrassing is that part of her campaign is the deplorable state of the Rochester City School district. How can she credibly speak about improving the English scores on standardized tests - Rochester ranked at the bottom of the state results - when she speaks in public like this? What kind of an example is she setting for grammatically-challenged youth?
Oh, and don't give me "Black English" argument. She was speaking publicly to a multi-ethnic reading audience. Good grammar counts. Impressions count.
I also wondered about why our local paper not only included the quote, but also chose to use it as a pull quote. Did they not recognize the error? Did they not care? Were they trying to make her look less educated?
Maybe she will be fine mayor. Maybe she will be forgiven for minor grammatical errors like some regular foot-in-mouth politicians (Joe Biden, for example). But given her political allies, the way she has handled her election campaign, and the enormity of the task she faces in a troubled city with a dysfunctional school district, I'm not overly optimistic.
Pax et bonum