Below follows an email to Mr. Crist protesting his bad grammar and punctuation when he was Commissioner of Education.
The barbarism of the Education Commissioner's abusing the English language in a press release savaging gays, academic freedom, and the First Amendment offended me then and offends me now.
People who can't write Basic English and punctuate it correctly following the rules they should have learned in the 9th grade should have the humility to admit themselves unfit for public office.
They especially should not head the schools and contaminate the education of the young as is the present case in the Hillsborough County school system, in which Superintendent Elia continues the tradition of illiteracy of Hillsborough County school superintendents perfected by her predecessor, Dr. Earl the Pearl Lennard. Dr. Lennard, after a career in education beginning in a vo-tech classroom and continued to his retirement on an opulent golden parachute of tax money awarded him by a Board that supports illiteracy in superintendents couldn't punctuate.
Ms. Elia, also plucked from the mediocrity of the in-house candidates that always get the superintendent job despite the pretense of a "nation-wide" search costing the taxpayers $35,000, continues to mispunctuate sentences on the schools' Web pages with the Board's blessing. Students are not supposed to graduate from high school making such basic errors, but the Board gave La Elia a big raise the other day. They would have probably added her own nuclear deterrent if she could punctuate.
The highest-level administrators in Ms. Elia's administration practice barbarous illiteracy. Dr. Jim Hamilton, her Edgar Bergan in this administration, does not know the difference between the homophones "your" and "you're."
When you are governor, I expect you to confirm your stated dedication to education by passing a state law identical to that in effect in Massachusetts, the Number One state in education in the nation--as compared to Florida's 29th. That law says that school administrators must pass the language exams teachers must pass to get a job.
Those would have weeded out Mr. Lennard and Ms. Elia and would weed out the illiterate administrator candidates in Florida as it does in Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, you should ask Mr. Crist in the general election to meet you at the OK Grammar Corral to shoot it out with commas, semicolons, and apostrophes. I pray that as the Democratic candidate, you can punctuate while shooting straight, sir.
lee drury de cesare
15316 Gulf Boulevard 802
Madeira Beach, FL 33708
Remedial English 101
By Lee De Cesare Dear Commissioner Christ:
I have reviewed your press release below on the play Corpus Christi. You condemn it as an insult to Christianity because it portrays Christ as gay.
You condemn the university that allowed its performance. You condemn the Palm Beach Post for praising the performance. You condemn academic freedom as a license for arrogant professors to pursue vulgar ideas on campuses offensive, if not to the entire community, at least to sensitive, "thinking" persons such as you.
I do not challenge your magisterial mastery of the ethical limits for dramaturgy, the abuses of academic freedom as practiced by arrogant Florida professors, or the First Amendment excesses of the Palm Beach Post in printing its opinion.
Your reputation in pre-emptive homophobia is impeccable and appears intact in this criticism of the play's premise of Christ as gay. The gay community of Florida and even many in its straight community are well aware of the implications of this homophobic hostility on your part.
What I do challenge, sir, is your grammar and punctuation. This press release shows that you need Remedial English 101. You will find my interpolated corrections in red--the signature color of English professors who abuse academic freedom daily in Florida institutions of higher learning while flagging errors in crimson on student essays.
I apply the grade standards that I used for twenty-eight years for Freshman 101 essays: 50 percent for grammar and punctuation and 50 percent for grammar and punctuation.
I regret to report that you have five grammar felonies in this essay: three fragments, one subject-verb agreement error, and one spelling error.
I understand that the first press release misspelled "Taliban" but corrected it in subsequent press releases when someone from the teachers’ union pointed out the error. You get docked for that misspelling nonetheless; this essay is not a make-up essay. These serious errors count five points each: 25 points off. You have fifteen less serious errors in italics, comma use, capitalization, and pronoun-antecedent agreement. These cost you two points each: 30 points.
The 25 points plus the 30 points give you a dismal 55 minus points for grammar and punctuation. Since this error score totals more than the 50 points possible, you earn a zero for grammar and punctuation. I don't count more off than 50 points in this area; to do so would be like shooting somebody and then going over and kicking the body. The content part of your grade involves the essay's intelligence, originality, organization, and style.
You must trust your teacher in this area. I would be glad to send you my transcripts and academic honors if you doubt my competence. I grade your essay a C for content: you earn 35 points out of a possible 50. If we add your grade of zero in grammar and punctuation to the 35 you earn in content, your score for this essay is 35.
This grade flunks you.
My advice is to repeat it to improve your basic writing skills to a level that we citizens in Florida have a right to expect from Education Commissioner Charlie Christ. You say at the end of your press release that the legislature has the "ability to take almost any action without fear of limitation or consequence."
I wonder if this unbridled power makes possible this body’s passing corrective legislation that your press release demonstrates is urgent: a law making obligatory education commissioners’ passing a basic grammar and punctuation skills test as the price for being sworn into office.
With all due respect,
Lee Drury De Cesare
Original Message ----- From: Higgins, Deborah To: 'lee' Sent: Monday, May 07, 2001 1:09 PM Subject: RE: Here is the statement you requested. April 12, 2001
Here is the statement you requested.
April 12, 2001
Remedial English 101
Original Message -----
From: Higgins, Deborah
Sent: Monday, May 07, 2001 1:09 PM
From: lee [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Sunday, May 06, 2001 8:45 PM
Please email me the press statement that Commissioner Crist made on "Corpus Christi."
Lee De Cesare
Here is the statement you requested.
April 12, 2001
A few weeks ago the world watched in stunned disbelief as Afghanistan’s extremist Taliban (I understand that your first press release misspelled this word and that you corrected it after it earned a "sic" from literate person.) government ordered and then carried out the destruction of two ancient Buddhist statues that stood at the crossroads of the Great Silk Route. To all civilized cultures, it seemed an act of unfathomable callousness, wiping away in an instant irreplaceable artifacts that had stood for more than 1700 years.
To Buddhists the act had an added dimension of cruelty, for it represented (The comma after "cruelty" is redundant; "for" is not a coordinating conjunction in this sentence but a subordinating conjunction equivalent to "because" and introduces a dependent adverbial clause.) not just the destruction of objects but the desecration (You have an incomplete correlative in this phrase. It should read "not just [equivalent to "only"] the destruction of images but also the desecration....") of images held sacred by that religion. Appropriately, the media voiced its ("Media" is the plural of "medium"; your pronoun should be "their" to agree with its antecedent.) outrage at a governmental act so profoundly insensitive to the religious beliefs of others that it took on the flavor of a violent personal assault.
You can imagine my confusion, then, when a few weeks later a Palm Beach Post (italics for title of a newspaper) staff writer praised Florida Atlantic University for funding an event that desecrates the accepted image of Jesus Christ. FAU sponsored a play called "Corpus Christi" in which (I infer this play to be more than one act; multiple-act plays get italics, not quotation marks.) Jesus is depicted as a homosexual who surrounds himself with a cast of lecherous and profane disciples.
As with the destruction of the great stone statues, the sponsorship by government of this enormously disrespectful act should appall any thinking person who honors the religious beliefs of others. (Logic: Let me get this straight: you compare the destruction of the ancient Buddhas in Afghanistan to a little play presented by students in Florida?)For Christians, it is a personal attack, (Superfluous comma: the present participial phrase is restrictive: it modifies the general noun preceding it, "attack.”)defiling the accepted image of the Son of God.
How could administrators at FAU have shown such poor judgment in spending taxpayers’ money for this purpose? Reflexively, they cite "academic freedom" as the rationale. Of course (A comma should follow this transitional "of course," a sentence modifier.)"academic freedom" is the final refuge in which professors hide when confronted with the absurdity and arrogance of their decisions. It is a wasteland entirely unmoored from standards, (Superfluous comma: the "where" clause is a restrictive adjectival clause modifying the general noun "standards.”) where any activity can be justified if it exceeds our "comfort level" by "challenging" our preconceptions.
Unfortunately, "Corpus Christi" (Use italics, not quotation marks for a play of more than one act.) does not illuminate our understanding of divinity. Stripped of its shock value, it is simply a sophomoric treatment of the Crucifixion. And in the end, all it "challenges" is this: Our (Don’t capitalize the first word after a colon unless it begins a sentence.)"comfort level" in the leadership of FAU.
Perhaps these leaders should have considered who would not sponsor the play before they decided to enfold it in the cloak of academic freedom.
First, no private organization in Florida was willing to pay to have the play presented to an audience. Why? Because the play is so ferociously unappealing that it would never turn a profit. (Treating an adverbial dependent clause as a sentence is a fragment, a grammar felony.) Surely, in spending taxpayers’ money, universities have some duty to reach the broadest possible audience with information.
Second, no newspaper would bring the play to the masses by printing its script because the language is so foul. If the Palm Beach Post (Italicize the name of a newspaper.) thinks "Corpus Christi"(Use italics for a play of more than one act.) shows great literary merit, why doesn’t it print the text for its readers? Because if it did, it would lose part of its readership, and therefore its revenue. (This is your second dependent adverbial clause treated as a sentence. You have a problem recognizing a sentence.) Instead, the newspaper encourages the university to do it. (Vague pronoun reference: you have no antecedent noun for "it" to point back to in the preceding clause.) With your money. (This is a third fragment: a prepositional phrase treated as a sentence.)
If this bit of hypocrisy were not enough, the Palm Beach Post (Use italics: title of a newspaper.) then rails against the Florida Legislature for threatening to withhold money from FAU in response to "Corpus Christi."(Use italics.) Apparently the newspaper hasn’t heard of "legislative prerogative." It’s a phrase that acknowledges the Legislature’s (No matter how important you consider the legislature of this state to be, it does not merit a capital in Standard English.) ability to take almost any action without fear of limitation or consequence. In that sense, it’s a lot like academic freedom.
Maybe FAU had a point after all.
Florida Education Commissioner
Tallahassee, FL 32399