Sunday, February 05, 2006

J. Mitchell Morse: The Irrelevant English Teacher

I believe in the development of a critical, skeptical, humorous habit of mind--in the development of a liberally educated consciousness, a sensitivity to nuances and unstated implications, an ability to read between the lines and to hear undertones and overtones--both for the sake of political and social enlightenment and for the sake of our personal enlightenment and pleasure as individuals. I am a teacher of literature and of writing because I believe that precision, clarity, beauty and force in the use of language, and appreciative perception of these qualities in the language of others, not only make us harder to fool but are good things in themselves; since in a free society we are not only citizens but also individuals. I believe that the more sensitively we perceive things the more fully we can live and the less likely we are to be imposed on by advertisers, politicans and other Saviors.

--J. Mitchell Morse The Irrelevant English Teacher (1974)


Jacques Houis said...

Morse was my professor at Temple. Some of us took any class he taught. Ironically, the book remains relevant, though long out of print: substitute Bush for Nixon, eubonics for "black English", etc.

Thivai Abhor said...


I find it to be very relevant to todays classrooms/education and I agree about the substitutions.


Anonymous said...

I would say that the book should be brought back into existence with what is going on in this country.
I am looking into getting a copy from
Amazon and I did find two copies available with a large price tag of $44.27 a book. But, if it is still relevant then I owe it to myself to find out what the professor had to say about our deplorable situation of a nation that has literally gone to the dogs with the lack of serious reading and writing which has been in a decline since the time I graduated from high school circa
1965 a long time ago. We were being told then that the SAT scores were in a decline and in recent times the generation that is now upon has computer savvy and they can read till their hearts content online. Its what is going on offline that is the concern and the legitimate relationship with the solitary activity as a solitary endeavor is almost nonexistent. It comes as no surprise that Right Wing propagandists have hoodwinked this country into its present dilemma and the education of the young has failed to make them think or decipher what is going on in political discourse whereas they are receiving deceptive reports from the mainstream media that runs the country and the minds of those who receive their news from the television and the Internet.
So when one says that English or the teaching of language is irrelevant they are on to something that reveals the underlying ills of our culture.
The culture war has now leaned so far to the right that the left has to find a way to counteract and dismantle the Machiavellian plan to make us into Fascists. All the more reason to endorse the premise of this book and again it would nice to see it in print once more.

Peter Tarsio