ARKANSAS LEARNIN'

Clint McCance, an elected board member of the Midland School District in the Arkansas Ozarks, does not like the gays. Thanks to some timely screen caps forwarded to The Advocate, the whole world is now aware of his colorful opinions on the subject. I'll quote him at length in just a moment.

I am but one of hundreds of bloggers who will express outrage at his opinions, although I will say little in terms of his "argument" because it is so self-evidently stupid. You do not need me or anyone else to tell you that this guy is a bigot and a dickhead.

What is not likely to be discussed, and what bothers me almost as much as his anti-gay ranting, is the fact that someone who is on a school board (and thus making decisions relevant to the education of our next generation of adults) writes at something approximating a 6th grade level. Here, Clint, let me grade this for you:

Seriously (sic; missing comma) they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves. The only way im wearin (sic) it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant (sic) believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves (sic) because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE. (…)

No because being a fag doesn't give you the right to ruin the rest of our lives (sic). If you get easily offended by being called a fag then dont (sic) tell anyone you are a fag. Keep that shit to yourself. I dont (sic) care how people decide to live their lives. They dont (sic) bother me if they keep it to thereselves (sic). It pisses me off though that we make a special purple fag day for them. I like that fags cant (sic) procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other aids (sic) and die. If you arent (sic) against it, you might as well be for it. (…)

I would disown my kids they were gay (sic). They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off. Of course my kids will know better. My kids will have solid christian (sic) beliefs. See it (sic) infects everyone. (???)

Yep.

When did it become acceptable for adults to communicate with one another like this? I don't suppose we should be surprised that someone with attitudes like this would turn out to be…well, not that bright, but no matter the content of one's message it continues to shock me how much difficulty we have making ourselves understood in some approximation of English these days. I realize that the average Northern Arkansan is unlikely to take great offense to McCance's remarks – hell, the majority probably agree with him but are smart enough to keep it off the internet. Nonetheless, I think we can raise the bar just a little and find someone who can construct a profane, ignorant rant that does not read like a 14 year old's YouTube comment.

(Again, not to downplay the offensiveness of his opinions. I just can't believe how stupid we sound irrespective of the substance and content.)

Be Sociable, Share!

92 Responses to “ARKANSAS LEARNIN'”

  1. Ryan Says:

    Eric: What you seem to be missing is that I reject the idea that a standard variety of language is some ideal to aspire to, which one can fall short of to varying degrees. It's not. A standard language is a set of forms chosen on a political, historical, and socioeconomic basis. It's not the objectively right way to speak a language, and no one speaks "the standard" of a language. Language varies, and some varieties of language (like that spoken by people with severe cases of autism) are legitimately called deficient. But to say that a variety of southern English is indicative of mental deficiency when it's written down is nothing short of bigotry.

  2. Nunya Says:

    I always think of Switzerland when a disussion comes up along these lines. Switzerland is a tiny country with four distinct languages, Italian, low German, French and Romanche that are spoken at home. Long ago, however, they decided to unify the country and require that all schools, government offices, etc. use High German as their linga franca. Not only has it simplified running the country, it provides a sense of cohesion that has served the country very well.

    While we're all free to use whatever slang, patois, or foreign language in our communities, if we ever hope to reach a larger audience, we realistically must revert to a commonly accepted langage that we all share even if it seems to be overly rigid or formal. Without grammatical rules, there can be no common understanding.

    That being said, this guy is a bigot and is clearly unqualified to serve in his current position.

  3. Ryan Says:

    Paul: Let's not conflate general mental capacity with knowledge of a spelling system that disregards 400 years of sound change. They're not the same thing, at all, and to say so is pretty disingenuous.

  4. Paul W. Luscher Says:

    Well, dude, this is from a Red State. Considering how they feel about "ejum-ucated" people down there, this is the best you're gonna get.

  5. Entomologista Says:

    The only time I do not judge people for poor grammar, leet speak, no punctuation, etc. is when playing MMOs or texting.

  6. Andrew Says:

    It was the same plutocrats who are still fucking everyone over today, who you criticize daily.

    Citation needed? It seems to me the plutocrats are too busy doing other things than trying to craft language standards; it's more likely to me they're just requiring the language standards their education presented to them.

    Which would mean the problem is that public education has failed all non-plutocrats. I'm comfortable with that conclusion.

  7. Andrew Says:

    Like it or not, when you can’t spell common words correctly or write
    complex sentences coherently, it casts considerable doubt on your ability
    to understand complex issues of *any* sort.

    Agreed. Sometimes being able to conform to an arbitrary standard with no claim to the standard's perfection is simply a mark of having been educated and socialized; for example, eating with a knife and fork rather than one's hands is good, but being able to identify each of the 14 pieces of cutlery on your table and the order and food types they're used on is even better, even though arguably it's more efficient in every way to make do with a single sharp knife, a fork and possibly a spoon.

    Now, if you're going to insist that everyone set the table with all 14 pieces of cutlery every day, you're going overboard on the whole thing; but that doesn't mean you can't defensibly recognize the difference between using a fork and knife versus pawing the food into your gaping, table-level maw.

  8. Eric Says:

    Ryan:

    I'm not suggesting that it is indicative of mental deficiency, but rather a deficiency of knowledge of the language. What reason is there to write in a manner contrary to the established standards (arbitrary though they may be) if you're aware of those standards?

  9. Da Moose Says:

    The funny thing is that he'll probably come out of the closet in a week or so.

  10. Da Moose Says:

    Oh, and, BTW, lazy speech equals lazy mind. (The abbreviation is intended to be ironic….not gay) And, also, why is this guy so obsessed with really thrilled people (gay) who like to smoke cigarettes (fags)? Can someone clue me in? TIA….bitch.

    "Who will survive in America! Who will survive in America! Who will survive in America!?!?"

  11. Fearguth Says:

    Unless you live near the boundary line between Arkansas and Oklahoma, you will never understand Clint McCance and the world he lives in. Ask a Largemouth Bass in the area. It knows what it's like.

  12. Jacob Davies Says:

    "you seem oddly willing to accept this arbitrary standard of "standard" English. Who do you think imposed that standard? It was the same plutocrats who are still fucking everyone over today, who you criticize daily. It's a remarkably useful tool for keeping the poor in their place! People who don't grow up around educated, middle-class people don't speak or write like educated, middle-class people. That doesn't make them stupid."

    Seconded.

    And I've had this argument a thousand times. People who consider themselves egalitarian liberals will jump all over those who don't use "standard English", whateverthefuck that is. The truth is, the highly educated of all political stripes scorn the less educated, openly describe them as stupid, condemn their entire culture except when they feel the need to ironically appropriate parts of it, and are perfectly happy using arbitrary markers like spelling and diction and accent to discriminate even if they'd find using arbitrary markers of race or gender horrifying.

    Now, that doesn't mean I don't think schools should teach standard English. They should, because it's a skill like standardized test-taking that is exceptionally important in the real world even though it's basically bullshit. But there's a difference between teaching something becuase you gotta and buying into the view that it makes a difference.

    All of that said, this guy is a fucktard who should be fired, but it doesn't have much to do with his writing.

  13. Joe Bauers Says:

    I WRITE BLOG COMMINT NOT BUK MANUILL SO NO RULES 4 ME. IF U UNNERSTAND WHUT I SAY, WHY NOT GUD?

  14. Ryan Says:

    Eric: Why not write the established standard all the time? Because your idiolect of English is sufficiently different? Because you're writing in a place where the standard isn't necessarily expected? Because you don't want to? None of these are sufficient reasons?

  15. Southern Beale Says:

    Play him off, keyboard cat ….

  16. Andrew Says:

    Ryan: I would say "I know the rules, but I choose not to apply them for the sake of expediency while typing" isn't really all that mitigating. All you've done is prove you're not ignorant of the rules, just shiftless about their application. I might wonder – does that carelessness extend to other standards, like cleanliness, hygiene, politeness or safety?

    Yes, there is an argument to be made about dialects – I won't argue that. but Mr. McCance is not demonstrating the use of any dialect aside from that borne out of sheer laziness, and that particular mode of writing is not marked by any internally-consistent standards of use that would compel me to excuse its idiosyncrasies.

  17. Ryan Says:

    Andrew: Missing the point, again. He very well could know the rules of standard written English, but it looks to me like he's writing a variety of English that has different rules. They're rules all the same, but they're different, and there's nothing about standard English rules that's any more inherently literate or better.

    There's an argument to be made about dialects, and it can't simply be dismissed as "sheer laziness." For what seems like the fifth time, that's bigotry plain and simple. English has all sorts of varieties, and they needn't be collapsed into one when we're writing on facebook, and to demand that is to tell every other speaker of English that their own English isn't good enough if it's different.

    As far as consistency in that writing goes, well, let's look at your claim that there is none. We have a fairly consistent use of "theirselves," which when considered along with the reflexive pronouns of standard English (myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves) is clearly a case of analogical leveling of an idiosyncrasy that's entirely arbitrary and unnecessary (and we see this leveling in English dialects across the Anglophone world). I could go on about how the guy treats contractions, but one example of consistency kind of shoots your comment down.

  18. Zeb Says:

    One of the other problems with advocating a "Standard" English is that the standard changes quite often. Not very long ago, saying something like "Someone left their purse here" would be entirely unacceptable, but now it is both common and (increasingly) accepted. English has no Royal Academy, like French or Spanish, so it evolves more quickly. Read writing in English from 50, 100, or 200 years ago and the stylistic and prescriptive standards, and grammar, differ–even things like spelling can change considerably. An Oxford don from 1900 would probably think even the educated among us write like barbarians!

    Fuzzy standards are obviously nice for communicability, but the more rigid they become the more stilted and foreign they are. At a certain extreme, I think they hinder rather than facilitate communication.

  19. Aslan Maskhadov Says:

    Aside from the fact that English changes rapidly, the main problem is that grammar is generally not taught in school or at least not taught past the elementary grades(at least that's what I remember). As a result good grammar depends almost entirely on correction, either by teachers, or by parents. If the teachers don't correct enough, and parents never learned good grammar, the child has no chance.

    When I took Russan in high school, our teacher often had to teach us English grammar which never appeared in any of our textbooks(though you could find it in any ESL coursebook), before we could comprehend Russian grammar.

  20. Boris Says:

    God damn, I'm glad you mentioned this, too. I did "my part" (for what it's worth) and wrote an indignant email to the superintendent of that meth-addled school district asking that McCance be fired. But I was appalled at the "thereselves" (sic) as much as I was at the hate-filled rhetoric. Jesus Christ, this man is an elected school board official? No wonder the education system has gone to shit.

  21. eau Says:

    Ahm… Ryan? That whole "one example of consistency kind of shoots your comment down." thing?

    First sentence – "…themselves".

    Kind of shoots your comment down, no?

  22. Heywood J. Says:

    You have to admire Ryan's determination here. And it's true that spelling and punctuation and grammar and such like are not, in and of themselves, foolproof signifiers of intellectual strength. There are people who spell well but who are morons, and people who do not spell well but are extremely intelligent.

    The latter group, however, seem (anecdotally, anyway) to be more common than the former. This suggests at least a statistical correlation, but probably not causation. But I think most of us can tell a smart person who simply writes poorly from someone who just doesn't give a shit. The content of McCance's tedious jabber is obviously the most irritating element of his Facebook graffito, but it is his shabby presentation of it that seals him as a doofus.

    It's the same as a college professor can spot a lazy asshole who can't be bothered to read books, much less convey ideas in the standard conventional format which they were taught for twelve years. And that's really all writing and language are, the conveyance of ideas, and sometimes the lack of them.

    McCance manages to provide an insight not only into a spite-filled, probably deeply-closeted soul, but also an extremely incoherent thought process. "If you arent (sic) against it, you might as well be for it.", whatever the fuck that means.

    Then again, perhaps Ryan's sociolinguistic assessment is correct, as that field frequently denotes non-standard usage as a class or cultural signifier. Which means that McCance may even know the "proper" rules, but if he abided by them, his friends would probably think he was a fag.

  23. Andrew Says:

    Missing the point, again. He very well could know the rules of standard written English, but it looks to me like he's writing a variety of English that has different rules.

    No, actually, I addressed this point quite explicitly. Whatever rules he's following, they're entirely his own. "Lazy typing" is not an internally consistent dialect and varies between individual users. It's not a type of English in the way British and American English are.

  24. Andrew Says:

    Ahm… Ryan? That whole "one example of consistency kind of shoots your comment down." thing?
    First sentence – "…themselves".

    Kind of shoots your comment down, no?

    To clarify, the consistency of which I speak (which would be required to call "lazy typing" a dialect) would not have to be a consistent usage by Mr. McCance alone, but by many other lazy typers as well.

    Just because I have a tendency to overuse hyphens, dashes and semicolons doesn't make "Andrew's English" a dialect unto itself and my prose is still perfectly able to be criticized. I can't retreat into sophistry in order to make my style of writing immune to grammarians.

    Neither can Mr. McCance or his white knight use the same tactic to prevent anyone from correctly pointing out he is a lazy typist, a terrible speller and generally an awful writer. The absolute best you could argue is that it's not representative of his best work, provide some better samples, and I'd revise my opinion. Until then, just because be refuses to use apostrophes in "can't" on a consistent basis doesn't mean he can't be criticized for it.

    And before someone makes the tedious comparison to e.e. cummings, please note that Mr. McCance has yet to demonstrate his mastery of the English language prior to his torture of it.

  25. John Says:

    As the comments have gone WAY off on the tangent of whether or not the guy typing like that means he's stupid or not…

    I challenge anyone to find an anti-homosexual screed of around this level of vitriol that is written in proper English. There is, anecdotally anyway, a correlation between the level of disregard for basic English language constructs, and the level of bile contained within the writing.

  26. Elle Says:

    English has no Royal Academy, like French or Spanish, so it evolves more quickly.

    Although even the Académie française does work on modernising orthography, despite its conservatism. (Perhaps someone should seek their opinion on 'theirselves' versus 'thereselves', which McCance appears to have misspelled by the rules of his own 'dialect'.)

    Other bodies who share purposes with, although are vastly less grand than, the Académie exist in other European countries, to coin neologisms and to revise spelling in line with popular usage. The clearest indicator of this is often in guidance written for markers by public exam boards.

  27. Andrew Says:

    An Oxford don from 1900 would probably think even the educated among us write like barbarians!

    Likely, but luckily we don't have to appeal to such a person. English isn't such a fast-moving target that we have no standards today at all. Yes, there is an ongoing battle to maintain the distinction between their, there and they're, but at least there is a distinction.

    Yes, the use of the comma has changed, from Dickens to today, but, we still have a standard of use, that if is it violated, looks odd, and perhaps, even wrong.

    I refer back to my previous analogy. Just because I don't expect everyone to have a full assortment of three knives, three forks and three spoons alongside various specialized utensils at dinner doesn't mean I can't object if they just start serving themselves mashed potatoes with their hands.

  28. eau Says:

    Aw man… I am so Jonesing for an NPF right now… C'mon, Ed, maaaannnn… help a brother out….. just a taste…. just a little taste… I tried scrubbing some Daily Show across my gums, nothin!…Don't hold out on us baby… you got somethin squirrelled away, yeah? For a rainy day, like?… that Alli shit last week? That was the good shit, man. Primo, primo gear…got any more of that stuff on you?…sure you do…cmon, dude…aw man…

  29. Aslan Maskhadov Says:

    Notice that his whole screed resembles a Youtube comment?

  30. bb in GA Says:

    @John: "There is, anecdotally anyway, a correlation between the level of disregard for basic English language constructs, and the level of bile contained within the writing."

    The ironic quality of this statement written HERE at gall bladder central is stupefying…

    Late breaking, the Arkansas butt-head has resigned…

    //bb

  31. Ryan Says:

    Lol "white knight". How dare I suggest that we not immediately jump to the conclusion that someone's an illiterate hack on the basis of a couple of facebook posts! How ridiculously unreasonable of me! What gall I have to suggest that someone's being a classist dick. Keep on keeping on, Andrew, clearly you've got as big of a beef with non-standard English as McCance has with fags.

  32. Andrew Says:

    Not really. What I have a problem with is the insistence that there is no way to judge Mr. McCance, even though we have several writing samples.

    Sadly, public postings on the internet are fair game. If you're not more careful, I might start assuming you're a mendacious twit.

  33. bb in GA Says:

    It was in the earlly 70s and I was on a corporate training mission in the middle of New Jersey. We were being fed in a dining room at the training center. As Andrew noted there were lots of knives, forks, and spoons at the ready.

    I was quietly concentrating on my wonderful meal which included a pork chop. With my recently well washed hand, I picked it up and commenced gnawing on that sucker. I happened to glance left and then right…wait, about 17 people were staring at me as if were buck nekid right there NJ.

    My culture said pork chops, chicken, and ribs are "finger" food. In NJ, not so much..

    I was not intimidated.

    //bb

  34. Ryan Says:

    Andrew: We have "several" samples from the same place at around the same time. People use different registers of language in different situations, and facebook/the internet aren't exactly prototypical situations for expecting high register language. What we can say at this point is "Okay, when he's not in a formal situation McCance doesn't write formally." You could go the extra step of saying that McCance is incapable of writing formally, but we have no writings from McCance that are supposed to be high register.

  35. Andrew Says:

    I think you're being far too kind in your assumptions for no good reason.

  36. Heywood J. Says:

    Given the content of his Facebook screed, as well as the operational logic underpinning it, I don't think it's unfair to assume that, if McCance had occasion to inflict his thoughts on a "high register" audience, he might at best remember how to use apostrophes, and use the "correct" "their" for "theirselves". It's like an alternate-universe Insane Clown Posse song — "Fuckin' reflexive pronouns, how do they work?"

    The way people write is a reflection of three things: how and what they read, speak, and think. People who write the way McCance does, even extemporaneously and on Teh Intartubez, typically are engaged in only speaking and reacting.

    Reading and thinking do not enter into that miserably derailed train of thought. How dare those fags ask people to wear purple to celebrate those other fags? I mean, Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ, incompetent thinking like that cannot possibly produce competent writing, anywhere, anytime, on any subject.

    Even extemporaneously, and on the internet, and regardless of content, no adult who writes like that should have any say whatsoever about what and how children learn at school. Good riddance to his dumb ass.

  37. Zebbidie Says:

    Andrew, you are being a classic peevologist. Look up Language Log for the opinions of linguists on people who act like you, and be startled to learn that what you use is not really Standard English either.

    Given the huge problems there with measuring intelligence using an IQ test which is frickin' designed for the purpose, what on earth makes you think that your imperfect formal understanding of English's rules allows to accurately determine somebody's native intelligence on the basis of a Facebook post. Sheesh, he was perfectly clear in what he was saying – there is no use in pretending otherwise.

  38. Eric Says:

    I have been convinced by Ryan. The ability to construct a sentence in English is in no way indicative of intelligence.

  39. Andrew Says:

    Look up Language Log for the opinions of linguists on people who act like you, and be startled to learn that what you use is not really Standard English either.

    Perhaps if you read what I wrote instead of what you thought I wrote, you'd see that I admit this very thing.

    What I contend is that my nearer adherence to standard convention makes me more comprehensible, and that arguing I can't criticize someone else's grammar until my own is perfect is nonsense. No one's grammar is perfect; it all lies on a continuum.

  40. Tosh Says:

    Pork chop, finger food… good
    After fifty some odd years,
    someone told me it's ok to grab and gnaw
    (metaphor?)

  41. Fifth Dentist Says:

    Years ago I was at St. Patrick's Day in Savannah with friends (most of us on acid, but that's another story for another day). Anyway, my female roommates boyfriend was a programmer for the F-16 flight simulator used at the Air Force Base in our town. He spoke proper English, but with a Southern accent. Somehow we got some rugby player from some Maryland college in our entourage during the evening. He mercilessly teased Al about the accent all night.
    So, about 4 a.m. we hear gut-wrenching puking going on in bathroom and it's the rugby guy in there. Guess who goes in and holds the guys head up out of the toilet? Yep, Al.

    That being said, this Arkansas guy is a real tool.