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February 02, 1965 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1965-02-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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What Language Skills at rU' Level?

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NEws PHONB: 764-0552

Editorials printed in The Michigan Daily express the individual opinions of staff writers
or the editors. This must be noted in all reprints.

Facing Reality Will Make
A Meaningful Trimester

BOTH OPTIMISTS and diehards in the
University community maintain that
trimester is not here to stay. Citing such
factors as minimal enrollment, the dearth
of courses offered and the difficulty of
inducing faculty to stay on for the spring-
summer session-as well as the increased
pressure of the compressed calendar-
they conclude that within five years the
University will recognize the error of its
judgment and consequently revert to the
semester system, or establish a quarter
While this prediction may buoy up the
profound hope of older members of the
academic community that educational
ideals will not be sacrificed to the ex-
pediency of mass education, its premises
are basically unrealistic. For one thing,
the University has made a strong finan-
cial commitment to the trimester calen-
dar; its proposed 1965-66 budget and anti-
cipated increase in operating funds allo-
cation attest to state support as well.
Moreover, the University has undoubt-
edly realized that "bugs" in the new sys-
tem are to be expected in its first year
of operation---in its first five years, for
that matter. Thus the problems of ex-
panding summer enrollment, recruiting
additional faculty and diversifying the
summer curriculum are viewed as tests
of adjustment-which are thought to be
a function of time.
TWAT THE UNIVERSITY is resolute in
commitment to year-round opera-
tions has been fairly -evident since the in-
ception of the idea a few years ago. The
incentive then, as now, was to maximize
plant utility. Neither in the moments
when it was first considered nor at any
time thereafter has the University under-
taken a formal study of students' de-
sires and problems regarding the aca-
demic timetable.
When questioned at last fall's Student
Convocation concerning formal studies
of the effect of trimester on students,
President Hatcher could only point to a
self-initiated Daily survey taken last
spring. No plans for a future University
study of the question have been announc-
Thus it would appear that whatever
intellectual, emotional and physical tolls
trimester may take upon students are
unknown to the University and are not
likely to be sought and conscientiously.
Weighed as factors deciding the retention
or rejection of the new calendar.
VT THIS PROSPECT need not be ap-
palling. For once year-round opera-
tions has become a significant phenom-
enon and signs of "adjustment" appear,

the University can afford to face up to
the realities which it presently seeks to
ignore or at least discount.
Foremost among these is the reality
that undergraduate education here is
geared to the graduate pace. Though
graduate students comprise but 40 per
cent of the enrollment, there is little
question that a higher proportion of Uni-
versity energies is channeled in their di-
rection rather than towards undergradu-
ates. Moreover, increased competition
among undergraduates has heightened
expected standards of achievement and
propelled the movement toward graduate
Another reality is the necessity of ex-
amining distribution requirements and
the possibility of discarding them alto-
FURTHER IS THE CRY for a more en-
lightened grading system which will
encourage scholarly inquiry instead of
reducing "achievement" to a grade-point
Another crucial reality is the present
credit-hour system which distorts the
amount of time and thought which a stu-
dent puts into particular courses. While
general introductory courses are worth
four credits, upper-level, in-depth work is
reduced to two or three credits.
One of the most exciting possibilities
that emerges from these considerations is
that the University may actually choose,
to mold a community of scholars rather
than of students. By recognizing that the
graduate orientation toward academics is
in fact valid for undergraduates and capi-
talizing on this principle, the University
could restructure introductory courses
and revitalize upper-level courses to in-
clude palpable material worthy of inten-
sive study.
given for work which would allow for
deeper probing and more independent
study on the part of the student; con-
ceivably the student could carry a maxi-
mum of three courses of five credit hours
Moreover, broad discretion could be
given the student in choice of courses.
Grading could profitably include pluses
and minuses to differentiate more real-
istically among efforts demonstrated by
The University then could be a com-
munity in which scholars would flourish;
this is a way in which trimester might
become a meaningful experience.
Contributing Editor

STUDENTS and faculty mem-
bers who question either the
need for a second language or the
trend toward fewer electives in
college curricula simply live in a
past era of American education.
The point is not student dissatis-
faction with requirements as such.
The real questions are: Should
elementary language skills be
taught at a university, what skills,
for how long and toward what
level of proficiency?
Language as a mere skill has
no place in a university curricu-
lum and should not be taught for
credit. In most European and
some American colleges a second
language Is part of the admission
requirements, and rightly so.
If language learning is high
school work, then college students
should be grateful to receive credit
for noncollege level work, and the
faculty should resent having to
teach it. A questionnaire would
quickly elucidate whether stu-
dents and faculty feel as I sug-
gest they must. But it may be
better to let sleeping dogs lie.
A second language must be a
distribution requirement at this
university as long as it is impos-
sible to make it an admission re-
quirement. Some day this might
be possible. (Next year California
public "schools will offer a com-
pulsory second language, begin-
ning in the sixth grade.)
* * *
BUT MY FIRST speculation is
not completely true, of course.
Learning a second or a third
language can be part of a liberal
education. The ultimate aim of
education is to make a man free.
Certainly the mastery of another
language and its culture liberates
one from his ethnocentric and
provincial biases.
Even the first skills, if taught
in a culturally authentic way,
provoke a beneficial "culture
shock." Our first unmothered
sounds, our first unfathered prej-
udices jolt us outside ourselves
and make us aware of our mother
tongue and favorite prejudices.
This realization can cause dis-
tress or delight. Much more than
grammar is involved. Ortega y
Gasset remarked that an English-
man speaks with set jaws in char-
acteristic determination, and a
Frenchman with both lips forward,
as if tasting life's wine.
* * *
AN IDEAL language class should
be a sort of "cultural island"
freeing us from our own insularity.
Both its methods and materials
should reflect the people whose
odd convention it is not to speak
English, and who, as. a conse-
quence think and live differently.
Too frequent use of English
not onily destroys the elan neces-
sary to enter the foreign speech
attitudes being learned, but breaks
the convention on which French
or Spanish is founded, namely
not to speak English. In the cul-
tural island, if my second pro-
position is true, less and less ref-
erence to ways of speaking and
thinking that are our own and
more and more experience in ways
of another culture must become
Like the linguists, I place first
emphasis on language as a system
of sounds; unlike most of them,
I propose that psychological in-
terest and cultural authenticity
are what makes the system worth
I NOTE that both Politzer and
Marty, foremost writers of French
"structural" texts, have each fin-
ally added dialogues to enliven
their step-by-step approach.
The chief obstacle to this cul-
tural liberalization through a sec-
ond language comes from well-
formed habits of speech and
thought. Children are less habit-
bound than adults. They can be
"freed" by mere imitation. But

even children go through much
linguistic reasoning while doing
drill-work. Otherwise a five-year
old would not say "I brang."

The pattern-drills of applied
structural linguists are models of
analogizing. Because theyoermit
the discovery of grammar rules,
they are an intellectually valid
exercise. And at the same time
they break down interference from
English habits. Each structure
thus learned by imitation, sub-
stitution and transformation gives
more skill in handling the lan-
BUT THIS SKILL does not be-
long in a university curriculum
unless it is practiced in the
authentic climate of a "cultural
island." This suggests a simple
criterion for college-level elemen-
tary textbooks: Do cultural learn-
ings always accompany gram-
matical training?
My third proposition is a dif-
ficult truism. A college student
learns a second language in order
to use it. He may never need to
write it. (Who still writes today?)
But speak and read it he must.
The three follies of the age-
travel, science and war-demand
it. Resist those if you'd rather
not take a second language. It is
easier to learn French than to
ignore the Congo or de Gaulle.
* * *
TO REMAIN FREE, one needs
to understand the world. I do not
mean a vague "good feeling." Lan-
guage cannot give that. If any-
thing, study of another culture
will expose its defects and explode
its false cliches. Reading English
translations is not enough. I
gather from the ethnographer's
haste to learn the natives' tongue
that English distorts foreign real-
I do not wish to imply that you
should read Camoes ih order to
infiltrate Brazil. The ability to
read a good book in a foreign
language opens up other rich
hinterlands. Far from being a
deviate form of cultural behavior,
literature embodies the conscience
of a nation. We need anthropolo-
gical documents, in the native
language, as one of many ap-
proaches to foreign reality. But
without a grasp of literary writ-
ing, the promise of language
learning remains vain.
The first solution is to take
care of the second language before
admission to the University. En-
trance would be contingent upon
a certain proficiency in under-
standing, speaking and reading
any other language than English.
An intensive summer program,
supported by enough scholarships,
could be imposed on applicants
who have failed to demonstrate
this proficiency, so that no more
than two semesters of a language
would remain after admission.
Experiments show that pro-
ficiency equal to the first two
semesters can be attained inmone
intensive eight-week program, at
least in some European languages.
* * *
THE PRACTICAL result would
be to accelerate the undergradu-
ate's course of studies, and also
the graduate student's. A better-
paid intensive summer job would
liberate the teaching-fellows from
heavy fall and winter teaching.
In the summer it is easier to "live
the language" in a Peace Corps
training-type operation. Problems
or organization and subsidization
are formidable, but not mine to
A second solution is to make the
required language courses more
effective and attractive. The goal
should not be a certain number
of semester hours, but a profi-
ciency level. Intensive study has
been proved a learning factor, at
least in stage one (the present
Language 101-102).
One way would be to offer
double courses (eight credits)
with eight class periods a week,
more lab time, hoping that con-
centration would heighten moti-
vation. Another way would be in-
dependent study with teaching

two (231-232) seem to lend them-

selves better to programming than
the total gesture of speech. The
presentabeginners' programs are
rather crude things, not unlike
the first motion pictures. At least
they were funny, while program-
med materials lack the unexpect-
ed quality of good teaching.
Bored students remind the pro-
grammers that the production of
a string of phonemes or sen-
tences requires the elan and the
social setting of real communica-
tion. There is yet no proof that
learning bit by bit will enable
the student to communicate in
unprogrammed situations. The
more highly organized the pro-
gram, the more necessary are
class periods in which language
can be used freely.
A computerized teaching ma-
chine would be a wonderful home-
work gadget, not a replacement


Essentially it permits transfer of
language responses from class-
room situations to real situations
and fosters a genuine motivation
to learn. It offers native patterns
of speech and behavior. More im-
portant, it encourages coopera-
tive teaching between students.
My colleagues and I asked for the
use of one of the Oxford Co-
operatives as a French house back
in December, 1963. The plan in-
cluded thirty students learning
French, with one or two student
assistants from France. Boarders
would increase the diffusion of
this type of learning.
* * *
put to the administration this
year, and we hope it will not fail

PROF. MICHEL BENAMOU, born and edu-
cated in Paris, has done extensive work
in language teaching. The Dartmouth Col-
lege Regents gave him a vote of thanks for
his work as coordinator of the intensive
language program for the Peace Corps. He
taught at five NDEA institutes for teachers
and has written several French textbooks.
He teaches graduate courses in modern
poetry and is presently a member of the
residential college planning committee.

THIS SOLUTION would also
ease acute senior staffing problems
in many disciplines by the addition
of visiting professors taking ad-
vantage of the schedule gap be-
tween their home universities and
this one.
Meanwhile, and without much
hope of relief in the future, major
languagedepartments rely on
massive throngs of graduate stu-
dents to handle increased numbers
of what I shall charitably call
"language requirees."
Teaching has become collecti-
vised, and quality follows the
laws of large numbers. It not only
wastes the undergraduate's time,
but takes away from the teaching
fellow the time he needs for his
studies. And he in turn, lulled by
security and monopolized by duty,
takes his time.
* * *
THE TEACHING fellow's job
as a student is to cease being one
as fast as possible, grab his union
card and become a real learner.
Where only two or three years
should suffice between the bach-
elor's degree and doctoral prelims,
some of our best people take four
years or more.
But we need them to teach. This
predicament makes for fewer
PhD's, hence fewer advanced lan-
guage students, fewer high school
teachers, fewer college candidates
with a second language. Hence the
language requirement, hence the
teaching fellow's stagnation, hence
... etc.
Perhaps the real challenge of
the language requirement is to
produce enough qualified language
teachers so that the second-
language proficiency will become
an admission requirement.
* **
WHAT ARE WE doing to deal
with that problem at the Uni-
versity? Education courses still
occupy too much of the profes-
sional training of language teach-
ers. This university should lead
the state institutions in demand-
ing a reform of the law.
. But evolving methods and ma-
terials is not enough. The teach-
ers must be changed, too.
"Man," Wallace Stevens said,
"is an eternal sophomore." Wheth-
er this is a jaundice or sanguine
view depends on our willingness
to experiment.
James H. Robertson

for the teacher. We need to step
up stage one (101-102) by more
class contact and more indepen-
dent study, and allow the student
in stage two (231-132) to pace his
own progress with machines.
The closure technique promises
great advances in programming
readings, without recourse to
translation, and with ultimate
appreciation of style. The class
period in Language 231-232 would
then be a discussion of the read-
ings, and further training in the
language, within the authentic
setting of a "cultural island."
* * *
able the student to use his second
language while still in college. It
may be possible to implement it
only in a small residential col-
First, we need language houses
which provide the best setting for
teaching and living a language. At
the University of Wisconsin, the.
French house gives one hour credit
for each semester of residence.

again. No extra housing space is
involved and the extra cost of
supervision of learning by the
native assistants is minimal and
well justified.
The second part of my third
solution is to invite European
specialists in any academic field
to lecture in their native tongue.
The Russians do this, except at
the university level where new
ideas might be dangerous. They
found that taking a mathematics
course in French motivates the
student to learn both French and
The language requirement would
become practical overnight since
a student could see why he must
learn to communicate in another-
language. It would also become
clearly defined (a major difficulty
in the past). The ability to do
course work, follow lectures and
communicate the ideas of his
field of concentration would not
simply dispense the student from
language, it would encourage him
to use it.

Status of Vocational Training

Last of four articles
ALTHOUGH most people accept
the premise that something
must be done to accommodate the
increasing number of applicants
to American colleges, they differ
in their opinions of the com-
munity college as an adequate
For example, some educators
believe that the technical pro-
grams offered in the community
college would be more effective
if they were integrated into a six-
year high school curriculum.
Another common complaint is
that students come to community
colleges for very divergent reasons
--they cannot afford a larger col-
lege, they could not compete
scholastically at a larger college
or they desire a vocational edu-
cation-and thus it is unfair to
mix these very different groups
just because a community col-
lege answers all their diverse
are not as widespread as the
thesis that the community college
does not perform its role in the

vocational field. If this charge is
valid, perhaps the whole concept
of a community college serving
both the academic and technical
educational needs of a locality is
unrealistic. Perhaps a new system
of filling the gaps in our educa-
tional system must be found.
Noted educator Grant Venn
pointed out in a report on com-
munity colleges by the American
Council on Education that "A
major difficulty in achieving this
goal (of having adequate voca-
tional training programs in com-
munity colleges) is the prestige of
the baccalaureate degree vis-a vis
vocational or technical compe-
tence. Junior colleges have suc-
cumbed to academic status-seek-
ing in neglect of technical train-
ing. Two-year colleges must make
vocational and technical educa-
tion a major part of their mis-
Other educators are quick to
point out that students as well
as community colleges are very
status conscious. Bert Schwartz,
a former publicist for community
colleges, wrote in an article in
the Saturday Review that many
students who would be better off
in vocational curricula will enter
liberal arts programs because of
their prestige value.

State Board Must Set Goals

THE RECENT REPORT from a meeting
of the State Board of Education and
the Michigan Coordinating Council for
Public Higher Education states that the
board "is not currently concerned with
higher education finances." This state-
ment makes the board's position in state

Managing Editor

Editorial Director

ANN GWIRTZMAN..............Personnel Director
BILL BULLARD ...................Sports Editor
MICHAEL SATTINGER .... Associate Managing Editor
JOHN KENNY...........Assistant Managing Editor
DEBORAH BEATTIE ..Associate Editorial Director
LOUISE LIND ........Assistant Editorial Director in
Charge of the Magazine
TOM ROWLAND ............. Associate Sports Editor
GARY WYNER..............AssociaterSports Editor
STEVEN HALLER ............... Contributing Editor
MARY LOU BUTCHER............Contributing Editor
JAMES KESON ................. Chief Photographer
NIGHT EDITORS: Lauren Bahr, David Bloch. John
Bryant, Robert Johnston, Michael Juliar, Laurence
Kirshbaum, Leonard Pratt.
Bigelow, Gail Blumberg, Michael Dean, John Mere-
dith, Barbara Seyfried, Judith Warren.
Business Staff
JONATHON R. WHITE, Business Manager
SYDNEY PAUKER .............. Advertising Manager
JUDITH GOLDSTEIN ............., Finance Manager
BARBARA JOHNSTON.............Personnel Manager
JAY GAMPEL............Associate Business Manager

education increasingly vague.
Originally the problem stems from
rather indefinite wording in the state
constitution which leaves the relation of
the board to the state-supported colleges
in doubt. But more specifically, the vague-
ness stems from conflicting statements
of the board members themselves.
Early in the year, several members of
the board said they intended to set up
some form of unified budget request
among the state colleges. This, of course,
directly conflicts with the statements
made previously.
THE BOARD is at this moment in a
fluid condition. It has neither offi-
cers, staff nor set policy. And so in a way
it is unfair to expect them to maintain a
clearcut image before the public.
But any excuses the board may have
for delaying their organization, and hence
delaying the formation of clearcut public
policies are rapidly running out. The
board has been in office nearly a month.
There is a time beyond which vacillation
cannot be excused by ignorance or physi-
cal separation of board members.
The board is currently composed of
eight people whose only justification for
sitting on that board is their interest in

DESPITE these criticisms, en-
rollment in Michigan community,
colleges has doubled since 1957,
and educators are relying on these
local institutions to expand at a
similar pace in the future. The
establishment of the Washtenaw
Community College is a testimony
to the confidence of the public in
the community college system.
One of the chief supports of the
community college movement is
John Dale Russell's 1958 urvey
of the needs of higher education
in Michigan. This survey produc-
ed 14 publications including the
famous Russell Report.
Although Michigan pioneered
with community colleges between
1910-20, very few public junior
colleges were established in the
next 20 years. In the 1950's, how-
ever, there was a resurgence of
growth of and interest in com-
munity colleges. Russell's find-
ings and conclusions added fire
to the community college boom.
R U S S E L L, chancellor and
executive secretary of the New
Mexico Board of Education Fi-
nance, advocated the geographical
distribution of higher educational
facilities. He noted that the high-
est rate of college attendance was
found in counties which contained
a state-supported educational in-
Considering that only 27 of the
83 counties in Michigan contained
any form of college, Russell
theorized that, "If the goal of
the state is to provide the widest
possible opportunity to young
people to continue beyond high
school, one of the important
means of achieving that goal is
to distribute facilities as widely as
"It seems much wiser to create
new institutions at strategically
located centers in the state where
facilities for higher education are
not now available than to attempt
to concentrate more and more
students at the existing centers as
enrollments increase."
Russell advocated the spreading
of these educational facilities
through the establishment of com-
munity colleges.
* * *
survey in 1955 enrollment in
Michigan community colleges has
tripled. By 1970 it is estimated

Informed Interest in Variety of Forms

VARIETY is the chief character-
istic of the current issue (Win-
ter, 1965) of the Michigan Quar-
terly Review. Ranging from stories
and sketches to serious analyses
of literature, research and racial
problems, the magazine truly pre-
sents a cross section of informed
On the literary side, there are
several stories, by C. M. Bryant
and Harold Cantor as well as a
translation of a Russian ghost
story by the new young writer,
Yuri Kazakov.
No one of these works struck me
as being outstanding, except in
subject matter: the first deals
with death, the second an abor-
tive seduction, and the third

O'Neill and a vivid portrait of
the Battle Creek eccentric and
spiritualist, Dr. James M. Peebles,
recreated by John Schoolcraft.
These two pieces have a decided
initial advantage inasmuch as
they deal with two exciting and
real personalities; both O'Neill and
Schoolcraft write with distinction,
and most aptly.
by virtue of space alone, is the
chief feature of this issue. Two
long pieces, of distinctly different
approach are featured: Louis
Kronenberger's "Edith Wharton's
New York" is the initial essay and
Thomas P. Whitney's "New Writ-
ing in Russia" is the final piece.

make me want to reread the
WHITNEY, who also translated
the Kazakov story, has an al-
together different approach to his
material. Committed to the thesis
that literature and politics, at
least in the Soviet Union. are ir-
revocably linked, he treats the
"New Writing in Russia" strictly
on the basis of ideology. (One
must remember that this article is
a preface to a collection of writ-
ings.) His essay is crammed full
of information about Russian lit-
erary politics. And a lively subject
it is, too.
Finally, there are the essays
which tend to justify the Quar-

progress to date.
Martha Cameron's "Why Psy-
chosis? - A personal Analysis"
made me uncomfortable. One is
aware of the deep involvement of
this woman, who is trying to re-
late, in rightly conceived language,
the nature of psychosis. Her rev-
elations do clarify, but as might
be expected, they also disturb,
mainly because they leave so much
unsaid and, at the same time, are
so allusive.
Finally, there is Prof. Emeritus
Reuben L. Kahn's "The Inspira-
tion of Research." This essay rep-
resents Prof. Kahn's thoughts
about his distinguished career. Its
fresh, honest and modest approach
testifies eloquently to the life-

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