The chief writing instructor at the University of Washington, Tacoma, is trying to dismantle the rules of grammar because he believes they are racist—and the college has given its endorsement to his campaign.
Posters that appeared this week in the college’s writing center are part of a new effort to teach students that the conventional rules on how to structure sentences and form ideas in written language are perpetuating inequality and “white supremacy.”
“Racism is the normal condition of things. Racism is pervasive. It is in the systems, structures, rules, languages, expectations and guidelines that make up our classes, school, and society,” the poster claims. It goes on to say that critiquing a student’s use of language, or implying that there is any one grammatical standard within the English language, is inherently discriminatory.
The writing center director, Dr. Asao Inoue, is the brains behind the operation to up-end students’ regressive notions of language. He is a “searcher of anti-racist writing assessment,” according to his Twitter profile, and has published two books on how to promote a “socially just future” by dismantling academic structures that reward proper grammar and usage.
The University of Washington did not immediately respond to Heat Street‘s request for comment, but vice chancellor of student affairs, Dr. Jill Purdy, noted in her own official statement that the program “is a great example of how we are striving to act against racism. Language is the bridge between ideas and action, so how we use words has a lot of influence on what we think and do.”
Grammar, according to the posters in the writing center, can “justify placing people in hierarchies or restricting opportunities and privileges because of the way people communicate in particular versions of English.”
To solve the problem, the program intends to help students become aware of “social justice” issues in their everyday life, and to help them “check their privileges”—particularly those that result in unconscious racism.
They also appear to say that they will not deduct from grades—even in English classes in an English department—for failing to use proper grammar. “We promise to emphasize the importance of rhetorical situations over grammatical ‘correctness’ in the production of texts,” a “commitment” on the poster reads. “We promise to challenge conventional word choices and writing explanations.”
Inoue also holds seminars on how to identify and correct “white supremacy” in grading writing assignments; self-help workshops for actual (yet self-identified) grammar Nazis.
His tolerance does have a limit, though. He really does not like Donald Trump.