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Monday, January 17, 2011

Bloated Prose

This article is an example of bloated prose. Instead of saying "Poor black and latino kids can have success in higher education, even in difficult fields like science and engineering. Here's how to do it," we get this:
American higher education has an extraordinary record of accomplishment in preparing students for leadership, in serving as a wellspring of research and creative endeavor, and in providing sustained public service. Despite this success, we are facing an unprecedented set of challenges. To maintain America's global pre-eminence, we must substantially expand the number of students we educate, increase the proportion of students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and address the pervasive and longstanding underrepresentation of minorities who earn college degrees, including in those STEM fields.

Clich├ęs like "unprecedented set of challenges" don't really mean much. I believe there is actually a precedent for these challenges for example. This is unfortunate because the article actually makes good, concrete points once you wade through the verbiage and find them. The authors of this article probably lose a lot of readers with "wellspring of research and creative endeavor" and "unprecedented challenges." When I hear pompous phrases like that I immediately think some university administrator is thinking up new ways to waste my time. To revise this article I'd boil is down to the plain style first by isolating certain claims, like:

--American universities are good at producing doctors, lawyers, and business executives, but not so hot at educating blacks and latinos.

--More American highs-school students need to be going to college and majoring in hard sciences and technologies once they get there.

--We've found concrete methods that work to get minorities into these majors and make them successful. This is what works...

Then I'd re-write these points using "classic prose."

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