How to end a sentence

A sentence from John Brennan on the subject of UFOs:

I think some of the phenomena we’re going to be seeing continues to be unexplained and might, in fact, be some type of phenomenon that is the result of something that we don’t yet understand and that could involve some type of activity that some might say constitutes a different form of life.

How UFO sightings went from joke to national security worry in Washington

I think I’ll use this when we discuss hedging in class next fall.

Sex and the semicolon

George Gopen on his introduction to the semicolon:

To be completely straightforward with you, for a very long time I harbored a suspicion that the semi-colon had something to do with sex. I remember the day – I was 12 years old at the time – when my English teacher reached the section of our textbook that dealt with the semi-colon. With a noticeable amount of emotional discomfort, he told our all-male class, “We won’t go into the semi-colon. You don’t need that now. You’ll need that later.” He was relieved not to have to tell us; we were relieved not to have to face the unveiling of the mystery. We were feeling that way about a number of concerns at that particular stage of life and had seen our fathers undergo the same discomfort and the same escape by avoidance.

My teacher was right, of course. I didn’t need the semi-colon at age 12. Unfortunately, by the time I was grown up enough to need the semi-colon, there was no one around to explain it to time. By then, I was somehow supposed to know all about it. I went around for years thinking I was one of the few people who did not understood (sic) this mystery. I now know that most people are just as insecure about it as I was.

The Sense of Structure: Writing from the Reader’s Perspective by George D. Gopen, p 161

Colonotomy!

I just found out that a copy editor removed a colon from a key sentence in the critique I just published of Jaswal et al’s pro-FC eye-tracking study. The resulting sentence is incoherent:

Indeed, it would be quite strange if there were the ability to answer open-ended questions, or, more generally, to participate in a communicative exchange, is independent of linguistic medium (speaking, writing, typing), and is limited only by one’s ability to function in that medium (to pronounce words, to write letters and spell words, to type and spell words) and by one’s general communicative competence.

I’ll leave it as an exercise to the interested reader to figure out where the colon goes.

Hint: here is the immediately preceding sentence:

There is, in fact, no empirically established or diagnostically categorized language disorder that combines extant oral skills with conversation skills that only emerge during hunt-and-peck typing.

Word to the wise: when reviewing proofs, make sure to look for tiny strike-through marks through punctuation marks whose occasionally crucial function your copy editor may have somehow overlooked.

Guide, side, teach, tell

Barry Garelick’s Out on Good Behavior: Teaching Math While Looking Over Your Shoulder (Katharine reviewed it here) is a terrific book: funny, affecting, and real. One of my favorite passages, from the Introduction and Dedication:

I want to share some advice I received from Ellen, one of my two “parole officers” whom you will meet in this book….

“Students have more faith in something they think they came up with than something the teacher tells them.”

…Some teachers have told me that they are not allowed to answer a student’s question directly. In fact, the quote from Ellen was her response to my question of why it’s acceptable for students to show other students how to do a problem, but it’s not acceptable if a teacher does so….

From time to time, however, most, if not all, teachers will answer a student’s question by telling them what they need to know in order to solve a problem. And most, if not all, teachers (myself included) feel guilty doing this, because we are taught that that’s giving away the answer and we are handing it to the student, or to put it in more educational terminology: “teaching by telling.”

The Hundred Years’ War.

I Have Been Buried Under Years of Autism Miracle Stories

Back when my son was first diagnosed, they were miracle stories about ABA therapy, the gluten-free diet, Floor Time, and chelation. But at some point after the turn of the 21st century the narrative shifted—and now it’s all about FC. Hard on the heels of Handley’s Underestimated: An Autism Miracle, which came out last month, we have Gilpeer’s I Have Been Buried Under Years and Dust (her FCed daughter is credited as co-author), which came out last week. Gilpeer, till now a relative unknown in the world of autism advocacy, has landed a bigger publisher than Handley (William Morrow), and gushing reviews in both the Washington Post and NPR.

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Underestimated: How Vaccines Create Geniuses and How Letterboards Unlock Them

The first autism cure memoir of 2021 has just come out: J.B. Handley’s Underestimated: an Autism Miracle. Handley is the author of the 2018 anti-vaccine book How to End the Autism Epidemic and, back in 2005, the co-founder (with his wife) of Generation Rescue, an organization that, besides blaming childhood vaccinations for autism, has promoted scientifically discredited treatments like gluten-free diets, megavitamins, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

But Handley’s 2021 miracle cure book isn’t about the gluten-free diet, or the vitamin B-12 doses, or the ten fecal microbial transplants, or the “more than 100 ‘dives’” into hyperbaric oxygen chambers to which Handley has subjected his autistic, non-speaking son Jamison.

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Lit Crit Meets “Autism”: Transgressing the boundaries with some help from FC

Ralph Savarese’s follow up to Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption is the even more modestly titled See It Feelingly: Classic Novels, Autistic Readers, and the Schooling of a No-Good English Professor. Also common to both books is that much of the content derives from facilitated communication. In Reasonable People, the facilitated individual is Savarese’s adopted son, Deej; in See It Feelingly, Deej is joined by two others who communicate via FC: Tito Mukhopadhyay and Jamie Burke. Three independent communicators—people who are able to produce messages without a designated helper sitting next to them and prompting them—also make appearances: Dora Raymaker, Eugenie Belkin, and Temple Grandin.

Like Reasonable People, See it Feelingly seeks to challenge what Savarese alleges to be the dominant paradigm of autism. As the book’s publisher, Duke University Press, explains:

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Another prestigious institution gets on the “Typing to Communicate” game

Beyond the University of Virginia (via Vikram Jaswal and his Eye Tracking Study), Cambridge University is also hard at work validating the latest forms of facilitated communication. I’m thinking, specifically, of Alex Woolgar, whose work (as yet unpublished) is described in detail on the International Association of Spelling as Communication (I-ASC) website.

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