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The Osuji Papers and Lectures

Basic English Grammar for my Brother and those Interested

by
Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D.

My brother, Paul, born after the civil war, hence attended Nigeria’s collapsed schools, writes letters that show that he does not have good command of basic English Grammar. I decided to help him. I am not trained in English but I know well written English when I see one. If this material is of help to you, good, if not, skip it. Ozodi Thomas Osuji March 20, 2006


PAUL:


It is not for me to teach you English Grammar. However, since the issue bothers me that much, I have decided to spend six hours summarizing Basic English Grammar for you. Thereafter, I expect you to obtain a good book on the subject, read it and master grammatical rules and write in conformity with those rules. It is bad enough to have typographical and spelling errors, as we all do, but to show consistent lack of awareness that ones grammar is incorrect is unacceptable in a college graduate.
Pedagogy tells us that a person is least able to teach members of his family. This is because human beings

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do not like to take directions from members of their family. A prophet is not known in his home. Nobody sees his family members as experts to be listened to. Nevertheless, I will try to help you with proper speaking and writing.

Let us start with your recent letters to me. I will lift three sentences from them and correct them:

“That is the only thing holding back from going to book appointment for interview”.

This is a screwed up sentence. It is meaningless. It is not communicative. It did not accurately tell the reader what you were trying to inform him, although he could infer your meaning (syntax).

What you were probably trying to communicate is:

That is the only thing holding (me) back from going to (the embassy) to book (an) appointment for (an) interview.

Notice the bracketed words. To you they may seem irrelevant, but they have given the sentence meaning (syntax).

“Indeed, I am very sorry for not to have written you to you for close to a week now.”

Does this sentence make sense to you? Rewritten, it could look something like this:

I am very sorry that I have not written to you in about a week.

“Anyway, I will keep you posted in all activities concerning the visa deal.”

Literally you have said that you will post me in activities concerning your quest to secure a visa. Ask this question: can you post a human being in activities…? Of course, not (This sentence is a fragment, but it is acceptable in this context; it responded to a question.) What you were trying to say is something like this:

I will keep you informed regarding my efforts to obtain a visa to go to Canada.


SENTENCE

The sentence is the basic unit of English Grammar. Let us, therefore, try to understand it.

A sentence is a complete thought. A sentence usually opens with a capitalized word, and closes with a period (full stop, as it is called in Nigeria) or question mark (?).

A sentence always contains a subject (which tells us about some person or something) and a predicate (which tells us something about the subject).

An example of a correct sentence is:

Paul would like to live in Canada.

Paul is the subject.
Would like to live in Canada is the predicate (object). What would Paul like to do? That is the question that the predicate answered.

Would is a verb. Therefore, in the sentence the verb separates subject and predicate. The verb is almost always part of the predicate. This is the case in most sentences.

For a sentence to be complete it must have a subject and a predicate. A sentence lacking in one or both of these requirements is not a complete sentence, a fragment, maybe.

There are simple sentences, compound sentences, complex sentences, and compound-complex sentences.

Examples: Nigerians eat too much carbohydrates hence become fat. (Simple Sentence)
In compound sentences there are two or more independent clauses, with a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) or with a semicolon linking them. Example:

Nigerians are Africans; they speak the Niger-Congo group of languages. (Please notice that a semicolon joins the two independent clauses in the sentence.)

Men are the masculine gender of Homo sapiens, and women are the feminine gender of homo sapiens. (The two independent clauses in this sentence are connected by and.)

A complex sentence contains at least one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. Example:

People do not become friends (independent clause) until (subordinating conjunction) they talk to one another (dependent clause).

A Compound-Complex sentence has at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause. Example:

In April, when the rain comes (dependent clause) the soil is enriched (independent clause) and Ibo farmers know that their crops will grow (independent clause).


THREE SENTENCE FUNCTIONS

Declarative sentences

A declarative sentence states an idea. It ends with a period/ full stop. Example:

Azikiwe was a trailblazer for Ibos.

(I could add another clause to that statement by showing how Zik blazed the trail for Ibos: he was one of the first Ibos to go to America and encouraged Ibos to seek American education rather than the stuffy education of their English colonial masters.)

Exclamatory sentences show strong emotions. They tend to end with exclamation marks. Example:

What a mess Nigeria is in!

Interrogative sentences ask questions. They end with question marks. Example:

How are you going to get Nigerians to return to Nigeria once they have tested the affluent life of the Western world?

Fragments

A fragment is a group of words that does not express a complete sentence. Example:

Because Ibos are very ambitious and industrious.

(You can easily see that this sentence is not complete. In it, a dependent clause masquerades as a sentence. But if I rewrite it thus: It is because Ibos are very ambitious and industrious that they tend to achieve significant kudos in life, a complete sentence is formed. Please pay attention to fragments. Sometimes a writer purposely employs them when he has asked a rhetorical question in a previous sentence. That is permitted. For example: why are Nigerians corrupt? Because they all want to become rich overnight. If I add: it is because…it becomes a complete sentence, not the fragment it currently is.)




THE EIGHT PARTS OF SPEECH


A writer must be able to analyze his sentences to ascertain that they are correct. To do so, he must understand the parts of speech. Therefore, let us briefly focus on the parts of speech. They are: noun, pronoun, verb, verbal, adverb, adjective, conjunction, preposition, interjections, (and some add, articles).


NOUN

Nouns name people, places and things. When they name people they are always capitalized (such as Paul) and when they name cities they are also capitalized (such as Lagos, Nigeria); they are also capitalized when they name abstract ideas (such as God). Nouns for things are not capitalized, such as table, dog etc.

There are several types of nouns: common nouns, proper nouns, compound nouns and collective nouns. Examples:

Common nouns name persons, cities, food and so on. Boy, city, and food are therefore common nouns.

Proper nouns name specific persons, places and things. Paul, Owerri, Ofe-Owerri.

Compound nouns are two or more nouns that function as a single unit. (They can be stated as combined words, two words or as hyphenated words.)

Ibo-Nigerian, (hyphenated words)
Great grandfather, (two words)
Football, (combined words)

Collective nouns name groups of people or things.

Audience, family, crowd.

Possessive nouns

A noun can be made to possess something; a pronoun can also be made to have possession. Examples:

Paul’s book
The boy’s book

(In each case the noun possesses a book) We can replace pronoun for the noun and give it possession. His book; the country’s wealth.

Singular and plural nouns

Boy, boys
Girl, girls

If the noun ends in s, sh, ch, or x you add es to its plural form. Examples:
Church, Churches
Complex, Complexes
Box, boxes
Class, classes
Wish, wishes

If a noun ends in the consonant-y, change the y to i. Example:

City, cities
Lady, ladies

If a noun ends with the vowel –y add s. Example:

Essay, essays
Monkey, monkeys

(Vowels: a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y. The rest of the alphabets are consonants. Vowels have many sounds, consider Igbo: aaa and eee for the same alphabet, A. Consonants have constant sound.)







There are also noun phrases and noun clauses.

Paul seems a smart young man; however, he seems not to have taken the time to master the mechanics of the English language. His writing, unfortunately, does not do his considerable intelligence justice for it gives the reader the impression that he is not smart.

These two sentences are complete sentences. Each has a subject and predicate. Paul is the noun. Paul is capitalized. (Although we have not yet addressed pronouns) His is a pronoun in place of Paul. The first sentence contains two clauses: an independent, and a dependent or subordinate clause. A clause is a part of a long sentence that can stand as a complete sentence by itself. When a clause is necessary to understand another clause it is independent, and the other is subordinate to it. In the first sentence, the clause, Paul seems a smart young man, is a complete sentence. It is the independent clause in the compound sentence. The clause, “however, he seems not to have taken the time to master the mechanics of the English language” is a complete sentence; it is a subordinate clause because it cannot be understood except in reference to the preceding clause.

Phrase:

A phrase is a group of words used to represent a noun. A phrase is not a complete sentence, as a clause is. Perhaps, the best way to understand phrases is to examine them in sentences. Consider:

The nineteenth century produced Europeans who believed that they were superior to other races. With this irrational belief motivating them, they conquered the world. Although it is not true that one race is superior to others yet there is residual (feeling of superiority) in some extant Europeans.

“Feeling of superiority” is a phrase.




PRONOUN

Pronouns replace nouns in sentences. Pronouns are words used in place of nouns. This is done to avoid excessive repetitions of nouns.

There are several types of pronouns: personal pronouns, possessive pronouns, reflexive pronouns, intensive pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, relative pronouns, interrogative pronouns, indefinite pronouns. Examples:

Personal pronouns refer to persons, places, objects or things. They can be singular or plural. They can be first person singular, second person singular or third person plural

First person singular (I, me, mine, my); second person (you, your, yours) third person plural (they, them, their, theirs, its.)

Possessive pronouns show ownership. (Yours, mine, my, his, hers, its, ours, theirs.)

Reflexive pronouns add information to a sentence by pointing back to a noun or pronoun near the beginning of the sentence. They often end in self or selves. (Paul bought himself a suit to wear in the cold region he is planning to travel to. The partygoers enjoyed themselves at the party.)

Intensive pronouns also end in self or selves but merely add emphasis on the noun or pronoun.

Demonstrative pronouns direct attention to a specific person, place, or thing. There are only four of them: this, that, these, and those. (This is the woman that out of nowhere came and preoccupied my attention.)

Relative pronouns begin a subordinate clause. There are only five of them: that, which, who, whom, and those. (Paul claimed that there are extenuating circumstances accounting for his seeming unmotivated behavior.)

Interrogative pronouns ask questions. There are five of them: what, which, who, whom, and whose. (Who claimed that they are the most important members of the Umuamadi kindred?)

Indefinite pronouns refer to people, places and things without pointing to a specific one. (Memorize many of them. Examples are another, much, anybody, all, more, most, none, some, something etc.)

Consider:

While at secondary school, Paul was very good at track and field athletics. He was able to run the100 meters in under twelve seconds.

Paul is a noun. He is a pronoun used to replace Paul.

Pronouns can replace nouns for persons, numbers, genders, (masculine and feminine) and could be singular, plural and possessive.


Who, whom, that, which, they, there, their etc. are some of the most mistakenly employed pronouns in the English language. Even seasoned writers often make mistakes in employing those pronouns.

I went there.
Their boss was a mean spirited man.
(See how there and their are used in the above two sentences: in one, there stands for a place, and, in the other, their, is a possessive pronoun for the plural, they.)

Pronouns have case: nominative, objective and possessive. Examples:

Nominative case: I, you, he, she, it, we, they, who, whoever

Objective case: me, you, him, her, it, us, them, whom, whomever

Possessive case: my, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, its, our, ours, their, theirs, whose, whoever.

Antecedent, Latin to go before, the verb to which the noun/pronoun refers to must agree. A pronoun must agree, or matches its antecedent in number, person, and gender.

Example: I am, we are, he is, they are etc.

Making pronouns agree with numbers. Singular pronouns must agree with singular verbs, plural pronouns must have verbs that agree with them. Boy (singular) boys (plural): The boy rides his bicycle to school. Boys ride their bicycles to school. (Notice the addition of s to the verb ride in the singular form of the pronoun, boy and no s in the plural pronoun boys.

Consider:

There are five oranges in the basket. They are delicious oranges.

Now, suppose I had said: it is delicious oranges, what is wrong with that sentence? Oranges is plural. It (pronoun) is singular. Therefore, to use the singular pronoun to represent plural oranges is wrong; one must employ the plural pronoun, they.

Gender is another tricky area where pronouns are misused.
Consider:

Paul is a man. He is a man.

Chioma is a young woman. She is a woman. (Singular…here the verb is)
Nigerians are an ungovernable bunch. (Plural…here the verb is are)

So far so good. Now consider: Nigeria is a country in West Africa. She is a rowdy, disorganized country. (The feminine gender she is employed for countries, vessels like ships and so on.)

There is a lot to be said about pronouns; I am not being exhaustive, I am merely introducing the subject and letting you to go do the real work of figuring out how it works.



VERB



Please pay extra attention to verbs; you consistently show lack of understanding of verbs, specifically verb tenses. This mistake drives me up the wall. Your writing reminds me of the way black Americans speak, such as say: “I starts”.

Goddamn it, it is: “I start”

And, for Christ’s sake, talk in Standard (or, as the British say, Queens) English, not so-called black English/Ebonics. (Black Americans are West Africans and speak English as typical West Africans, particularly Nigerians do. They construct their sentences as we do, hence Black English or, as some black nationalists call it, Ebonics, which resembles our broken English. As it were, their sentence structure follows West African patterns, not the Germanic pattern that is English. The English, as most West Europeans, the French, Northern Italians, Spanish, and certainly Scandinavians, are Germanic people and speak with German sentence structural patterns. Some predominantly black school districts now teach Ebonics in their schools, Oakland, California, for example. It may well be the case that in the future when black people rule themselves they would make Ebonics their national language, and we in Africa make Pidgin our national language. But until we get there, we have no choice but to communicate in Standard English, the contemporary lingua franca of the world.)

DOUBLE NAGATIVES


Black Americans generally employ double negatives, such as: “I don’t have no money”. Don’t and no are both negatives negating having money and one would do. I do not have money. Or, I have no money.

(Such talking is not the same as colloquial and slang that exists in every culture, but sign of laziness and illiteracy. For example, most Americans, black or white, would say: you gonna do it, I kinda understand what you are talking about, right on, that ain’t so; yep, what ya gonna do about it? Who ya gonna call? What is up with that? These are colloquial expressions; they are not employed in standard written English. The written forms of those expressions are: you have to do it; I understand what you are talking about; well done; it is not so; what will you do about it? Who will you talk to? What about that?)

Verbs name action and conditions. Verbs describe a state of being. They tell us about activity, happenings.

There are four basic types of verbs: action verbs, linking verbs, helping verbs, verb phrases.

Action verbs tell us what the subject does. Examples are jump, walk, and laugh. (Nigerians are reportedly the world’s happiest people; no matter how poor they are, they are always laughing.)

Nigerians laugh
Paul laughs
(Please notice how laugh is employed in the singular and plural form in the two phrases.)

Linking verbs join the subject and the predicate. They do not show action. Instead, they help the words at the end of the sentence, or describe the subject. (He is a fool.)

Helping verbs are added to another verb to make the meaning clearer. They include the verb form, to be. Examples: do, does, did, have, has, had, shall, should, will, would, can, could, may, might, must. (They still have not found a way to live decently without recourse to corruption.)

Consider:

Paul spoke to his friend, Ogbede, about the possibility of his helping him go to Canada.

Paul is the noun. Spoke is the verb. (What did Paul do? He spoke to his friend. Who did Paul speak to? He spoke to his friend, Ogbede. Spoke is an action word. Paul, the subject of the sentence is the active voice.)

Verbs have tenses. Tenses depict when the said action took place: in the past, present or future, hence past, present and future tenses.

Consider:

Paul speaks English.
Paul spoke English.
Paul will speak English.

In the first sentence, the verb is employed as a present tense; the second is past tense and the last is future tense.

The tenses have participles, such as present, present participle, past, and past participle. Examples:

Talk (present); Talking (present participle); Talked (past); Talked (past participle). Notice that the present participle adds ing to the present verb talk. Talk, I am talking, I was talking; Play, I am playing, I was playing. Past and past participle are pretty much like good, old past tense. Talk: I talk, I talked; Play, Played.

Tenses can have perfect forms, such as present perfect, past perfect and future perfect. Examples:

Present perfect: I have talked. Past perfect: I had talked. Future perfect: I will have talked.

Mood

Verbs show mood. Mood shows the attitude expressed towards the action; it conveys the writer’s attitude towards the subject. English has three moods: Indicative, Imperative, and Subjunctive.

Indicative mood: these are used for statements and questions of facts. Example: Young persons who want to smoke marijuana do not like the fact that it is a mood-altering drug with destructive side effects.

Imperative mood expresses commands and direct requests. Example: Please stop talking. Just do it.

Subjunctive mood expresses conditions, recommendations, speculations and indirect requests. Example: Whether Nigerians like it or not, they will eventually accept the truth that corruption cannot lead to economic development. If he were to become a good student, I will do my best to be of use to him.

The only way to understand verb tense participles and perfect forms is to look at many examples, and memorize them. Grammar is a body of rules and one must memorize the rules without fighting them. Every group of human beings agreed on the rules they live under, including sociopolitical and grammatical rules. Some rules may not make sense to one but as long as we must live in society we must live under rules. A society without rules, or where people do not obey rules is chaotic, as is Nigeria. Without grammatical rules, arbitrary and difficult as they may seem, we cannot communicate with each other. If every person speaks as he pleases, no one would understand other persons and we would return to the presumed anarchy of nature before organized society gave us structure and meaning.

Verbs can be regular or irregular. When the employment of a verb in a sentence is straightforward it is a regular verb. For example: Paul works hard. Work is a straightforward verb, hence is a regular verb. But if the form of the verb changes when it is employed in a past or future tense it is irregular. The only way to deal with this issue is to memorize irregular verbs. Examples are sing (past tense is sang, not singed…in regular verbs we add ed to denote the past form of the verb but do not change its sound, for example, work, worked)

UNDERSTANDING PERSON AND NUMBER AGREEMENTS

I worked very hard.
They worked very hard.
He works very hard.

Notice that in the singular and plural forms (I, they) the verb is employed in the same manner. I worked hard, and they worked hard. In the second person singular pronoun, he, the verb takes on an s, he works hard.

You consistently say something like: I works hard. At first, I wondered whether it was mere typographical error but as I saw a pattern in your employment of verbs it dawned on me that you simply did not understand how to employ the various forms of verbs. You simply do not know how to get verbs and numbers to agree. This is ridiculous. You ought to have understood this subject in elementary school. (Please go study verb forms, they are very complex and I do not have the time or energy to explain them all in a three-hour period.)

I (is a first person pronoun.) I come
He (is a second person pronoun.) He goes
They (is a third person pronoun.) They go
(Notice the different verb forms in the three sentences.)

Transitive and Intransitive verbs.

Transitive verbs require direct objects to complete their meanings. They describe actions rather than conditions.

Example: Paul bought a fifteen hundred dollar plane ticket. (Bought here is a transitive verb.)

Intransitive verbs describe actions but are not followed by direct objects or complements. Intransitive verbs do not need a direct object. (Who called? Rain fell from the sky.)

Example: Paul and Kinsley walk to their work every day, regardless of the weather. Try to figure out why walk here is intransitive verb; it is not for others to do the hard work for you. One learns by struggling to understand difficult concepts.)

Auxiliary Verbs

These are helping verbs; they do not appear alone in sentences, they accompany other verbs.

Example:

The runner was jumping over the hurdle when he fell down.

(Was and jumping are both verbs. Jumping helped was in the sentence hence is an auxiliary verb.) Generally, auxiliary verbs combine with basic forms of verbs, present participles and past participles to make verb phrases.

Finite and Infinite verbs:

A finite verb functions as the main verb of a sentence.

Example: Paul attended a day secondary school. (Attended is the main verb, hence a finite verb.)

Paul was walking to work when I saw him. (Walking is an infinite verb. Notice the ending of the verb in ing. The sentence has another verb, saw.)

MAINTAINING AGREEMENTS BETWEEN SUBJECTS AND VERBS

Subjects and verbs must correspond in person and number.

The boy plays at his school compound. (Boy/plays)

The boys play at their school compound. (Boys/play)

These are simple enough but when several words come before the subject and verb one can forget what the verb form should be. An example is:

The boys were playing when I asked them to leave the schoolyard. He ran home. (The right pronoun here is they, and the right verb is ran.)

VOICE

In most sentences, the subjects perform actions. In passive sentences, however, the subjects are acted upon. Whether a subject is acting or is acted upon is a matter of voice.

Active voice: here the subject is the one acting:

Example:

The Nigerian army defeated the Biafran Army at Owerri on January15, 1970.

Passive voice: Here the subject is acted upon:

Example:

While in a bus, Paul’s money was stolen by Nigerian thugs. (Paul, the subject, is acted upon by the thugs, hence the verb, stolen is in a passive form. Compare it to the sentence: The thug stole Paul’s money. The thug is the subject and he is the one acting, stealing, hence active voice. )

Gerunds:
Gerunds are verbs employed as nouns; they are called verbal nouns. They usually end with ing. An example is: work (verb) working (gerund). “The working of electricity is still a mystery to science.” In this sentence, working is employed as a verbal noun, hence is a gerund.


We could spend months trying to understand the nature of verbs, however, I merely want to high light aspects of them and stress the importance of understanding them and then leave it to you to rigorously study and understand them. Also, don’t forget to study verbal(s).




ADVERB

Adverbs modify words that cannot be modified by adjectives; they modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs, and even whole sentences. Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Adverbs answer the question: when, where, how, to what extent.

When: He left yesterday.
Where: He fell down from the tree in the backyard.
How: He sang the Christmas carols happily.
To what extent: He kept at the work until it was completed.

Adding ly to an adjective forms most adverbs. There are adverbs that do not end in ly, of course. Memorize as many adverbs as you could. (Examples: almost, quick, often, so, near, more, soon, already, even, yesterday, low.)

Adverbs can be disguised or used as conjunctions, conjunctive adverbs. (Examples are: accordingly, also, besides, moreover, however, nevertheless, therefore, consequently, for example, other wise, on the other hand, indeed, finally etc.)

Example:

In 1961, while visiting Okpolu, Robert and Thomas saw an old rabbit run quickly back into its burrow. They

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dug a hole to get to the rabbit and eventually caught it. They thought that they had killed the rabbit and took it home and made a huge bonfire to roast it. An interesting thing happened. The supposedly dead rabbit jumped out of the fire and sped away. The two boys chased it and caught it. This time they held the rabbit down to the fire. The old rabbit, however, refused to die and it took several minutes before it was eventually subdued and made to die. A few days later, the boys’ grandfather died. Thomas, being the introspective type, wondered whether there was any correlation between the old rabbit’s death and his grandfather’s present death? Had they killed their grandfather, was the man’s soul in the rabbit and he refused to die and they hastened his death? Tom felt guilty from this episode, and for a while refused to eat meat.

(Run quickly, is an adverbial phrase. Run is a verb; quickly is also a verb. Quickly is an adverb, it helps the verb run. You can figure out the nature of verbs from this example. The Ibos say: If I get you a wife should I also prepare the mat for you to sleep with her on? By the way, what does that little idiomatic _expression mean? To truly understand a language you have to understand its idiomatic expressions. Quickly, what is the meaning of the following English idiomatic expressions: he kicked the bucket; the fat is in the fire, he grabbed the bull by the horns, penny wise pound foolish, in every dark cloud is a silver lining, there is light at the end of the tunnel, he who lives in a glass house should not throw stones; rolling stones gather no moss.)



ADJECTIVE


Adjectives modify nouns. Adjectives describe nouns or pronouns. They answer these questions: what kind, how much, which one, how many?

What kind: He bought a red car.
How much: He paid a pretty penny for the car.
Which one: The new car is different from the jalopy of a car he drove in the past.
How many: He owns many cars, some fancy, others purely functional means of transportation.

There are several types of adjectives: common adjectives, proper adjectives, compound adjectives, indefinite adjectives and articles.

Common adjectives describe nouns or pronouns. (He is a strong man. He is a sensitive man. He is a very athletic man.)

Proper adjectives are formed from proper nouns. (Owerri soup, pepper soup, bitter soup, ishi ewu.)

Compound adjectives are made up of more than one word. (Examples: far-off country, young person.)

Indefinite adjectives do not specify the amount of something they are describing, instead, they describe general quantities. They are also pronouns. Examples: another, neither, many, all, some, nor, several, any, both.

Articles are a special type of adjectives. There are only three of them: a, an, and the. (Examples are: A, An, are called indefinite articles because they refer to general things. A man, an elephant. The is a definite article because it refers to a specific thing. The man.

The tall, black man helped the weak, old lady board a bus.

(Tall, black, weak and old are adjectives, they are descriptive words, they tell us something about the nouns or pronouns in the sentence...tall man, black man, weak lady, old lady.)

Adjectives are sometimes formed from nouns. Example: Person (noun) personal (adjective). See any list of such words.

There are adjective phrases and adjective clauses. (In standard six, at Ladi Lak Elementary School, Apapa, Lagos, we memorized the various adjectival phrases and clauses.)

We have already talked about the nature of phrases and clauses. What we need to clarify is whether those are adjectival or adverbial. Entire phrases and or clauses can be used as adjectives. Examples:

The jumping horses were beautiful to watch.

Please make an effort to understand the various types of adjectives, such as coordinate adjectives, compound adjectives, proper adjectives, and so on.

Forming comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs.

Comparative: Robert is taller than Thomas.
Superlative: Lawrence, however, was the tallest.

Conjunctive Adverbs.

Conjunctive adverbs act as signposts to help easily guide the reader from idea to idea. Examples are however, likewise, finally, etc.

RUN ON SENTENCES

In a run- on- sentence two sentences are joined and incorrectly punctuated as a single sentence. Example:

Paul can run very fast, consequently, he can win a gold medal at the Olympic games.
(The comma after consequently is correct but the comma before it is wrong. We shall presently get to punctuations.)



CONJUNCTIONS


Conjunctions connect words, phrases, and clauses. There are three types of conjunctions: coordinating conjunctions, correlative conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions.

The most familiar conjunctions are: and, but, with, or, nor, either etc.

Coordinating conjunctions link words or word groups. There are seven of them: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. (Example: I thought that the place I was going to was near, but I found out that it is quite far.)

Correlative conjunctions also link similar words or word groups, but they are always used in pairs. Both …and; either…or; neither…nor; not only…but also; whether.or. (Examples: He lost both his pants and shirt. Either you pony up or you shut up. Neither he nor she is able to do what they had promised to do.)

Subordinating conjunctions link independent clause (complete sentence) to a dependent clause (incomplete sentence, that is, a fragment). Please memorize some of these such as before, although, though, till, until, wherever, unless, as if, as long as, even though, if, since, where, because, in order that.



I came with a friend. The boy and his friend came to my house. He is an interesting chap but there is something about him that I cannot quite figure out. He is either a genius or a fool. Neither he nor she wore the right clothing for the occasion.



PREPOSITION


Prepositions connect nouns, pronouns, and noun like elements to other words in sentences. Prepositions are words that link a noun or a pronoun following it to another word in the sentence.

One must memorize prepositions such as: about, behind, above, across, on, amiss, after, during, in, near, outside, over, of, opposite, around, at, against, despite, inside, outside.

A noun or pronoun always follows a preposition. A prepositional phrase is a preposition and its object; it can be two or three words long. Examples: on the wing, waiting in the wings, he has (a foot in the door).

Example:

The food is on the table. On is the preposition; it indicates the relative position of the food and the table.

(Some languages have masculine and feminine forms to articles. French, for example, has le, masculine and la, feminine. Le garcon; la fille. Also, in French the adjective comes after the noun, not before it, as in English.




INTERJECTION

Interjections show strong emotion. They are generally set off from the other words in the sentence with a comma or an exclamation mark. Examples:

Oh!, what a pretty sight it was to behold.
Wow!, what a splendid performance, you can’t beat that.



PARAGRAPH

Sentences are complete statements. However, sometimes it takes a group of sentences to make an idea clear. The linked sentences that clarify a thought are a paragraph.

Example:

That young man fascinates me. I do not know what to make of him. He appears very ambitious. On the other hand, he does not seem able to do what ambitious persons do, get off their asses and go do what they have to do to get their goals met. He seems to sit around and want others to do things for him, and when they necessarily fail to do so, since nobody can live others’ lives for them, he blames them for his failure. He does not seem to understand that the universe helps those who help themselves.
The government, for example, will give you a scholarship if you obtain excellent grades in your secondary school graduating examination. At universities, professors will recommend you for fellowship and financial assistance if you show promise in their field, as indicated by obtaining top grades in their courses.
He appears to put out little or no efforts, obtain gentlemanly grades, and then expect people to run to his aid. He does not seem to understand that people are only willing to invest their hard earned money in those who show potential to succeed.
Ones past performances tell others whether one is likely to do well in the future. If one made C grades in the past, people expect C grades from one in the future; hence do not feel motivated to invest their scarce resources on one.
He does not seem aware of this reality and thinks that by merely telling people that he will do better in the future that they would believe him. Actions count more than words. Talk is cheap, whereas action is difficult. If you studied hard in the past, people would correctly assume that you would do so in the future; if you took it easy in the past, people’s experience of human behavior and habits tell them to assume that you would do so in the future, no matter what you tell them that you would do.
If your track record is one of sliding through life and you tell people that when you get to America that you would suddenly change your habitual patterns of behavior and start working hard, they would smile and think that you do not know what on earth you are talking about. In truth, many unprepared African students break down in North America. Apparently, the rigorous challenges that suddenly confront them and their lack of inner resources to cope combine to produce psychological stress in them. America tests the individual’s life skills to the maximum. It is not unusual for marginally functional Africans to decompensate and breakdown during their first year in America.
He simply has to begin showing people that he is a true scholar, and not merely sliding through life without putting out effort to get what he wants out of life. North America is a very competitive place and those who make it there are those willing to work hard, not those who want other persons to support them.

(Please notice how one paragraph segues into another. The ideas in the preceding paragraph lead to the ideas in the following paragraph. This represents the writer’s flow of thoughts. Normal persons tend to have logical association whereby one idea leads to another. Insane persons, on the other hand, tend to have thought disorders and illogical associations of thoughts; that is, one idea does not lead to another. Consider: “Yesterday, I was partying with my buddies, and the Queen of England served us beer”. Notice the illogical and improbable nature of this thought. This is typical psychotic pattern of talking, meaningless babble.)



PUNCTUATION


(After you have learnt about punctuations, please punctuate the preceding paragraph and other parts of this paper; it would give you good practice.)

People speak in cadences. They pause in certain places as they speak. Punctuations are those marks that attempt to tell us how people speak, where they pause, ask questions, exclaim and so on. The best thing to do is to memorize the various punctuation marks and employ them religiously.

The various punctuation marks are: comma, colon, semi colon, period/full stop, brackets, hyphens, apostrophes, question marks, exclamation marks, quotation marks, the dash, ellipses, parentheses, slash, and so on.


Comma indicates where people pause as they are speaking. Example:

I bought apples (,) oranges and bananas. (Please notice where the comma is in bracket.)

Semi colon is often employed in long sentences and or to separate clauses. Example:

The boys and girls club of Seattle makes efforts to provide kids from poor homes good social activities that other wise they would not be able to afford (;) folks with money contribute to the club, thereby enabling it to help the poor and needy.

Colon indicates where a quotation begins, where numbers begin, and is used after salutation. A colon is most often employed to indicate that an explanation of what was already said is about to be given. Examples:

In his interesting foray into sociological writing, The Trouble with Nigeria, the celebrated novelist, Achebe observed that: Most Nigerians want to be called chief. He did not bother to explain this unique Nigerian phenomenon whereby every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to be a chief.

If I may venture to explain, I think that Nigerians want to be called chief because they feel inferior and being called chief sort of makes them feel like they are very important persons. A combination of factors including the belittling experience of colonialism and human sense of littleness combined to make Nigerians feel inadequate and attempt to restitute with infantile claims of adequacy. These people “Act as If” they are the big shots they want to become. Their entire behavior repertoire is based on the “SEEM” model: they want to seem what they are not. In fact, many of them are suffering from diagnosable mental disorders such as delusion disorder. The deluded person believes what is not true as true; such as see himself as existentially significant when in fact he is insignificant.
One does not have to be called Chief, Alhaji, Dr, and Professor, Engineer this or that to feel positive self esteem. The mentally healthy person does not have to pretend to be who he is not; he is humble. To be called mister is good enough for him.

Quotation marks. Example: ‘The little cat laughed to see such a sight”. This encloses quotation from other people’s writings, or verbal statements. It is particularly critical in scholarly writing for it references the source of ones ideas. Failure to document references could lead to accusation of infringement of copyright laws. Indeed, one could go to jail for theft of other persons’ ideas, and in the least get ones reputation destroyed as a plagiarizer.

The Dash. (He came to my house—he was obnoxious.) A dash is usually two clicks on the keyboard.

Dot, Dot. Ellipsis. This indicates a break in the continuity of thought; for example, when you omitted parts of words in a passage you are quoting. It is usually three dots…

Parentheses are used to set off nonessential information. Information that gives the reader additional information on the subject but not necessary for your thesis. Parentheses are generally confused with brackets. ( ) Is the sign of parentheses. Whereas brackets are vertical lines curved at the top and bottom.

Question marks are used to ask questions. (?) Example: Did you mean to tell me that Africans stand by and do nothing to protect their fellow Africans as Arabs kill them in Sudan? That is incredible. This must mean one thing: that Africans do not value their lives. No wonder they sold their brothers into slavery to Arabs and Americans. They need radical surgery to improve their self-esteems.

Period/ Full Stop indicate the end of a sentence. Example:

Geoffrey appears a truly wonderful man; despite a sickness that would have discouraged lesser men, he struggles to provide well for his children (.) One raises ones hat for him (.)




Brackets are often used to inject an extra idea into a sentence. Example:

The Nigerian head of state (Olusegun Obasanjo) was a fearless soldier. He, Murtala Mohammed and Benjamin Adekunle were largely responsible for successfully prosecuting the war that brought the Biafrans to heel. The man exhibited raw animal courage. He was not afraid to die and exposed his life to danger at the battlefront. He defeated the Biafrans at the Owerri battle that ended the civil war.
Whereas there is absolutely no doubt that Mr. Obasanjo was a heroic soldier, sadly his record as a civilian leader is disappointing. Under his watch, Nigeria has been described as the third most corrupt country in the world. It is doubtful that the man has made any kind of economic contribution to the country. All he seems to know how to do is run around in foreign countries pretending to be some kind of African big shot. A big shot indeed if his people, on the average, are making less than a dollar a day. The man’s political legacy is one of abject failure.



Iboland is geographically too small and economically lacking in resources to be a viable political entity in world politics. Neither Iboland nor other parts of Nigeria should be permitted to separate from Nigeria.
As Peter Eke pointed out in his seminal writings, there was no such thing as an Ibo nation before the colonial era. It is the British who created the idea of Iboness by bringing these stubborn people into a political entity called Nigeria. The subsequent persecution the Ibos suffered in other parts of Nigeria also helped contribute to their emergent sense of oneness as a people. Prior to the twentieth century, there was no such thing as Ibo national consciousness. The Ibo only identified with his village, and as far as he was concerned the world began and ended in his village.
The persecution Ibos suffered was largely self-brought on. Ibos tend to be proud and arrogant people, and routinely insult other tribes hence make them angry with them. Considering that these other tribes were in fact more politically advanced than the Ibos, one fails to see why Ibos tend to be haughty. The Hausas have had one thousand years of written history. The Yorubas have had over five hundred years of large-scale social organization with well-defined leaders, Obas. As far as we know, Ibos were running around in the Guinea forests with no organized state of note.
Elizabeth Isichei has written an interesting history of the Ibos. However, despite her laudable and magnificent efforts, she could only trace Ibo history to the coming of Europeans in the fifteenth century.
The Ibos had at best primitive statecraft and did not form centralized states. It is doubtful that Ibos understand modern political leadership. Political leadership takes time to acquire. See modern Ibos only think mostly about their pockets and not social interest. It will probably take another generation before Ibos learn to rule modern political entities successfully.
Ibos ought to be working towards improving the political culture of Nigeria and, ultimately, unifying Africa. A united Africa (Africa Federation), with a centralized government, with an elected president, legislature and judiciary and with each of the five hundred or so tribes in Africa constituting a state, along the line of American states, can become relevant in international politics.

(The Ibo chosen name, Biafra comes from the Bight of Biafra. Apparently, some Portuguese sailor(s) in the late 1400s gave the waters between the Bight of Benin and Angola that name, a name of a village in Portugal.
Why should Ibos, Africans call themselves by a Portuguese/ European name? Shame on the ignorant folks who run around calling themselves Biafrans without bothering to understand where the name Biafra came from.
I am an Iboman and I am from Iboland or Alaibo.
While we are on the subject of names, it should be noted that the term Africa derives from Latin aferi, meaning black. To the Romans, Africa is the land of black people.
The Arab word for black is Al Sud hence Sudan is land of black people. The term moors hence Mauritania also means the land of black people.
The Spanish word for black is Negro hence Negro for black person.
Apparently Europeans and Arabs have a need to call Africans by the color of their skin. On the other hand, Africans called themselves people, in Ibo, Manu.
In as much as Africans want to be nationalistic they could call Africa Alamanu or Manuland. Of course, other Africans would object to such a name since it indicates undue Ibo influence. I suppose we have to resign ourselves to the name, Africa?
But for God’s sake, we must change the horrible name, Nigeria: niggerland to something more positive, say Songhai, the original African empire around where Northern Nigeria is now? A British House wife, a friend of Frederick Luggard gave Nigeria its present name in 1906. Nigerians pride ought to be affronted that a white girl named them. They ought to be able to name themselves.
Where the hell is Nigerians pride, anyway? Nkrumah renamed the Gold Coast Ghana, and I do not see why we cannot follow his noble example. South Africa, too, could be called Azania.)

Hyphens are used to link two words or numbers. Examples:

The Biafran-Nigerian civil war was a war of brothers. Although they do not know it, Ibos, Yorubas and Hausas are closely related; they are all part of the Niger-Congo group of Africans. Their languages are, in fact, more related than they tend to appreciate. (-) Because most Africans are related, no rational African should ever think of fragmenting the already mini states of Africa. A Pan-Africanist posture (see Marcus Garvey) is the right attitude in conceptualizing Africa’s ultimate political structure. As one sees it, eventually all of Africa must unite into a federation with each of the 500 or so tribes becoming a state in Africa Federation. The central government would be along the line of the United States Government: divided powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, with that structure replicated at the state and local levels. This is Africa’s future not some childish Ibo tribalist trying to balkanize the already too small and insignificant African nations that the colonial masters left us with.

Question marks are employed to turn statements into questions. Example:

Are you ready to fight and, if need be, die for what you believe in (?) Or are you just a talking cymbal, an empty vessel making a great deal of noise and when push comes to shove run to go protect your worthless life? The world has many talkers and few doers. It is those who are unafraid to die for their convictions that make a difference in human civilization. As Thomas Paine said during the American Revolution: give me liberty or give me death. John Stuart Mill, in On Liberty, observed that the poor are afraid to stand up and fight for their right and that is why the powerful tend to oppress them. No one can oppress a man who is ready to fight for his freedom.

Exclamation mark is employed to state an aha or Eureka feeling. Example:

When Christopher Columbus sighted land, he exclaimed: thank God! At last, we have made land. He was overwhelmed with joy.

Apostrophe is used to add a possession to a noun or pronoun. Example:

The boy’s bicycle was stolen. (Notice the apostrophe in the boy’s.) An apostrophe can change the meaning of a word. Consider:

Its
It’s
There’s
They’re



CAPITALIZATION AND ABBREVIATIONS

I have already pointed out that certain nouns are always capitalized. Names and cities, months, days of the week, major organizations and countries are examples. There are grammatical rules for capitalization. Learn those rules.

Abbreviations are shortened forms of words and or phrases. BSC, for example, stands for bachelors of Science degree. BC (Before the birth of Christ), C.E. (Common era), BCE (before the common era), A.D. Anno Domini, in the year of our lord; Ave. Dr. Mr. Ms. Mrs. Sq. St. Rd. Blvd. Mt. Yd. Ft. In.


SPELLING


Each word has a proper way to spell it. One need not argue with spelling; just look up the correct spelling in a dictionary and follow its guide. (Please when you are bored read the dictionary, starts with the first alphabet, A. Devote a day or two to each alphabet and soon you would have read most of the words in a standard dictionary like the Oxford or Webster dictionary.)

Learning how to sound out words, phonics helps in pronouncing and spelling words correctly. In the end rely on the dictionary, not on your own sense of how a word is spelled.

It helps to understand the nature of prefixes and suffixes. Some words have many syllables, sub sounds to them; the first syllable is the prefix and the last is the suffix. Example: Un/intentional. Un is the prefix and intentional is the suffix. (Actually, intentional has two or more sounds to it, hence two or more syllables to it, but we shall not go there; we shall not confuse us more than is necessary.)

You can memorize common prefixes like dis/satified, mis/spell, un/acceptable, re/election, inter/related. And some common suffixes like; accidental/ly, drunken/ness, foresee/able.

Contractions

I am (I’m)
You are (you’re)
He is (he’s)
We are (we’re)





VOCABULARY

The only way to increase ones vocabulary is to read books. Those who read a lot have large vocabulary; those who seldom read employ the same words over and over. There are over half a million words in the dictionary. One can eye ball all of them and use them. One of the saddest things to behold is inner city youths with limited vocabulary. As a matter of fact some of them know only a few words, usually curse words like fuck, fuck you, shit, mother fucker, cock sucker, bitch, son of a bitch, asshole, goddamn, cunt, cunt sucker damn you, freaking, and adolescent expressions like chill, groovy, tight, and cool. ‘That is cool, man” That is just about the extent of these people’s vocabulary. They use these words over and over again that one pities their inability to employ more words to express their thoughts.

Needless to say that people tend to like it if one’s vocabulary is rather extensive. A person with a large vocabulary is said to be articulate and is a joy to listen to. Instead of using the same words over and over again he employs synonyms and antonyms (what are those?) and generally uses different words as often as he can.



STYLE/VOICE

Every person has a style of writing. Some are good writers and others are not. Some are artistic and have ways with words. Some persons are wordsmiths whereas others have limited vocabulary.
The individual also has a voice, the particular manner he expresses himself, which is different from other persons.
Some persons are artistic and use words rather lovely. I am not an artistic person. I am a thinker and employ words, prose that express rational, not poetic thinking. Know your self and try to, at least, write in Standard English and leave it at that.

VERBOSITY VERSUS CONCISENESS

Some persons are very verbose and take many words, sentences, paragraphs and even pages to say what could be said in a few words. That is who they are. They are usually convoluted, hiflutin and flowery. These are generally insecure persons trying to seem knowledgeable and in the process come across as pedantic.
Some persons are concise and get to the point. Whereas this is good sometimes these people do not always make themselves understood. Precise and such is useful but one must learn to explain ones self in writing. The critical thing is to avoid REDUNDANCY by eliminating unnecessary words and ideas. Get to the point as quickly as you can but do so in style, in good grammar.




DICTION

Understand the meaning of words, their connotation and denotation. Know about the nature of homonyms.
Good diction entails using the right word in the right place. You must know what words mean. Each word has different meanings. Use the dictionary to ascertain these.
Know the difference between Standard English and colloquial, slang, vernacular, and so on.


POLITICAL CORRECTNES, PC

We live in the age of political correctness and certain words are not appreciated by certain segments of society. One must learn to avoid sexist and racist words. If you called a black person nigger, a white person hunky, and a woman a bitch you are obviously looking for trouble.
Whereas rational persons seldom consciously employ sexist terms, they may do so inadvertently. For example, I tend to employ masculine pronouns more than I do feminine ones in my writing. That practice tends to offend feminists and they hate one for doing so. Therefore, one must try to be gender neutral in ones writing, though that is easier said than done. (You could say: chair, or chairperson instead of chairman.)
Avoid clichés, (how many of those do you know? He was put on the spot, he did it on the spur of the moment, he was called on the carpet, he went out on the lam, he circled the wagon, it is raining cats and dogs, he is as straight as an arrow, he is on the take, he is as sweet as sugar, etc.) And euphemisms.
Employ jargon mainly when you are addressing your colleagues, professionals in your field. If you write with professional jargon to an audience that does not understand your words you have lost them. (Lately I read Nigerian newspapers. They attempt to write in social science language. Alas, it is poorly understood social science hence they come across as ill educated persons pretending educated status. They ought to write in high school level English as American and British newspapers do. They ought to get out of their phoniness and pretended sophistication.)


EDIT YOUR WRITING BEFORE SHARING IT WITH THE PUBLIC.

If you want well-educated persons to read your writing please take the time to edit it before you give it to them. Editing means making sure that you followed good grammatical rules and that you eliminated redundancies. If a purist who adheres to proper grammatical rules sees a few grammatical errors in your writing he may decide not to read further.
You never know who will read your stuff so make the stuff readable. This is particularly so when you write letters to potential employers (cover letters and resumes must be in appropriate format and good language).
If you use Microsoft Word software in typing, your life is made considerably easier because of its built in spell and grammar check program. However, you cannot rely on those for they are not always accurate. Whoever did the programming consistently confuse there and their.
Some computers even have a Thesaurus and you could use it to make sure that you employ different words rather than always the same old ones.
After all is said and done, it is your responsibility to make sure that your writing is in Standard English.
No one is ever perfect in his language skills. For example, despite my effort to be correct, I am sure that in this paper I made many grammatical mistakes. I stand to be corrected. I would greatly appreciate you giving me feedback on my inevitable grammatical mistakes in this paper. Such helpful action would enable me to improve my writing.





COMMUNICATION

The aim of learning grammar is to enable one to communicate effectively with other persons. Human beings are animals that have speech and talk to one another. For others to understand one, one must talk or write in such a manner that they follow ones thinking. No one can read other people’s minds; we can only grasp what others are trying to tell us if they follow standard grammatical rules and syntax.
In as much as, we live in an exchange economy and must work for other people so as to make money to enable us feed ourselves, business letters are very critical for our survival. One must, therefore, understand how to write effective business letters. Essentially there are three basic business letters: a cover letter accompanying ones resume to a potential employer, a resume, and when employed, writing intra-office memos. Let us look at these three forms of writing.



A SAMPLE Cover Letter

It is very critical that your cover letter be written in Standard English and follows the nomenclature in writing such letters. This is not the time to be creative, just do it; do what most people do.


Paul Johnson (Job Seeker)
Address

(Date)
November 22, 2004

Mr. John Njoku, Principal
Umuohiagu Secondary School
Umuohiagu, Ngor Okpala Local Government Area
Imo State, Nigeria

Dear Mr.Njoku:

I read in the Daily Champion of November 20, 04 that your school is seeking the services of a social studies Instructor. My education and work experiences eminently qualify me to perform the tasks you specified for that position. I am, therefore, submitting my resume to you for consideration.

As my resume indicates, I received my undergraduate degree in Political Science, from Nnamdi Azikiwe University at Awka, Anambra State. I graduated with first class honors. (In America, Magna Cum Laude; that is, GPA over 3.7, A-). I have taught social studies, particularly government, history and economics at St Thomas’ High School, Yaba, Lagos. I love teaching at St Thomas’ but I would like to live and work closer to home in Umuohiagu.

I do not know how to express it, the fact is that I feel most alive when I am teaching young people, and helping them understand the nature of man and his social institutions and, hopefully, helping them become better citizens. I believe that teaching is a noble profession, indeed, that no other profession is nobler than it.

I have written and published some articles on Umuohiagu history. As you know, our people did not have written history, and it behooves those of us interested in history to research our past and write about it. While at the University, I involved myself with the Oral History Project led by Professor James Okoro. Professor Okoro interviewed the fast dwindling elders of Umuohiagu, trying to glean from them whatever they know about our people’s history. If we do not obtain this vital information before the old folks die out we would have lost one of the best sources of history of our people. The younger generation is mostly born in cities, and or brought up in Western ways, and do not know or pay attention to what seems to them our people’s rustic ways. My goal is to collate our people’s history and publish it as the definitive History of Umuohiagu.

I believe that my education and work experience has prepared me for the role of social studies instructor at your school. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you in person and discuss how I could help you accomplish the tasks you delineated for this position. I will contact you soon to arrange for an interview appointment. I can be reached at (Phone Number). Thank you for taking the time to read my letter and for your interest in my candidature for the social studies instructor at your school.

Sincerely,


M. Paul Johnson




RESUME


M. Paul Johnson
Umuorisha, Umuohiagu
Ngor Okpala LPG
Imo State, Nigeria
(Phone Number and Email Address)

CAREER OBJECTIVE:

To secure a position at a secondary school teaching the social sciences

EDUCATION:

Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria. BSC 1999. GPA 3.8

PUBLISHED WORK:

Articles on the History of Umuohiagu, In The Journal of Alaibo History 2000, 2001, 2002.

RELEVANT EXPERIENCE:

Social Studies Instructor at St Thomas High Scholl, Yaba, Lagos. 2000-Present.
Ø Taught History, Government and Economics at a prestigious secondary school
Ø Conducted Research into Umuohiagu History, in particular, and Alaibo history in general
Ø Was a Research Assistant for Prof. James Okoro in his Oral History Project at NA University, Awka
Ø Excellent Computer Skills, Certificate in Basic Programming, and Web Design
Ø Excellent Social Skills, as demonstrated in having been elected Student Body President

ACTIVITIES:

Student body president at NA University, Awka, 1999
Outstanding Track and Field athlete while at College

HONORS:

NA University award for best Political Science Student of the year, 1998

AFFILIATION:

Member of Nigerian Political Science Association, since 1999
(It is generally recommended that you keep your resume to one page, but not more than two pages long. Academic CVs, on the other hand, tend to list ones publications, hence are longer.)



MAKING IT AT WORK

Most work organizations are usually hierarchical in structure. (See typical Organization Chart…it delineates each member’s role in the organization.) Usually, in such pyramid-like organizations, there are few persons at the top, some in the middle and many at the bottom. (See Max Weber on the Nature of Bureaucracy…They are hierarchical, have formal interpersonal relationships, job positions are specified and persons hired to perform them, are impersonal, members hired on merit basis; Members promoted on merit, are procedure and process bound, there are rules and rules everywhere, are generally inefficient but are the best form of governmental organizations we have so far devised. All the talk of democratic organizations, flat organizations, participative organizations are idealistic. The fact is that people possess different levels of information and knowledge; all things being constant, the best-informed and qualified persons will make decisions for the less informed. Democracy seems overrated, and may not belong in the work place? Technocracy rules the modern work environment.)
People communicate in work organizations. Those at the top communicate to those at the bottom and those at the bottom try to communicate to those at the top. At present, memorandum seems the most effective way of communicating in work organizations. Another is meetings and the minutes written after them.
Of course, informal communication is always taking place in work organizations, such as, one on one talk. Workers talk to decision makers in their work place.
Given the critical role of memos and meetings I have chosen to briefly review them in this write up on English Grammar.




MEMO

(Sample)


DATE: Nov. 22, 04

To: Mr. Bayo Adeyemi, Principal, St. Thomas High School

From: Paul Johnson, Social Studies Instructor (Initial your letter here. Example: MPJ.)

Subject (RE): Request for Increase in Pay

I have been with St Thomas High school for four years. During that period, I have taught all aspects of High School Level Social Studies.
I came to the school as an inexperienced recent university graduate, and thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to gain teaching experience and prove myself worthy of teaching at your school.
I believe that my teaching skills have considerably improved since I began teaching at your school. I think that, as the students attest in their regular evaluation of my teaching, I am an excellent teacher.
I am requesting that my base salary be increased. Specifically, I would like to be moved from my present entry- level position and its associated pay to the next or higher level(s) on the teachers’ pay scale. I believe that I deserve this promotion and pay raise.
Additionally, it should be noted that the cost of living keeps rising and one is no longer able to make ends meet with the wage one has made in the past four years.
I fervently pray that you honor my request and reward me with increased pay and promotion. I will not disappoint you. I will redouble my efforts to be the best teacher that I can be. Thank you for paying attention to my request.



RUNNING MEETINGS

Most business organizations, schools included, have regular meetings. At the management level, these meetings usually take place once a week for at least two hours (they are called Management Team Meeting). At such meetings, staff expresses their views as to how to run their work organizations. The leader (President, Director, Manager, and Supervisor) is generally in charge of running these meetings.
One must learn how to participate in them, to talk slowly and respectfully so that other members understand what one is talking about and feel respected by one. One must learn to be a team member and develop espirit d’ corps. One must make contributions to every organization one is a part of otherwise one is fired/sacked.
Work organizations are pragmatic; they hire and keep only employees who help them achieve their goals and objectives. They are not charities and are not in the business of providing one with a job out of sentimental desire to help one survive. One either helps the business organization improve its bottom line, make profits, or one is seen as the weak link in the team and fired.
For our present purposes, these organized work meetings are conducted in a certain manner. Some one, usually the boss or his assistant puts together an agenda (he calls on members to submit agenda items to him prior to the meeting so that he might put them together in some organized form) and runs the meeting. After each meeting he writes the MINUTES and gives it to all members to read and make corrections. Minutes are generally the first order of business at subsequent meetings. They are discussed, changes made, and eventually approved and adopted. They become part of official records and are placed in company files for future reference.

(In American corporations, the law requires that all official documents be kept for, at least, seven years before they are shredded. The government, the IRS, for example, may, at any time, request to see a business’ records to ascertain how legal its financial practices are. Are you paying the right amount of taxes given your profit and loss statements? If you hired employees, and some one complains that you discriminated against him, and sues you, a judge may subpoena your records, and examines the questions you asked at the interview and evaluate their relevance to ascertaining a prospective employee’s ability to do the job? What are the validity and reliability and other studies indicating that your tests for hiring people are accurate judge of ability to do the said jobs? How did you make the decision to hire whomever you hired? Did you hire the most qualified person or did you discriminate against women and, or minority persons like African Americans? If you discriminated against any one you could get into serious hot water.)


For our present purposes, the salient point is that one must learn how to put together agendas and write Minutes.

Most work organizations follow ROBERT’S RULE OF ORDER, a parliamentary Manual, in conducting their meetings. One ought to read that book so as to understand these things and be an effective participant in team meetings.

A typical agenda looks like this:



AGENDA

Items:

1 Last Meeting’s Minutes
2 Improving Market Share
3 Employees dissatisfaction with what they call “management’s autocratic decision making pattern”
4
5
6.

The person facilitating the meeting makes sure that discussions follow the agenda…sometimes he might alter its order if a crucial topic comes up. He also makes sure that each topic is allotted appropriate time frame so as to complete the entire topics on the agenda within the typical 1-3 hours of meeting. (In political settings, the typical President or Prime Minister holds weekly Cabinet meeting for about three hours, usually on Mondays.)
The ability to conduct meetings is usually acquired through practice. Team members usually appreciate good facilitators of meetings. They are thought of as good leaders.
Good leaders generally make sure that most persons at meetings talk and participate fully. The leader attempts to draw shy people out and get the best out of them. He is very respectful of all members and does not insult and degrade members.
Workers will rebel, such as, go on strike, if they feel that their boss publicly humiliated them. Good leaders and managers, among other skills, must possess excellent social skills and so as to be able to use people and material to attain organizational goals.
Good leaders try to make decisions in a consensus manner and that way make sure all see the organization’s decisions as theirs, and, therefore, feel invested in them and dedicate themselves to carrying them out. (Nigerian leaders do not respect the people and do not listen to the people hence the people do not feel invested in their government’s policies and laws and do not support their implementations.)

After meetings are held the supervisor or his appointee writes the MINUTES. The Minutes is a summary of what transpired during the meeting. The trick is to mention what every member of the team said…People like to read about their contributions…and then summarize what the entire team agreed on as their policies.
For our present purposes, it takes knowledge of English grammar and syntax to write good minutes. If one makes errors in writing minutes those who read them feel annoyed. This is another reason why one must understand grammar…it simply helps one to succeed in every thing one does in society.


MINUTES
(Made up Sample)

OF MANAGEMENT TEAM MEETING
HELD ON NOVEMBER 20, 04
AT THE PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE


Present: John Njoku, Paul Johnson, James Okere, Bernard Nwankwo, and Robert Nwaobilo

Absent: Fabian Amaobi

The Principal (Chairperson of the meeting) called the meeting to order at 10AM. He asked the Secretary to read the minutes of the last meeting. The Minutes were read and corrections entertained. Mr. Johnson observed that the Minutes did not quite represent what he had said during the last meeting, and repeated what he said. The secretary duly noted Mr. Johnson’s corrections.
Mr. Okere said that his understanding was that the Team had agreed to employ academic performance as the sole criterion in selecting the student valedictorian (the best student of the graduating class who would give a speech on behalf of his class of 2004). He said that the Minutes gave the impression that in making the selection the principal could include such non-quantifiable criteria as the student’s leadership skills, sociability and ability to carry out rules and regulation. He sought clarification on this matter. The principal, Mr. Njoku, said that the secretary must have made a mistake in his writing for he, too, understood the Team to have resolved only to select the student with the overall best academic record for the valedictorian. He observed that, as discussed, throughout their six-year secondary school education, three boys, Patrick, Godson and Thomas had vied for first, second and third positions in their forms, and that one of them would be selected for the honor. The secretary apologized for his mistake and made appropriate corrections.
Mr. Okere said that line twenty, paragraph two of the Minutes ought to read as follows: “The School will organize a Christmas party for the graduating students on December 17, 04, and that the boys would be allowed to invite their girl friends and have a dance. However, no alcohol will be permitted at the party.” The Secretary made note of this change.
Mr. Nwankwo said that, if he recalls it right, that the team had agreed to ask the graduating students to elect a representative to be part of the graduation ceremonies planning committee, and that this decision was not reflected in the Minutes. The Secretary said that during the meeting he was too busy taking notes and probably did not hear that specific suggestion, and added it to the Minutes.
With these corrections made, the principal asked for someone to move to accept the Minutes as corrected. Mr. Johnson moved that the Minutes be adopted as the accurate representation of the meetings held last week. The principal seconded him. No one opposed adoption of the Minutes and it was unanimously adopted.
The principal then opened the meeting to discussion of the items on today’s agenda. The main item is how to finance the High School graduation ceremonies. How much would it cost, and where would the money come from?
The principal said that he had done a little research on the subject. He said that based on the past, that it would cost about Ten thousand niaras. He said that the bookkeeper had furnished him that figure. Moreover, the bookkeeper had costed out the proposed ceremonies and said that ten thousand dollars would do it. He then passed around a financial statement sheet, budget, showing the various expected expenses; they added to ten thousand niaras.
The principal said that he has about five thousand niara left in his discretionary budget that could go into defraying the cost of the ceremonies. That left five thousand niaras to come from somewhere. Mr. Johnson volunteered to contact the student’s parents and ask them to contribute money towards the balance of five thousand naira. Mr. Okere volunteered to work with Mr. Johnson in contacting the parents and raising money through their generous contributions. The team agreed to try this method of raising the needed funds and if in two weeks not enough money was raised seek other avenues of obtaining the required sum.
At that point, the principal said that regrettably he must bring the meeting to a close because he and a few members of the Team had prior engagements that they must attend to. He said that they should table items they had not discussed as actionable items for next week’s meeting. A show of hands supported the principal’s recommendation.
The principal called on a team member to move for adjournment of the meeting. Mr. Johnson moved that the meeting be adjourned. Mr. Nwakwo seconded him, and the meeting was adjourned at 11:30 AM.
The next meeting, as usual, was set for Monday next week at the same time, 10AM, and at the same venue: the principal’s office.


COMPREHENSION AND COMPOSITION

Most examinations in English, in addition to testing for grammar, tend to have a section referred to as comprehension and essay writing. A series of short passages and or one long passage are provided to the students and they are asked read them, and thereafter answer questions based on them. I have, therefore, decided to write a long passage, and at the end of it ask you to respond to questions that seek to test your comprehension of the material.

An intriguing interpretation of reality.


Generally, it is understood that a teacher is trained in the subject he is teaching, and that his student is relatively ignorant of it. The teacher is supposed to be an expert on a subject and can impart his fund of knowledge to his student. The teacher and the student are not in an equal relationship. The one is in a superior position, and the other in an inferior position.
Indeed, some teachers construe their relationship with students as one of master-servant one. Here, the teacher is the authority figure in the teacher/student relationship. The authoritative teacher provides the docile but receptive student with information that he needs to adapt to an aspect of life on earth. As it were, the teacher is the giver and the student is the receiver, and the student is supposed to be grateful to the teacher for the gift of knowledge that the superior teacher endows on him.
Dr Helen Schucman, a clinical psychologist and a Professor at Columbia University, New York, in her book, A Course in Miracles, gave a different twist to the traditional understanding of teacher-student relationship. She stood the traditional assumption of the nature of teacher-student relationship on its head. She said that our normal way of construing such relationships is upside down and that her perspective is the right one.
Schucman’s views are very startling, to say the least. She said that the student is there to teach the teacher, as much as, the teacher is there to teach the student. In her view, both parties in this relationship are each other’s teacher and student. As such, each should be grateful to the other for teaching him what he needs to learn. A teacher and a student come together to teach one another what each needs to learn from each other?
Let us extrapolate from Schucman’s fascinating construction of reality, and see how it applies in the relationship between Thomas and Paul. Thomas fancies himself fairly well educated. He is pedantic and easily offended by deviations from orthodoxy. Paul wrote Thomas letters. Thomas saw lots of grammatical errors in Paul’s writing. At first he was irritated that a college graduate like Paul does not understand grammatical rules, which are taught students in elementary and secondary schools.
Thomas kept telling Paul to buy a book on grammar and learn what he should have learnt in elementary and secondary schools. However, it seemed to him that Paul did not pay attention to his request and continued to write in his usual confusing lingo. Paul’s most egregious mistake was in employing verb tenses. He seemed consistently unable to get noun/pronoun/verb agreements right. He would begin a sentence with a singular noun or pronoun and then confuse the verb form. For example, he would write: “I starts.”
This pattern of writing drove Thomas bananas. It reminded him of the manner uneducated Black Americans speak. Generally, he was ashamed of black Americans’ illiterate folkways and did not want to see such habits in members of his family.
Thomas resolved to teach Paul how to write in correct grammar. He did so. Alas he had not studied grammar since he did so during his secondary school, and was trying to recall the rules of grammar from memory. He tried mightily but found out that he was rusty and made many grammatical errors. In fact there were mistakes on just about every page of his write up.
From this rather embarrassing episode, Thomas learnt the meaning of the old adage: “physician heal yourself.” Before one sees the speck of dust in another person’s eyes one ought to first remove the plank in ones own eyes. When one points two accusatory fingers at another person, three point right back at one.
One must first make sure that one has corrected ones own errors before one concentrates in pointing out other people’s errors. Our world, unfortunately, is such that those who live in glass houses throw stones; each of us seems too busy trying to change other people that he does not devote the same energy improving him.
Subsequently Thomas bought a book on English Grammar, and resolved to study it, and, hopefully, improve his own deficient grammar.
Schucman would interpret the relationship between Thomas and Paul thus: She would say that Paul, the grammar challenged student, in fact came into Thomas’ life to teach him a lesson. As she sees it, Paul is the teacher of grammar and Thomas is his student. By presenting as a person with obvious deficiencies in certain language art, he offered Thomas an opportunity to teach him that language art. In trying to teach him, Thomas learnt that he himself was not an expert on English language, though he had imagined himself rather good at it. In trying to become a better teacher, Thomas had to go buy a book on English grammar and study it. As he told himself, one must know what one is trying to teach others. In studying the said book, Thomas hopefully improves his own grammar.
In effect, Paul’s deficiencies had offered Thomas an opportunity to learn something that he too was deficient on. Hitherto he had believed that he had nothing to learn on the subject of grammar until he confronted a deficient student that he had to teach, and as he attempted to teach him, he learnt that he could not do so. Paul, therefore, has helped Thomas to learn English grammar.
In this light, Schucman says that Paul is Thomas’ teacher. Thomas is not Paul’s teacher; he is Paul’s student.
As a result of teaching him, Thomas ought to be grateful to Paul for enabling him to learn what he needed to learn. Thomas ought to bless Paul rather than see himself as giving Paul something, and receiving nothing from him.
Of course Thomas did give Paul something too. As noted, Paul was grammar challenged, and to the extent that he improved his grammatical skills from learning from Thomas, Thomas has given him something of value. In their relationship, both parties gave something to each other. It is not a one sided situation where a superior teacher gave something to an inferior student. Both teacher and student were teaching and learning from each other. Both are equal in this relationship for both gave to each other what he needed to learn.
Schuman says that there are no master-servant relationships among God’s children. All people are each other’s teachers and students and, therefore, should bless and be grateful to each other.
This is not the way many people normally look at things. They tend to think that someone gives something to another and that the other merely takes. No, Schucman says, in every relationship, both parties give to each other and therefore bless each other. Even in situations where some one attacks another, Schucman says that the attacker has given something of immense value to the attacked person.
Imagine that you are sitting in your African home minding your business. Some one from far away Europe comes to your home and attacks you. Empirically, European colonizers attacked Africans. On the surface, Africans did not do anything wrong to Europeans to warrant the latter’s attack. Europeans kidnapped some Africans and sold them into slavery in the Americas. Europeans colonized Africans.
As colonial masters, Europeans brutalized Africans in every possible way imaginable. All you need to do to verify this fact is read about what the employees of King Leopold of Belgium did in his presumed personal property, the Congo. The Congolese were conscripted into free labor force and worked like animals in Leopold’s plantations. Those who refused to work hard were flogged. In fact, in many instances, disobedient Africans had their hands amputated for refusing to work for their European masters.
As human beings normally interpret these things, they would consider Europeans aggressors, and resent them for oppressing and abusing Africans. The human response to oppression is for the oppressed to feel angry and fight back, and in doing so, free himself from the oppressor’s abusive hands. Human history is a documentation of groups oppressing others, and the latter fighting off their oppressors.
Life on earth, history documents, is characterized by offense and defense, with the presently oppressed becoming the oppressors of tomorrow. As Thomas Hobbes said: life is nasty, brutish and short. People are born, live in pain and then die. From the moment of their birth on earth, people live in fear and insecurity, and take measures to defend and protect themselves. As a result people are always in conflict with each other. For all their efforts, at a certain age, all people must die. No wonder disaffected American youths say: life is a bummer.
The normal pattern of response to aggression is defense. Offense is said to be the best form of defense, thus the oppressed often aggress against their oppressors. Africans, in South Africa, for example, took to arms and fought their colonial masters. Today most of Africa is freed from the yolk of European colonialism.
Common sense says that by taking the bull by the horns, fighting back, Africans gave themselves their freedom. Oppressors are not known to voluntarily give the oppressed freedom.
Schuman comes along and says that this familiar pattern of living, offense and defense, is not right. She teaches that the oppressor, the person who attacked one is ones savior.
Schucman’s view seems outrageous. As it were, the lady psychologist seems to be blaming the victim and supporting the victimizer. How can the person who physically attacked one be ones savior?
She said that the person who attacked you is your savior; because he offered you an opportunity to choose differently from the manner you and the rest of world had chosen before. As noted, our familiar pattern of dealing with attack is counter attack.
Attack on ones body inflicts pain on one, and since healthy persons do not like pain, (apparently sick masochists do?) one tries to ward off pain by fighting the person inflicting pain on one. Utilitarian philosophers like John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham observed that human beings prefer pleasure to pain, and from their light it makes sense to fight whoever inflicts pain on one.
Schucman says the opposite of what common sense suggests that one do, fight back. She says that the person who inflicts pain on one offers one the opportunity to choose once again: to choose differently, to choose forgiveness where hitherto one had chosen counterattack, vengeance, grievance, revenge, and grudge. She says that if one can look the person who attacked one, in the eyes, and forgive him or her, that one would have overlooked what he did to one.
To forgive is to overlook what the world did to hurt one. To forgive is to overcome the world and its pathways. Indeed, she said that others have done nothing to one, except as in a dream hence to forgive them is to forgive what they had not done to one that one thought that they did to one.
If one forgives those who attack one, one, in effect, said: I am not the body that is pained by others’ attack. I am something else. I am spirit. Spirit is not body. Spirit is not pained by physical attack. Spirit transcends what is done to the human body. Spirit is not persecuted by what other people did to it; spirit is never paranoid from what other people did to it in the past, and potentially could do to it in the future. Spirit is always healthy because it does not use what other people did to it, in the past, to judge them in the present and hate them. Spirit overlooks the past behavior of all people. Spirit lives only in the present, in God’s eternal now. A now that is love, for God is love, Schucman says. (She defines love as union, to be in union is to be in love, to separate from union is to hate.)
In forgiving those who seem to harm our bodies and ego selves, the lady psychologist from New York, says that we transcend our earthly personalities, our egos and regain awareness of our real selves, which she says are unified spirit selves. As she sees it, this is exactly what Jesus did.
In her view, Jesus was a human being who found his way back to his real spirit nature. And what Jesus did, all of us must eventually do, she said. Time exists for all of us to do exactly that, return to the awareness of our unified spirit nature.
Jesus the human being preached: “love thy neighbor as you want to be loved by them, do unto others as you want them to do to you.”
Jesus defined love as forgiveness. In the only prayer that he taught his disciples, the “Our Lord’s prayer” he said: “Our father, who is in heaven, forgive us our sins because we have forgiven those who sinned against us.”
To buttress his emphasis on forgiveness, Jesus told the story of a man going to worship God and remembered that his neighbor offended him. He said that the man must first go home and forgive his neighbor before he prays to God. As he sees it, God hears all our prayers and answers them, before we pray to him, but until we forgive our neighbors their sins, we cannot receive the answers already given to our requests by God.
As it were, the children of God entered into a covenant with him, whereby, they must forgive one another before he forgives them.
In the story of the adulteress woman, Jesus said: “Let him who has not sinned cast the first stone at the adulteress woman.” All have sinned and, therefore, not qualified to judge others or punish others.
The testament Jesus brought to the world is one of forgiveness, in contradistinction to the testament of Moses that insisted on an eye for an eye, on punishment. Jesus’ teaching of love, as forgiveness, is a New Testament meant to replace the Old Testament of punishment.
For all his teaching of love the people resented Jesus and eventually arrested and crucified him. When he was arrested, while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, his irascible head apostle, Peter tried to defend him by attacking one of the policemen who came to arrest Jesus. Jesus told Peter: “Put away your sword for those who live by the sword die by the sword.”
(On September 11, 01, Moslem Arabs attacked nominally Christian Americans. Americans counter attacked them. Apparently, Moslems and Christians, Arabs and Americans, live by the sword. They will die by the sword? Of course both can choose to practice what Jesus taught them: forgive each other, turn the other cheek to be slapped when one is slapped, and have no enemies.)
Jesus was tried in the kangaroo courts of this world that find the Son of God guilty. He was found guilty and eventually crucified. But before he died, Jesus forgave those who destroyed his earthly body: “father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”
You can deceive yourself as much as you like, but the inevitable conclusion from reading the four Gospels in the Bible’s New Testament, is that Jesus taught forgiveness as the meaning of love. Jesus walked his talk. Jesus forgave those who killed him.
Why did Jesus do so? Our normal inclination is to defend ourselves when we are attacked. We do so because we value our lives and the bodies we live in. Our five senses tell us that attack inflicts pain on us, and eventually can destroy our earthly lives. We want to live on earth and, therefore, defend ourselves when attacked.
The implication of Jesus’ forgiving behavior, his defenselessness to attack is that he did not value his earthly life, as we do. As it were, he knew something most of us do not know. He knew that he has a different self, a self that is immortal and eternal. A self that those who destroy its body cannot destroy.
Believing his real self-immortal, Jesus did not bother to defend his physical body when it was viciously attacked by those who resented his gospel of love and forgiveness, the protectors of the pathways of the world, the idea of guilt and punishment.
Indeed, Jesus did not even see himself as attacked, Schucman said. Jesus was so totally identified with spirit, and disowned body, that he did not feel persecuted by those who destroyed his body.
On the other hand, those of us who identify with our physical bodies, and do not believe that we have an immortal aspect to us, defend ourselves when we are attacked. To us, our bodies are all we have and we value it greatly. The atheists among us say that all that exists is matter, and that somehow matter found a way to think, and that when matter, our bodies are destroyed thinking ceases. As they see it, upon death, human beings disappear into oblivion, never to be heard from again. Therefore, they had better make the most of the one hundred or so years the human body seems able to exist on earth, before they disappear into the great yonder from whence we came. The religionist, like the atheist, devils his thinking with imaginary constructs like hell, and thinks that upon death that his soul, whatever that is, would burn in it forever and ever and, therefore, fears death; he too wants to live on earth for as long as he could.
Both atheist and religionist are afraid of returning to their maker, hence stay in this world while Jesus voluntarily returned to his maker. Atheism and religion, Schucman says, are means of staying away from God, from the unified self.
As Schucman interprets it, Jesus saw the people who attacked him as offering him an opportunity to choose his immortal self, the Christ, the Son of God who is as God created him, unified with God and all his brothers, and is spirit and not body.
Jesus valued Christ, unified spirit and did not value ego and body. As he sees it, the ego and its body are worthless and valueless, and he did not bother defending them when they were attacked. He had his mind set on what seemed to him to have value, his Christ spirit.
Jesus, therefore, overlooked what the world did to his ego and body, and set his eyes on heavenly values. In doing so, he overcame the ego and its material body.
As the world sees these things, Jesus died, but as spirit knows it, Christ awakened in him. Jesus relinquished his ego so as to completely embrace the Christ spirit in him. Apparently, if one clings to one, one would not know about the other; it is an either or situation, ego or Christ. He chose Christ and let go of awareness of ego. We, who are on earth, choose ego and forget the Christ in us, Schucman says.
Jesus forgave those that killed him. To him, they were his saviors for they saved him from his hitherto attachment to ego and body, and enabled him to identify with spirit.
As Schucman sees it, to identify with spirit is to escape from the million pains body is subject to.
In effect, Jesus returned to God’s Grace; he lives in bliss, in peace and joy, in the condition God created for his children.
Jesus has experienced heaven and earth, and has reconciled both. Jesus now mediates between heaven and earth. He is the most spiritualized human being and, as it were, is working in sync with the Holy Spirit in his task of saving the world. In so doing, to call on the name of Jesus Christ is to call on the name of the Holy Spirit, to call on the name of God. (God has no name but it will do to give him name and call him God; provided one understands that to name something is to limit it, God is limitless and therefore cannot be named.)
What all this means is that Jesus saw his attackers as his saviors. Schucman says that each of us must do what Jesus apparently did.
In our world, each of us sees other persons attack him. Africans see Europeans colonize and screw them. Europeans caused Africans tremendous pain.
Schucman’s theology of forgiveness implies that Africans must forgive Europeans their mistakes, sins, that they must overlook what others did to hurt them. In overlooking Europeans’ oppression of them, Africans would experience their spirit self, the unified self, the Christ.
In regaining the awareness of the Christ self, through the auspices of European attack upon Africans, Africans, in effect, Europeans would have enabled Africans to be saved from the pains of living as an ego in body. The attackers have, in other words, helped redeem the Son of God, in this instance, Africans from the hell that is attachment to the ego, to life on earth. In this light, Europeans are, in fact, the deliverers of Africans from sin.
All this sound incredible. Upon first hearing this theology, one dismissed it as rationalization for European oppression of non-Europeans. One said that Schucman was a hack, an apologist for white abuse of non-white persons. In fact, one thought that the lady psychologist is letting the oppressor off the hook. One’s ego spoiled for a fight, and sought vengeance, to attack and kill the bastards that screwed ones people.
But here we have it: a Jewish lady psychologist asks one to forgive these abusers from Europe. Every thing manly in one disagrees with her for one is angry with white folks because of what they did to black folks, humiliate, degrade, belittle, and disgrace them. The heroic warrior in one wants to punish, even kill somebody.
Schucman says that ones attacker is ones savior. She says that, in forgiving the attacker, rather than being angry with him and being defensive, that one rises above the ego and its world and gains awareness of ones real self, which she says is unified with God and all people.



In the lady’s ontology, we are all the extension of God and are created by God. She said that we resented being created by God and wanted to create God and create ourselves.
The created cannot create their creator or create their selves. Therefore, to seem to have created God and ourselves we seem to have separated from God.
She says that we cannot really separate from God but merely pretend to have done so.
In her view, our world is a dream in which we dream that we are separated from God and from each other. Our world is an illusion in which those who are eternally unified seem separated.
She said that the only way to awaken from what she calls the dream of separation is to forgive those we see do bad things to us. In forgiving them, we join with them in Christ and regain the consciousness of our eternal unified self.

GUILT AND FEAR

In the meantime, we who live in the world of dreams believe that we are separated from God and from each other. We think that we did something horrible by separating from God and Christ, our real self. We feel guilty. We fear God punishing us.
Our lives on earth are characterized by guilt and fear. We see ourselves as sinners (the original sin of separation and the current sin of screwing each other) and believe that God is out to punish us.
We run from God to avoid his punishing us. Sometimes we dissociate from our sense of guilt, project it out, see other people as the guilty ones, and believe that God ought to punish them, not us. However, without waiting for God to punish them, we punish them on behalf of God.
God knows that his children are eternally unified with him. God knows that his children cannot separate from him, although they can dream that they are separated from him. Knowing that they are not separated from him, God does not see his children as sinful and does not want to punish them. Moreover, as his extensions, if they are sinful God is sinful. If God punishes his children he would only be punishing himself. Only an insane masochist punishes himself. God is sane and does not punish himself, hence does not punish his children. To God people on earth are sinless, guiltless and innocent.
But those on earth insist that they are sinful, guilty and deserve punishment. They do so for many reasons including the fact that as long as they believe in sin, they seem to have done something wrong; they have separated from God.
Sin and guilt makes separation real in their awareness. To live in the world people must believe that they are sinners and worthy of punishment.
Sin and guilt maintain the world. If people did not see themselves as sinful and feared punishment, they would return to God. If guilt is given up and people saw themselves as innocent, they would see no value in living in the dream, in the illusion. They would simply awaken from the dream and know that they are always in union, heaven, God, while dreaming that they are apart from it.
People, in effect, are invested in feeling sinful and guilty, and worthy of punishment and fear; those affects, painful as they might be, keep them in this world. They must see each other as evil and punish each other.
But God wants them to see themselves as innocent, guiltless, and sinless because they cannot, and have not separated from him. What people do to each other on earth, are as things done in a dream and have not happened. What has not happened, dream attacks ought to be overlooked, forgiven to see the innocent Christ in people?
God sent out his teacher, the Holy Spirit to teach his children on earth that they have not sinned, that they are as innocent as he created them. God’s messenger, Jesus, teaches the happy gospel that we are innocent, not as guilty as we think we are. (When one first heard this one was in fact angry with Schucman. One thought that she wanted one to forgive those who have harmed one, white racists. Does she really teach that we forgive pedophiles and homosexuals, people who do what seems to one beastly thing? One saw the lady psychologist as the devil itself. In Christian terms, one said to her: get thee behind me, Satan. There are certain sins that seemed unforgivable. One was willing to kill racists, homosexuals and such, who seemed perverted and beyond the pale of civilized humanity.)
Schucman teaches that this world is a dream, and that when we forgive the evils other people do unto us, overlook them, that we forgive our own evils, and in the process escape from this world and return to the awareness of our real self, Unified Christ Spirit, the Holy Son of God. As she sees it, forgiveness is the only means to salvation. Forgiveness is what saves, delivers and redeems us from this world, from hell. Therefore, we must forgive those we see harm our psychological selves, egos, and the bodies that house them. They have not in fact done what we see them do to us, they did so only in a dream setting, and what is done in dreams have not been done. These people are still innocent, and are as God created them, holy. (Excellent rationalization, one said, for it lets Hitler off the hook. What an evil thinker this lady, how could she insist that we forgive the monsters of this world?)
The light of Schuman’s metaphysics is that Africans must forgive Europeans. They must overlook the insults Europeans have heaped on them; including unintelligent white professors claiming that their voodoo intelligence tests tell them that black people are not intelligent. When they overlook what Europeans did to them, they experience their unified spirit self. In doing so, they are resurrected from their present attachment to separated ego selves. They are then re-birthed in Christ. The ego in them dies and the Christ in them is resurrected.
In the process, Christ has come a second time into their lives. They are now living in, what in Christian eschatological metaphors are called, New Jerusalem, New Israel, (and New Iboland), in purgatory, in the

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real world. In Schucman’s lovely poetry, they are now at the gate of heaven, in the real world, where they are having happy dreams, dreams in which they forgive one another their sins. They are still in physical forms, but purified forms; love purifies people. They are now using their physical forms to love one another, hence live in peace and happiness.
Ultimately, when every human being attains the real world state, have happy dreams of love, heaven’s gate swings wide open, we all enter and rejoin God. We finally know ourselves as always one with our creator. (Lovely poetry, wouldn’t you agree?)


In the temporal universe the Holy Spirit is the voice for God, the guide leading us back to God. When we separated from God, God created the Holy Spirit and sent him into the temporal universe to go awaken his sleeping, dreaming children. The Holy Spirit is in our minds; in the right sides of our minds (what pop psychology calls the intuitive part of the brain). The ego is in our left, wrong minds (what pop psychology construes as the analytical part of the brain).
The ego urges us to do what adapts to this world, and the Holy Spirit teaches us to leave those things alone and return to God.
The Holy Spirit teaches us to undo the ego we constructed for ourselves, and let go of the ego’s material world. The lady says that the Holy Spirit is the immanent God, whereas God, as God is, the transcendent God.
The three Gods, God the father, God the Holy Spirit and God the Son, (our collective real selves) make up the holy trinity, the three persons in one person.
The ego is the false self that adapts to this world.
Jesus completely identified with the Holy Spirit, hence taught the gospel of the Holy Spirit, the teaching that God’s children are innocent. Hence Jesus would tell people: that their sins are forgiven them. This statement used to drive the Jews up the wall for in their spiritual categories; only God can forgive sins, not a human being like the Carpenter’s son, Emmanuel Ben Joseph. They thought that Jesus blasphemed against their understanding of God, and wanted to kill him.
Deep down, Jesus knew that each of us feels guilty for separating from God and from each other, and fear God’s punishment and punishment from each other (and try to project that guilt to others and punish them on behalf of God).


What we project out we keep. What we defend against, we retain. By giving others our guilt, we keep it. What we give to others we receive. Ideas leave not their source. As you see others you see yourself. If you see others as guilty, you must see yourself as guilty. (Schucman is chockfull of lovely metaphors.)
On the other hand, if you see others as innocent you must see yourself as innocent. Jesus sees himself as innocent, and sees all of us as innocent. But we insist on seeing ourselves as guilty, and punish ourselves, for guilt calls for punishment. We do so, so as to retain our ego and body, and belief that we opposed the will of God, and separated from him.
Jesus knows that nobody can oppose the will of God, and are not separated from God. We merely dream separation. Our separated ego self-concepts are dream selves. In reality, we remain as God created us, spirit selves. Thus Jesus, and the other teachers of God, the helpers of the Holy Spirit in teaching his gospel of innocence, teaches us one lesson that we are always innocent despite our desire for guilt feeling.
(My mental health professional training here smiles and says that this woman is telling us that we should be like antisocial, sociopath and psychopathic personalities who do not feel guilt, remorse and conscience from abusing other persons. Criminals do not feel guilty or fearful when they hurt other people; in fact, they enjoy hurting and using people. The lady psychologist, the evil soul of Christian categories, is trying to transform us all to satanic lifestyles. Doesn’t the MMPI tell us that remorse and guilt feeling, when we do wrong characterize normal personalities?)
Since we believe that we are guilty, Jesus forgives us. But he knows that we are not guilty. Since other people believe them selves as guilty one must forgive them. (In Psychotherapy, and its Purpose, a pamphlet accompanying the Course, Schucman says that the sole function of the therapist is to join the Holy Spirit, and tell people that their sins are forgiven them. People believe that they are sinners and need priests, read, and therapists to tell them that their sins are forgiven them. To heal is to forgive sins, ones and other peoples. Those who believe their sins are forgiven them, she says, tend to be happy. A forgiven world is a lovely, happy and peaceful world she says. The Holy Spirit is the only psychotherapist and rest of us, trained therapist or not are his helpers. One should never make the mistake of seeing ones self as the therapist, God is.)
Since one believes ones self as guilty one must forgive ones self. As one does to others one does to ones self. Forgive others to forgive yourself. Condemn others as guilty and you condemn yourself as guilty.
The teacher of God, the Holy Spirit, and his disciples like Jesus (and you), teach the world that it is innocent, that it has not done what it thinks it did, separate from God in pursuit of special ness, self creation and creation of God. Special ness and separation are delusional ideas. People cannot create God and themselves.
It is insane to think that one can create God, create ones self, and create other people. One must accept the reality that God created one.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that God created one, one, God and all people are the same, and are always equal and share one unified self, one unified mind. All creation shares one spirit self and one mind with its creator; everything in the universe is joined.
To be healed is to accept the union of all things, and love all things as parts of ones true self.
Schucman addressed a whole lot of other issues in her fascinating thought system. We cannot possibly mention all of them. But let us quickly mention a few and conclude this review of her non-dualistic, solipsistic and idealistic philosophy. She dwelled at length on what she calls special love relationships and special hate relationships. She said that having separated from God and their real selves, and invented false, ego self-concepts to replace the selves God created them as, that the children of God felt extremely unhappy in their new and alien selves. To ameliorate their pain, they formed special love relationships.
Special love relationships are substitute relationships for they replace the eternal communion of heaven with pragmatic relationships. In special love, people voluntarily agree to relate to each other, and reserve the right to leave whenever they feel like doing so. For example, people marry and when they no longer meet each other’s special needs, or like each other they divorce. In effect, these relationships accept the reality of separation.
In eternity, on the other hand, there is no possibility for separation, and no one can leave relationships. Special love (and its more painful aspect, special hate relationships, where the hate that is masked in special love is apparent) is mere compromises to retain the illusion of separation while seeming to be unified. In them are pain, fear, anger, depression, and paranoia. The children of God can only be happy in the state of perfect union with each other.
Schucman aims at transforming people’s special relationships into what she calls holy relationships. In the later, people look beyond their separated selves, egos and the bodies that house them and see their Christ selves as their true selves and affirm them. In her words, they see the face of Christ in each other. This, she says is Christ vision. Christ vision or spiritual sight leads to experiencing oneness with each other. She called this sense of oneness Holy Instants. (The Catholic Church calls it mystical union with God, and Maurice Burke calls it Cosmic Consciousness. See Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism and William James, Varieties of Religious Experience.)
The goal of Schucman is to transform human relationships, from special love to holy relationships. In the later people continuously forgive each other the wrongs they do to each other, and, as a result, feel life on earth like a happy dream, one where the Holy Spirit leads their every movement. She calls this transformed perception miracle.
Traditional Christianity defined miracle as healing physical sickness. Schucman defines miracle as change of mind and change of perception, from seeing ones self as a separated self living in body to seeing ones self and all selves as spirits having physical experience, and recognizing the union of all persons. To her, to heal is to join with all creation and its creator.
If the mind is healed, that is, if mind is joined to other minds, Schucman says that whatever physical ailment the body has would automatically heal itself. However, the crucial thing to do is to join ones mind to God and his creation, and not focus on healing ones or other people’s sick bodies. To her, the body is neutral and its sickness merely reflects a sick mind. Mind is sick when it separates from God and projects its sickness to the body to disguise the source of illness, mind. Mind makes body sick, not the other way around and, thus, if mind is healed the body is healed.
In the final analysis, the lady psychologist claims that body does not exist. To her, body is a figure in our dream of separation; body enables us to seem separated from each other and gives us false boundaries. When the individual accepts unified spirit as his reality body disappears from his awareness, and he experiences only spirit, immortality and all knowingness, the lady metaphysician says.
In holy relationships, people recognize their inherent oneness, sameness and equality and, above all, divinity and relate to each other as such. They overlook their mutual evils and see in each other the innocent, guiltless and sinless Christ that is their real selves. They no longer emphasize their separated, bodily existence but stress their formless, spiritual nature.


Criticism:

Schuman claimed that her ideas came from Jesus Christ, and that she was merely a scribe channeling Jesus’ ideas. She claimed that Jesus said that the ideas he had given to the world two thousand years ago were distorted and misrepresented by the Christian Church, and he came to correct them by providing the world with the ideas contained in A Course in Miracles. As it were, the ideas in A Course In Miracles are better than those found in traditional Christian Bible.
The Church would, of course, resent being marginalized by Schucman’s book. All things being equal, the Church would probably fight back, if only to preserve its power to tell the people, hence control them, what Jesus said or did not say, by attacking Schucman’s book and particularly its scribe, Schucman. Some Christians are already calling the lady Satan possessed; indeed, some see her as the antichrist. (Schucman defined the antichrist as the ego, the self we presumably invented to replace the Christ, our real self. The Church teaches that the anti Christ is Satan and whoever joins forces with him.)
Is it true that Jesus spoke through Schucman? One cannot verify her claim since Jesus or the Holy Spirit has not spoken to one. One is therefore left no alternative but to accept her claims on the basis of faith. But one does not and constitutionally cannot accept anything on faith.
Throughout history charlatans and religious quacks have deceived mankind by attributing their half-baked ideas to disembodied spirits and God. To one, an idea must be self evidently true for it to be accepted. The alleged authority of the source of an idea is irrelevant. Indeed, assuming that Jesus is real, if he stood on his head and said something and what he said is not true he is not accepted; the claim that he is God’s messenger notwithstanding.
Psychiatry teaches us that there is a psycho-pathological state called dissociative disorders. In one of these, multiple personality disorder, a sick mind dissociates from aspects of her thinking and attributes them to other personalities, egos and believes that those are separate from her. Some of these unfortunate women, most of these patients are women; claim to have several personalities, each different from others. Indeed, some are men and others women, and when they flip into male alter egos they speak as men would speak.
Could it be that Schucman was a dissociative personality? Could it be that she attributed her ideas, some useful, probably, to an alter ego she called Jesus?
And why would she do so? She is a woman living in a male dominated society. In her time, men did not take women’s ideas seriously. (When this writer was in college and took a philosophy course taught by a female professor, he could not stand her “jabbering” and dropped out. To his then sexiest mind, women were not thoughtful enough to teach his beloved Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and other German idealistic philosophers. Of course, he has since corrected his unfortunate underestimation of women and now knows all people, women and men, black and white to be equal.)
In light of what radical feminists call patriarchy, could it be that Schucman believed that men would not respect her ideas if they thought them from a woman? And that to make her ideas credible she attributed them to the mythical figure perceived as the best authority on God, Jesus Christ?
One says mythical for so far there is no credible empirical proof that an actual historical person called Jesus ever lived? Speculation and belief are not facts. Could it be that Schucman wanted to give her ideas religious credibility and authority and clothed them in Jesus? Religious persons often resort to tricks, and or deceptions in their efforts to convince the gullible masses that their ideas are true.
This writer cannot prove the truth of channeling, the existence of disembodied spirits, and the reality of God. To him religious authority means nothing. Truth must be proven as such before any one should accept it. Water is H2O, and any schoolboy or girl can go to the laboratory and mix the atoms of hydrogen and oxygen and obtain water. He does not need to believe that some alleged scientific authority made the claim that water is H2O.
The writer is a skeptic in the tradition of Voltaire, Rene Descartes and David Hume. However, his mind is open to truth. Just prove it to him, but don’t ask him to believe anything on faith. In so far that he entertains any kind of respect for Schucman’s writing it is not because of its alleged source but because it seems to contain some sound psychology.

Those who have given Schucman’s work considerable thought tend to conclude that it is essentially a recapitulation of Greek-Christian Gnosticism (such as Plotinus’), and suffers from the latter’s perception of the material universe as evil. To Gnostics, the world is darkness and heaven is light.
Gnostics believe that a disobedient spirit, variously called Satan, Lucifer, Devil, and Demiurge rebelled against God, and left heaven, or was chased out of heaven, as in the Adam and Eve story in the Christian Garden of Eden, Genesis, and Bible; and came to earth to form a separate kingdom of darkness. To them, the earth is evil and must be negated as people return to what is good, heaven.
Apparently, Schucman replaced Gnostics’ concept of Demiurge with the Son of God as the culprit that separated from God and blamed him for doing so, although she insists that she is not blaming him for, in fact, he had not separated from God, and is not capable of separating from God.
In the end, however, Schucman’s philosophy, like Gnosis, would like to negate this world, to collapse space, time and matter into the state of pre-singularity and return the material universe to spiritual living. In other words, people should leave this world and look forward to an otherworldly place.
This focus on a presumably better other world might dispose some people to stop trying to do what adapts to the hash realities of our empirical world, such as engage in science and technology. New Age religionists, like the followers of Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science and the Fillmores' Unity Church, sometimes focus exclusively on metaphysical issues and ignore the affairs of this world. The metaphysical world they describe very few persons, if any, experience it? In so doing Schucman might be retarding scientific civilization? Isaac Asimov observed that new age religions return mankind to a new primitivism, and warns against embracing this mumbo jumbo, unverifiable views of phenomena.
This writer is firmly rooted in the scientific method. As he sees it, science, a methodological approach to phenomena that emphasizes only those ideas that can be verified is the most productive endeavor human beings have engaged in while on earth. In less than three hundred years of science and technology, our lives have improved in quantum leaps; whereas thousands of years of religion and praying to what seems to him non-existent gods gave us poverty, disease and death. Science and technology, he believes, is mankind’s savior. Nevertheless, he finds Schucman’s ideas intriguing enough to think about it, for a little while anyway, before returning to his beloved science.

What does one make of Schucman’s fascinating interpretation of reality? Is it true or is it an illusion? One does not know. Let us just say that it intrigues one. How about you? What do you think of this Schucman’s idealistic monism? Think about it and do not just dismiss it as rubbish. One never knows where the truth lies. At any rate, we learn by thinking about other people’s ideas and refuting them, where possible. Marshall arguments to refute Schucman’s philosophy and in so doing come up with your own philosophy of life. Thinking does not stop with Schucman, and her ideas probably will not be the last word in philosophy. Your own thoughts are permitted, in fact they are encouraged. The universe endowed each of us with thinking, and expects us to think, and not just accept other persons, Jesus or not, thinking. There is no offense in you thinking your own thoughts and coming up with your own philosophy to grace the world with. If there is such a thing as sin, it is not doing ones own thinking and merely accept other peoples thinking. Each of us has limited information available to him and as his information improves he engages in improved thinking. There is no such thing as perfect thought.

QUESTIONS

What exactly is Dr Schucman’s theology and how is it different from traditional Christian (Catholic and Protestant) theology?

It has been suggested that Schucman’s views are Gnostic. What is Gnosis?

It has also been suggested that Schucman merely translated Hinduism, particularly Vedanta, into Christological categories, and as such did not really say anything new? Indeed, some accuse her of plagiarizing Vedanta without attributing her ideas to it. What do you think?

Some claim that Schucman synthesized Freudian, Adlerian and Hornian Psychoanalysis, with Buddhism and other oriental religions. In effect, that her theology is syncretism. What do you think?

Some say that Schucman is a unique thinker, and somehow penetrated the human psyche and reached into what Carl Jung called the Collective Unconscious, and from therein, drew together a unique philosophy. What do you think?

Hard nosed secular psychologists, who do not believe in what they call mumbo jumbo talk of God, Spirit and Jesus, dismiss Schucman as a dissociated, multiple personality disordered woman who denied a part of her self and projected it to an alter ego she called Jesus, and through it, offered a view of Christianity that makes sense to her, a view that is by no means universally true. What is your opinion?

Do you think that some persons can channel disembodied spirits, as Schucman claimed to have done? Do spirits, in the first place, exist? What evidence do you have to demonstrate that spirits exist, and that there is life after death? Mankind has deceived itself in infinite number of ways, believing in non-existent Gods, and Schucman’s theology may be just one other self-deception? In responding to this question, please factor in your understanding of philosophy, the various schools of it, particularly materialism and idealism.

What do you think of Schulman’s apparent imitation of Shakespearean verse in her writing style? Did it make her ideas clear or obfuscate them?

Many schools have already sprung up, each claiming to best represent what Schucman said. These schools are already at war with each other. They are suing each other everywhere. Secular judges are now deciding who the real author of Helen’s book is, and if indeed it is Jesus whether it can be copy righted? It is ironic that secular, that is, ego judges are asked to decide on spiritual matters, in opposition to Schucman’s seeming endless and often boring ranting and raving against the ego and its justice system. This quarrelsome behavior is typical of religions. Religionists often go to war with each other in misguided belief that their views of what their founder said, is the correct interpretations of it.

Some observers have pointed out that Schucman’s philosophy considers our empirical world a mistake to be corrected; indeed, that she wants to negate the world, and escape from it to what seems to her a better world, what she calls the Real World and, ultimately, heaven. Is Schucman a negativistic philosophy and, if so, what are the consequences of adopting it as a way of life? Would she stifle the scientific endeavor, arguably the most heroic activity by mankind?

Finally, do you think that this passage accurately represented the perennial philosophy rearticulated in Dr Schucman’s fascinating book, A Course In Miracles? If not, what is the correct representation of Schucman’s teachings, and why should your interpretation be seen as the best one?








ON BEING AN EDUCATED PERSON


An educated person generally participates in social discourse in a meaningful manner. In the contemporary world, it is assumed that the individual requires, at least, good secondary education to be considered fairly educated.
Good secondary education does not mean just passing through the gates of a secondary school, but learning certain basic subjects. A secondary school graduate ought to have been exposed to English Grammar and English Literature. He ought to be conversant with the classics of English Language such as: Dante (Divine Comedy, Inferno), Geoffrey Chaucer (Canterbury Tales), William Shakespeare (know his great tragedies like Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar and his great comedies like Much Ado About Nothing etc), Milton (Paradise Lost), Alexander Pope (particularly his literary criticism, such as Samson Agnostics), Dryden, Walter Scott (Ivanhoe), Thomas Hardy (Mayor of Castor bridge), George Elliot, Jane Austin, Oliver Goldsmith, Dostoyevsky (Brothers Karamazov), Tolstoy (War and Peace, Anna Karenina), Goethe (Faust), Novalis, Shilling, Alexander Dumas (Three Musketeers), Eugene O’Neil, William Faulkner, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, James Ngugi and so on.
The secondary school graduate is supposed to have studied and understood the basics of science so as to effectively adapt to an increasingly scientific and technological world. Physics: Mechanics, Heat, light, Electricity, and Sound. Chemistry: Organic and Inorganic. Biology: Zoology, Botany. Mathematics: Arithmetic’s, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Statistics, and Calculus. Social Sciences: Government, History, Economics etc. Humanities: Literature, Languages, Philosophy, and so on.
Examinations to enter University assume that one has studied these subjects, and generally cover them in one form or another. In America, high school graduates who wish to go to college (university) have to take the SAT, Scholastic Aptitude test. This test is generally divided into three sections: verbal, quantitative and science. Total score is 1600. A score of 1200 is considered good enough to do college work. The top twenty universities, out of America’s 3000 colleges, like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornel, Stanford, Dartmouth, Berkeley, UCLA etc will not consider one if ones score is less than 1400.
To attend graduate school in America, one takes the Graduate Record Examination, GRE, also divided into sections for a total of 1600. Here, too, a score of over 1400 is considered predictive of a student’s ability to do graduate work. Professional schools have their own specific examinations: Law (LSAT), Management (GMAT); Medicine also has its own examination.
American universities combine students’ high school cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) and scores on standardized examinations in making admission decisions.
Controversial as it might sound; students’ GPA tends to correlate with their IQ (intelligence quotience) scores. Students with superior IQ, 130 and above, generally, are A students; above average students, IQ 120-129, generally score around B+; average students IQ 100-110, generally score C grades, and below average students IQ 85-99, score D grades. Mentally challenged students, IQ under 70, tend to score F grades. The top schools want the best students and that means A or no less than B students.
American undergraduate education is four years in duration, and is generalist, as opposed to the more specialized British undergraduate education. In America, undergraduate students take required courses in the areas an educated person is supposed to understand (science, social science, humanities, mathematics etc) before they then concentrate on their major and minor areas of studies. Generally, they tend to be less specialized compared to their British counterparts. However, what they lack in specialization they make up with ability to adjust to a rapidly changing environment. A student, who could not obtain a job in his field, since he has smattering understanding of other fields, could easily secure a job in them, and then take a few more courses therein to come up to snuff.
American graduate school is generally two years for the master’s degree, and another two years of taking courses before a student takes the doctoral examination, and thereafter it is off to do research for the dissertation, one year, and then write it up one year. On the average, the typical student completes his doctoral work in six years of graduate schooling. (Including four years undergraduate work, this adds to ten years of university studies.)
It should be noted that not all students admitted to graduate school are allowed to pursue the PhD degree. After the two year master’s those who did poorly in the qualifying examination, wrote poor thesis and had less than stellar GPA are told to leave, perhaps some given the master’s degree. Even after taking the doctoral comprehensive examination less than twenty percent proceed to secure a doctorate degree. Those perceived as not erudite are encouraged to move on by their dissertation committee, the five faculty members that read and comment, and eventually approve or reject candidates’ dissertations. Many are frustrated until they give up and leave. Each university wants the best students to have its doctoral degree. Most students who go to graduate schools tend to have an undergraduate GPA of at least B+. To proceed beyond the master to PhD one must have A or A- grades. This is the lay of the land.
If one is deficient in what is expected of one, one ought to devote time to improving on it. There are twenty-four hours in a day. A serious person could divide his time as follows: eight hours of sleep, eight hours of work, two hours to and from work, one hour of recreation and socializing with friends and three hours of studies.
Students who take the line of lest resistance attempt to secure what they want through the back door. Realistic students want to get what they want through the front door, and as such, study and compete for top grades. Even if IQ is inherited, as some psycho-metricians claim, and one is only capable of doing C grade work, one can still work very hard and bring ones grades to, say, C+, and, or B. There is no excuse for laziness and for doing shoddy work.
Now let go of your usual abundant excuses, and go for what you want out of life with all your heart, determination and persistence. Success requires that one knows ones self, which includes knowing what one is interested in doing, and has aptitude in doing, and training for it, and then doing it twenty-five hours a day. As Jimmy Cliff said in one of his records: You will get it, if you really want it; but you must try, try and try hard. Life may not be a bed of roses, but in every dark cloud is a silver lining.
An old cliché says that the joy of living lies in trying, in the journey itself and not necessarily in attaining ones goal. There, you have it; now go for it. That is my boy.

Ozodi Thomas Osuji
ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld

 


Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D.
Seatle, Washington

Basic English Grammar for my Brother and those Interested

Dr. Osuji, a Management Consultant, can be reached at africainstitute@yahoo.com