The Graves of Academe


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Why can’t our nation
read, write, cipher or THINK?
The Underground Grammarian takes on
the American Educational Establishment.

Praised by critics across the nation, The Graves of Academe is Richard Mitchell’s angry and brilliant tour through America’s bloated public school system–whose mangled, self-serving language and policies would make Orwell wince. Stamped with vintage Mitchell wit and laced with stinging examples from The Underground Grammarian, The Graves of Academe pinpoints the historic sources of the mind-boggling “educationist” bureaucracy and reveals why today’s schools are riddled not only with illiterate students but with illiterate teachers and administrators as well.

“Richard Mitchell has done it again. He has loosed his noble lance of hate, fury and wit against the malignant stupidities that infest the world of education. . . . His book should be read by everyone who detests stupidity and who admires that rare virtue called common sense.” –Howard Fast

“Richard Mitchell is still angrily hunting down the ‘education professionals’ . . . I think he’s gaining on them.” –Edwin Newman

“The Grave of Academe is a book of the highest importance. . . a slashing and irrefutable attack, not on teachers, but on the educational establishment that trains them–and which has trained us. . . . Mr. Mitchell is invaluable. Also–he’s enormously entertaining.” –Clifton Fadiman

“This is one of those books that seem to make such eminent common sense that you feel compelled to read aloud selected passages to those within hearing–regardless of whether they want to listen.” –Dallas Times Herald

“…makes H. L. Mencken sound like a waffler.” –Time

“Mitchell is a brilliant stylist, a shrewd observer and a genuine wit.” –National Review

“…a delightful satirical book on that malaise of the American educational system, ‘the professional educator,’ the people who, in the eyes of the author, Richard Mitchell, are responsible for the deplorable state of American English. . . . Amen and hallelujah, this is fine reading.” –Charleston Evening Post

“This angry, witty, and very accurate assessment of the current educational scene should be required reading for every parent who has or will have children in what Mitchell calls ‘The Great Dismal Swamp’ of public education.” –Fresno Bee

“Witty, literate, thoughtful and provocative. . . .” –Atlantic City Sunday Press


Foreword “Clear language engenders clear thought, and clear thought is the most important benefit of education.”

Propositions Three and Seven “It was Jefferson’s dream that that civilization could best perpetuate itself in which the citizens were ‘educated,’ whatever he meant by that, and we do have some clue as to what he meant.”

The End of the String “It seemed to me that those teacher-trainers must be amiable and playful folk with well-developed aesthetic sensibilities and a penchant for drama, in bold contrast to the rest of us who taught what you call ‘subjects,’ dour and narrow people reciting lectures and devising ‘thought’ questions.”

The Wundter of It All “There is no counting the doctorates in education that have been awarded to those who have done nothing more than tabulate the answers to questionnaires. That such degrees are so common, however, is not only because the work is easy, bad enough, but also because the supposed objects of study often cannot be known directly. When they can, in fact, they are obviously trivial. ”

The Seven Deadly Principles “After sober and judicious consideration, and weighing one thing against another in the interests of reasonable compromise, H. L. Mencken concluded that a startling and dramatic improvement in American education required only that we hang all the professors and burn down the schools. His uncharacteristically moderate proposal was not adopted.”

The Principles March On “It is fascinating, of course, to hear those who operate the schools argue that because there are people who can build aircraft for profit and cite law in their own cause we may conclude that the schools have actually provided too much “excellence.” What is even more fascinating is that this bewildering and ignorant line of reasoning should find, apparently, no detractors among the vast membership of the National Education Association…”

The Pygmies’ Revenge “Peter’s well-known Principle was obviously discovered by a man who knew nothing at all about schools. In schools it just isn’t true that the people who can actually do their jobs get promoted until they find themselves, at last and forever, in the jobs they can’t do. This is because the most difficult and demanding jobs in education are what industry calls “entry-level positions,” teaching in classrooms.”

Problem-Solving in the Content Area “The problems and disorders in education have become more and more visible in the last few years, of course, and even the ordinary citizen who happens to have no children in the schools suspects that something is very wrong, but he will never understand exactly what is wrong until he realizes that all our educational problems and disorders, none of which are new, although they are more obvious, provide endless and growing employment for the people who made them.”

Every Three Second “Schools do not fail. They succeed. Children always learn in school. Always and every day. When their rare and tiny compositions are “rated holistically” without regard for separate “aspects” like spelling, punctuation, capitalization, or even organization, they learn. They learn that mistakes bring no consequences.”

Afterword: Plus Ça Change “The ideologues of educationism (fortunately for us, if we will pay thoughtful attention) have so thoroughly given themselves to their disdain of intellectual discipline that they always, and always inadvertently, reveal some truth when they pretend to do the work of the mind in writing.”