What’s wrong with this sentence fragment?
“...white suburban moms -- who all of a sudden -- their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were...”
Most grade school students, at least the ones I know, could tell you in a minute that the sentence is a flawed mixture of plural and singular that probably would earn them a failing grade on any English examination. Even if one takes into account that the sentence was spoken and not written, it is a grammatical nightmare.
But what really is wrong with it is that it is attributed to Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education who made it in defense of a controversial proposal to establish a core curriculum in the nation’s public schools. The quote appeared in the Washington Post which also reported that Duncan further characterized opposition to the curriculum as “political silliness” and “a rallying cry for fringe groups.”
How ever one comes down on this issue, I would hazard a guess that most Americans could agree that Duncan of all people needs desperately to brush up on his sentence structure to make it at least compatible with what is being taught and has been for generations in classrooms across the land. Or is that too much to expect from a child of the television culture where grammar is slaughtered day in and day out-where tenses don’t always agree and the rules about prepositional objects are ignored just between you and I (oops).
This is a culture where people are hung like gates instead of hanged as they should be. He should have “went” some place has become standard among sportscasters. Even the baby boomers are too young to remember the days when super pitcher turned play- by- play announcer Dizzy Dean’s horrible but colorful grammatical gaffs on radio brought down the wrath of America’s moms. Their kids were running around saying things like “he done slud into third.”