I enjoyed your recent issue on language. You had some substantive articles on topics of specialized interest. However, you spent no time on the general state of language comprehension in the United States or at Princeton itself.

The statistics on literacy are alarming (www.statisticbrain.com/reading-statistics). Taken collectively, these measures indicate that most citizens do not have the ability to understand texts with sufficient acuity to manage their personal, financial, or political obligations.

In my observations as a college teacher of 40 years (beginning at Princeton), the capacity of even the best students to read or write well has deteriorated markedly. This same decline is evident in our media and in our elected representatives. Princetonians are unlikely to have been immune from this decay.

I do not mean by this, at all, that I wish to uphold any archaic, effete, and anal standard of the grammatically hypercorrect or the lexically acceptable. Only in myth was past language use perfect. I reject the incipient racism, sexism, and classism of any exclusive standard for English.

However, I do believe that a creative, critical, nuanced, responsive, and, most of all, responsible attitude toward language is a necessary adjunct to ethical thought and political engagement. I am sorry therefore that you found no space for these central issues. Princeton is a great university and must promote not only topics of academic research interest but also those that are crucial to our collective enterprise.

Dan Fineman *76
Los Angeles, Calif.