In the Basement of the Ivory Tower by anonymous Professor X, the topic of the level of education of the US population and its generally accepted need for everyone is raised. The author’s initial conclusion is that most of the students he/she happened to work with are not amenable to learning. Professor X claims that no matter what methods and systems of teaching he/she uses, students cannot reach the required level because of their ignorance. In his/her article, Professor X uses various language techniques to prove his/her point and make the paper more credible.
When reading the article In the Basement of the Ivory Tower by a professor who supposedly has a lot of experience teaching at two colleges, the reader can catch the sarcasm that it is filled with. Commenting on an essay by one of his/her students, the author speaks about the computer skills of his/her students, citing Ms. L, an adult woman in her 40s, as an example: “She was preserved in the amber of 1990, struggling with the basic syntax of the World Wide Web” (Professor X). In addition, the professor makes fun of society’s lack of reading, saying: “Will having read Invisible Man make a police officer less likely to indulge in racial profiling?” (Professor X). That, in turn, is an allusion that the author often uses in his/her article. Usually, an allusion can give the reader a sense of closeness or belonging with the author. However, in the case of Professor X, it seems that he/she is testing his/her readers for education, given the content of the article.
The teacher uses many synonyms and complex constructions to support his/her sarcasm and allusion with complex diction. For example, speaking about studying other subjects, the exact sciences, he/she says: “There seems, as is often the case in colleges, to be a huge gulf between academia and reality”(Professor X). The author constantly picks up words that are not commonly used in everyday speech, especially among those whom he/she considers unworthy of a college education: “the student’s jaw-dropping lack of ability… I tried to jostle her along” (Professor X). As a teacher of English and Literature, he/she and his/her students are the only ones who “are bobbing up and down in a great wave of societal forces” (Professor X). In addition to mentioning a huge number of works to show the gap between the educated layer of the society to which he/she identifies himself/herself and his/her students, he/she uses many professionalisms as well: “quest narrative, foreshadowing, climax, theme, denouement” (Professor X). Professor X himself/herself speaks of his/her skill in using language skillfully. Literature is a science but more complicated than, for example, biology, where there is no need to think but only to memorize.
Together with a complex diction, the professor uses complicated sentence structures, which include cumbersome, extended sentences, parenthesis, and ellipses. Thus, by using the language to the maximum, the author supports his/her idea that not all college students have the right to be there. Professor X writes his/her article to show how different the stages of training of those who, in his/her opinion, are worthy and those who do not know how to use their native language are. In his/her way of writing, Professor X emphasizes the level of those who should study in colleges, thus acting as an example. From his/her own experience, with the help of his/her language skills, the author tries to increase the article’s credibility because only educated people can appreciate it.
Professor X. “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 2008.