Monday, April 22, 2019

How important is grammar? spelling? pronunciation?

A number of years ago I was listening to an NPR program, and the guest that day was David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker. Much of the program was devoted to the memory of Eleanor Gould (1917-2005), and two comments of Remnick have stayed with me.

Remnick's February 2005 column, titled "Miss Gould", can be found here.

In today's schools, including Richland 2 schools, how particular are teachers about grammar, spelling and punctuation? I would ask, "How picky are they?" And does it matter?

Years ago in an elementary school in northern Illinois I visited a third-grade classroom. I heard the teacher say something like, "Him and I went to the library." I was shocked. As a visitor to the classroom, I didn't say anything. But three weeks later, during an IEP, that same teacher said something like "He gave the book to him and I." I remember thinking, "We're paying that teacher???"

On another day a teacher used the word "hyperbole", pronouncing it hy'-per-bowl. Seriously?

Is it any wonder that students don't learn good grammar?

Are sentence structure and diagramming taught today?

Remnick wrote that The New Yorker created the title of Grammarian for Eleanor Gould. Read the article linked above. Remnick included this sentence in his 2005 column: "Miss Gould once found what she believed were four grammatical errors in a three-word sentence." And "She could find a solecism in a Stop sign."

Solecism? Do you know this word? Can you pronounce it? Can you define it? Do you look up words you don't know?

Do your ears perk up when you hear a word mispronounced? Richland 2 has two Board members who mispronounce "ask". Does anyone correct them? Should someone correct them? Are they not an example for today's students? Is there a higher standard to which they should hold themselves and, in so doing, invite the gentle correction? 

Being literate is important. Speaking correctly is important. Writing correctly is important. The time to learn it is in elementary school. The time to correct it is in middle and high school. Colleges should not have to teach "remedial" classes. Students needing remedial classes should never have been graduated from high school in the first place.

Question: Did you look up "solecism"?

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