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"?

How does the Dress Code read?

School Board policies across the country are being scrutinized, as students and parents begin paying closer attention to them.

For example, in Wisconsin a student at Markesan (Wisc.) High School was punished "for wearing t-shirts with non-violent, non-threatening images of firearms on them, as well as t-shirts with the word 'gun' on them." (Source: WisconsinCarry, Inc.). "In November 2018 a Federal judge denied Markesan's motion to dismiss and GRANTED [sic] a preliminary injunction sought against the principal and district forcing them to allow the student to wear the shirts while the case is litigated." (ibid.)

See this article in Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel.

Cases elsewhere involve NRA t-shirts and MAGA caps and clothing.

The Richland 2 School Board Policy JICA reads,

Policy JICA Student Dress/Articles/Displays

Issued 8/15
"Richland School District Two students are expected to dress, be groomed, and otherwise conduct themselves in such a way as to not distract or cause disruption in the educational program or orderly operation of the school. Personal appearance and conduct of students should promote health and safety, contribute to a climate conducive to teaching and learning, and project a positive image of the district to the community. School administrators will be responsible for determining violations of this policy. The principal reserves the right to amend any provisions that he/she deems to be in the best interest of the student or the educational process. The board will review the policy for any changes needed on a periodic basis.
"The administration will make the final judgment on the appropriateness of a student's clothing, appearance, and/or display of symbols, messages, or statements on school grounds and reserves the right to prohibit students from wearing any articles of clothing or other items or displaying any symbols, messages, or statements which lead to or may foreseeably result in the disruption of or interference with the school environment."

When you read the second paragraph of Policy JICA, how many readers quickly see the First Amendment problem? 
How many schools are there in District 2? There are 20 elementary schools, seven middle schools and five high schools. Add the magnet schools, Blythewood Academy, R2i2 and others. There could be 35+ "administrations" imposing what each hopes will be District Policy.
If a Principal can "amend any provisions", is there really a District Policy?
There is plenty of attention in the media to the liberal bias in our country's schools, with some estimates as high as 85% of the teachers being left-leaning. I'm thinking the gun issue here. 
But what about clothing? When a well-spoken Blythewood High School student says that leggings and crop tops are not distracting, is she pinning a target on her back for speaking out? Only time will tell.
What was, or will be, the Board's response to the student who spoke out on April 9?