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Grammar at school
Posted: 25 June 2010 11:57 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Should grammar be taught at school?

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Posted: 28 June 2010 05:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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OP Tipping - 25 June 2010 11:57 PM

Should grammar be taught at school?

I don’t know.  Where else would one teach it?

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Posted: 28 June 2010 12:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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You could ask a similar question about macramé.

How about reading, writing and mathematics?

(I speak only of the school systems I know first hand)

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Posted: 28 June 2010 03:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Yes, IMHO grammar should be taught in school.  Not as a bunch of arbitrary rules, as it unfortunately often is taught, but students ought to learn about concepts such as parts of speech, parts of sentences, transitive vs intransitive verbs, cases, etc., so that they have to tools to reason and talk about English and other languages.

(edit: fixed typo)

[ Edited: 28 June 2010 04:35 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 28 June 2010 04:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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So, kids arriving at school have already learned the grammar of their first language (which may or may not be the standard one). They learned it unconsciously otherwise they could not speak the language when they get to school. The real, but often unacknowledged goal of grammar school is to teach the students a second language.

As for what needs to be taught, I agree that a common vocabulary of grammatical concepts (parts of speech) is a good starting place, but what is really needed is a formalism that represents grammatical rules. In my experience, people of a certain age wish the vocabulary to be that of traditional (Latin / Greek) grammarians applied to English. The rules are not stated systematically in some formalism, but in plain English, and not completely, but haphazardly. Often these rules are merely usage or stylistic ones, masquerading as grammar. And most of the rules deal only with differences between the students’ first language/dialect grammatical rules and the standard being taught. Of course, hardly anybody admits that there are really two different languages in the classroom. The students are told that utterances which are prefectly grammatical in their first language are incorrect and told that they must be replaced with whatever “rules” the teacher happens to have a bagful of. Most linguists in the past 50 years or so have used a formalism which is basically a kind of context-free grammar for generating valid sentences. It has been my observation that almost all non-linguists of a certain age are hostile to these grammatical formalisms, and wish to hearken back to some halcyon days when Reed-Kellogg sentence diagramming was forced upon them in their youth.

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Posted: 28 June 2010 11:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Yes.  It helps with learning foreign languages, constructing decent sentences and more to the point, it would help train children’s minds more than some of the stuff they’re taught these days.

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Posted: 29 June 2010 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Grammar was dropped from Australian state school curricula some 20 years ago and the current government plans to include it in a new set of national standards. There is some evidence that many of the younger English teachers don’t know anything about the topic. They can’t reliably identify a part of speech or explain what number agreement is, and will require new training. There’s been some backlash from the unions, and from various commentators who wonder why we need to teach grammar.

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Posted: 04 May 2011 09:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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The school I went to in the hinterland of the then malarial Bengal at it’s worst, had Bengali (first), English (second or the other way round) and Samskrta or Arabic (third language). Too much grammar, mathematically ‘cubed’, had driven a bunch of us to take up science as soon as we were allowed to or to drop out. A child, in my honest opinion, should never be burdened that much. Grammar is important at school level but must not scare the children out of school.

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Posted: 04 May 2011 09:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I agree with Doc and jheem, but only with the proviso that the people teaching grammar actually know what grammar is, which presupposes an education in linguistics, which means I agree only on an abstract plane inapplicable to reality as we know it.

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Posted: 04 May 2011 02:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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And it depends whether its a first language or a second. Grammar instruction is pretty much essential in second language instruction. By the time children get to school, they already know the grammar of their first language, although they probably can’t describe it.

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Posted: 05 May 2011 03:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Dave Wilton - 04 May 2011 02:44 PM

By the time children get to school, they already know the grammar of their first language, although they probably can’t describe it.

And knowing how to describe it is pretty much what should be taught, as Doc, jheem, and lh have said.  And, as lh said, this would mean that the teachers would have to understand what is being described.  I don’t think they would need a degree in linguistics, but many of them would need to have the zombie rules scrubbed from their minds, rules they learned in school and from other sources.

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Posted: 05 May 2011 04:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I don’t think they would need a degree in linguistics

I didn’t say “a degree in linguistics,” I said “an education in linguistics”; a one-semester course would do, as long as it knocked the nonsense out of their heads and gave them a basic grasp of reality.  I don’t expect graduate-level instruction, just an understanding that 1) every student speaks their own language grammatically (and thus should never be told “That’s wrong/bad/incorrect"), and 2) the formal variety of English being taught is not inherently better, just necessary for success in the better-paid professions.

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Posted: 05 May 2011 06:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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More important still is to teach children at primary level to form letters properly.  Standards of handwriting in the UK are slipping fast, with children forming letters in such peculiar ways that in some cases, they don’t even look like the letters they’re supposed to be.

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Posted: 05 May 2011 09:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I’m not sure how important handwriting is. The time would be better spent teaching typing, given that nearly every professional and most personal writing and correspondence is no longer done with pen and paper. Handwriting is now chiefly a tool for personal note taking, which is not a task that demands pretty or standardized forms.

I’m sure there are good things that come out of teaching handwriting, but given all that needs to be taught and the limited time available in the classroom, it’s a luxury. I’d say eliminate handwriting and spend the time on science or music or art.

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Posted: 05 May 2011 11:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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One persons tale about handwriting. I was taught a year of handwriting in middle school, “Palmer Method” we were told. My grade was passing but “poor”. One thing that came out of this was a fascination with calligraphy. In college I got some calligraphy pens and paper and a book and wiled away many hour of impoverishment practicing calligraphy. No one graded my calligraphy. I may have been poor at that too.

Fast forward a half century. Eliza, now I go to WalMart and cannot read my own shopping list that I compiled myself.

But Dave, isn’t the typing that I learned in high school obsolescent, used on a diminishing few old PCs and laptops? I don’t know. Just asking.

[ Edited: 05 May 2011 11:51 AM by droogie ]
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Posted: 05 May 2011 01:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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No, a full-sized keyboard is still the only device for real composing. Other entry devices, like those on cell phones, are fine for texting and short notes, but to really write you need a proper keyboard. Unless our hands significantly shrink, it’s always going to be that way.

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