Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lazy Grammar (Blog 8)

What grammar rules were you taught?
            During primary and secondary school, I assume that I was taught a plethora of incorrect grammar rules, but I can’t seem to remember many of them. I believe that these grammar rules result from lazy teaching and learning attitudes. Two rules really pop out in my head; the rule that commas belong wherever a “natural pause” occurs and the rule that you should never change tense are both rules I was told on multiple occasions. The two rules both seem to result from a worry that students will either not use commas or change tense too often. I can understand the worry as I’ve seen the students who do not use commas and misplace commas as well as students who change tenses too often.
The rule that a comma should be placed wherever there is a “natural pause” seems to have some origin in the actual grammatical rules of introductory clauses and tag phrases. In both of these cases, there seems to be some natural pause before leading into the next respective clause or following into the tag phrase. However, as a general rule, it’s a horrible way to teach someone to use commas. And perhaps for a well-read and well-versed scholar, they do indeed pause at commas and in their writing place commas where they pause, but the reasoning for this is completely circular. It is important that students and educators alike learn and teach the proper grammar rules, if for no other reason than to simplify the problem to simplistic sets of rules and allow students to stop guessing and justifying an unreasonable method of writing.
I was also taught that it is never appropriate to switch tense in any form of writing. While this might be a well-intended rule set in order to prevent the constant changing of tense during a piece of writing, it disallows a certain stylistic freedom that is often necessary for a writer to keep their voice consistent and properly portray ideas. It would be better to teach the students why it is important to stay consistent and when it is appropriate to change tense and when it may be necessary. This gives the student the room to work with rather than chain them down to avoid error.
            However, I think the teaching of incorrect grammar rules, as some sort of behavior corrective, is the result of laziness. Either teachers do not care enough to properly research their own subject material, or the teachers were misinformed and are generally ignorant of the rules. However, this must result from laziness in the system of education. If a math teacher were to teach students the incorrect rules for quadratic equations, it would be utterly detrimental for the student’s later success. The partiality or incorrectness on the teacher’s part would be unacceptable. In the same way, English must be taught properly in order to clear up these misunderstandings. It is important for teachers to be corrected, for teachers to study their discipline with rigor and understand what they are teaching their children. These responsibilities fall upon the teacher and the administrators.

            Furthermore, in high school settings, it shows laziness on the side of the students for not correcting a teacher’s. It is a case that illustrates the Freirean false dichotomies supposed by the Banking Concept of Education: the students know nothing and the teachers are infallible. It is important for the high school students, for people in general, to take hold of their own education and reject the authority of the teacher in place of a teacher-student/student-teacher shared role.


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