Saturday, November 09, 2013

Blog 8: Bad Grammar?

I learned some grammar superstitions throughout my schooling. The first one was that I couldn't use I in my writing. This was interesting, because the second rule was that I should write how I talk. This is all true. I was taught that my “voice should be distinct,” which is a good thing to understand, but this is a concept vastly different than writing how I talk. Also, I understand that these first two rules are very contradictory. But let’s not dwell on these. More than incorrect rules, I think I came out of my grade-school years with a general lack of understanding. I could tell you what a noun and a verb was, but there was no way I was going to find a subject and a verb in a remotely complex sentence. Commas were for natural pauses. Prepositional phrases were mythical and elusive creatures. This is all funny because, after attending my first university English class, all of these were cleared up for me, and I realized that I had already a working knowledge of these concepts but that I had been taught them in an insufficient manner.

I see these types of superstitions cropping up in tutoring sessions. Students have been told so many conflicting things that it becomes impossible to make sense of any of them. What really bothers me, though, is the teaching of incorrect “rules” to cater to a high-school teacher’s preference. Say you don’t like seeing ego-centrism in papers. Don’t do away with “I”. Do away with ego-centrism by incorporating a larger audience into your paper. The public institutions are really doing students a disservice when they send them to university full of false ideas on what it means to be literate and articulate, and I’m seeing that much has not changed from when I was treating prepositional phrases as if they were unicorns.


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