Why Kids Can’t Write, and What We Can Do About It

After years of worksheets and quizzes, many students arrive in high school with brains largely unscathed by grammar. I know this because I teach both English and Latin. It is obvious to me who understands subjects and verbs, especially in my Latin classes.

People who have studied a foreign language generally understand the grammar of their own language better than those who have not. This is one way foreign language teachers justify their existence — we will teach them grammar so English teachers can focus on dramatic irony, rising action, oxymorons and other stuff that might be on the state graduation test or the S.A.T.

I have nothing against literary analysis. Through reading and analyzing literature, students gain a new perspective. They understand that jealousy and revenge are universal, not just things that happen when you put a lot of teenagers in a large building and call it high school.

But it’s tough to write about jealousy and revenge when you don’t have the tools to express yourself. The subordination of one idea to another doesn’t just happen by throwing lots of ideas at students. My students have many ideas; they come out in long rambles beginning with “So…” and are strung together with “and” and “because.” Their reasoning never takes shape; if it does, it’s a circle. They write things like, “School should not be mandatory because students should have a choice.”

Why don’t kids learn grammar? And it’s not only grammar — why don’t they know how to spell and punctuate? More

Ugly on the Internet

blank avatarI don’t see a lot of ugly people on the internet. I see cute avatars and funny cartoons and beautiful images. Human beings are wired to judge what they see; it’s a survival mechanism. We make assumptions about people we meet, even without meaning to or realizing it. It’s discriminatory, but discrimination is built into us for a reason. How do we decide whom to trust, if we can’t use appearance as a factor? We shouldn’t give the benefit of the doubt to people who take care of our children or come into our homes. That would be naive.

How do we judge appearances on the internet, when its very nature disarms our visual defenses?There are no faces on here, just avatars and user pix. We talk to one another, but you have no way to judge whether I’m joking, lying, being sarcastic, or just stupid. Emoticons and text-message shorthand (smileys and lol’s) may help your intent come across when you’re texting with a person you know in real life, but a stranger’s smileys are no more trustworthy than their profile.

Is everyone equal on the internet? If we aren’t fat or thin, ugly or beautiful, if we don’t have scars or handicaps or irritating voices, are we all the same? More

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 14 other followers