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"The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar"


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#1 Occasionally

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 03:52 PM

Has anyone posted this yet?

 

"The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar"

 

I'll admit, it's pretty tempting to ditch grammar, even for my grammar-loving DD9.



#2 ScoutTN

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 04:36 PM

For a different perspective, one that casts some doubt upon the validity of the research in question and the historical trend that it represents, read The War Against Grammar by David Mulroy.



#3 mamamindy

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 04:43 PM

For a different perspective, one that casts some doubt upon the validity of the research in question and the historical trend that it represents, read The War Against Grammar by David Mulroy.

do you have a link?  Or is this a book?  Is it long? ;)



#4 IsabelC

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 05:05 PM

http://www.nrcs.usda...51/chapter1.pdf



#5 SarahW

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 05:15 PM

 

The link doesn't work for me.



#6 SarahW

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 05:16 PM

do you have a link?  Or is this a book?  Is it long? ;)

 

 

Here's an overview: http://bmcr.brynmawr...2003-12-15.html



#7 IsabelC

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 05:23 PM

The link doesn't work for me.

 

Sorry, I must have put it in wrong.

Anyway, it was top of the google results for me, and brought up the whole thing in pdf.



#8 SarahW

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 05:28 PM

Sorry, I must have put it in wrong.

Anyway, it was top of the google results for me, and brought up the whole thing in pdf.

 

 

Ah, I see. The url is really wonky.

 

Let me try...*fingers crossed*

 

 

 

ETA - nevermind. Quote the post, pull up the whole url, and put the whole thing in, including the underscore.

 

http://www.nrcs.usda...51/chapter1.pdf

 

Blasted technology.



#9 forty-two

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 05:33 PM

Here's a link to the original article/monograph that he later expanded into the book: http://www.ateg.org/...aphs/mulroy.php (it's fairly similar to chapter one).

I *loved* War Against Grammar. His point that traditional school grammar is actually rooted in our *intuitive* understanding of language, as contrasted to academic/linguistic/speculative grammar's attempts to describe grammar completely explicitly, without resorting to any sort of intuitive sense of what a noun or verb or such is, was such an eye-opener to me. I mean, you think of school grammar, and you think of dull rote rules with no relationship to living language. Mulroy shows that most of what the anti-grammar camp is against is *bad* school grammar teaching, not school grammar itself. (It's very similar to arguments against phonics that are actually arguments against *bad* phonics teaching; pro-phonics people are just as against that sort of stuff as anti-phonics people.)

My takeaway was that good school grammar teaching is rather comparable to good arithmetic teaching - in both cases plenty of informal, intuitive knowledge of language/numbers needs to come first, and formal knowledge is explicitly built on and connected back to that intuitive knowledge. As well, Mulroy believes that school grammar is a means to an end - understanding language - not an end in itself (finding the perfect, most accurate model to describe our language, a la academic linguists).

#10 SarahW

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 05:46 PM

Has anyone posted this yet?

 

"The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar"

 

I'll admit, it's pretty tempting to ditch grammar, even for my grammar-loving DD9.

 

 

To respond directly to the article:

 

It really made me scratch my head. Grammar makes students afraid to write? Sorry, but what idiot would teach grammar without usage and application? And who are these students anyways who need to learn to write papers in college?

 

I was never really taught grammar (I was homeschooled, but never mind that). I picked up how to write correctly just from reading. I'm a "success" according to the article - but I am quite aware that I am a literate idiot. I knew that even before I started my kid on FLL. I knew it when I walked into my college Classical Greek class and suddenly had to figure out what a noun and verb was. I knew it when I worked at my college Learning Center and when asked to edit papers I could only say that a sentence was wrong, and had no idea why. I knew it when I wrote my Master's thesis, and had Grad profs praise my writing style, but I knew that what they called "clarity" I called being uncomfortable with subordinate clauses. I hate it when I am trying to express something, but get tripped up because I don't know how to correctly change a word into a different part of speech.

 

Not knowing grammar means living a life of fear.

 

Hm, that's a rather dramatic statement. But it sums it up quite nicely.



#11 IsabelC

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 05:46 PM

I don't think much of Mulroy's writing or logic. For example, he claims that identifying a writer or speaker's bias is the same thing as making an argument ad hominem. These are not the same thing at all. To use his example, if the neo-Nazi, Satanist, bridge building company director states that the town needs a new bridge, it is illogical to suppose that the bridge is not necessary simply because I do not share her/his political or religious views. However, recognizing that a person who runs a bridge building company has an ulterior motive to get more bridges being built is not an ad hominem; it's simply a necessary part of logical and critical thinking. The bridge might still be a good idea, but we recognize that the person may not be an impartial judge of that.

 

I am open to evidence, but I just haven't seen any evidence that formal grammar lessons are necessary for effective writing, comprehension or thinking skills. The argument put forward seems to go something like:

 

Young people these days don't write very well.

They aren't familiar with x point of formal grammar.

Therefore the lack of early grammar instruction is causing slopping thinking and inability to write fluently or persuasively.

 

Where is the actual research demonstrating that formal grammar is necessary, or even helpful?

 

At any rate, if we were to accept the straw man arguments presented on this topic, we would be laboring under the impression that there is a choice to be made between either years of mind-numbing grammar drills that take away all the joy of writing, or some sort of 'express your feelings and never mind the rules' approach that creates college kids unable to construct a sentence. I don't think there is such a dichotomy in real life.



#12 forty-two

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 06:06 PM

I don't think much of Mulroy's writing or logic. For example, he claims that identifying a writer or speaker's bias is the same thing as making an argument ad hominem. These are not the same thing at all. To use his example, if the neo-Nazi, Satanist, bridge building company director states that the town needs a new bridge, it is illogical to suppose that the bridge is not necessary simply because I do not share her/his political or religious views. However, recognizing that a person who runs a bridge building company has an ulterior motive to get more bridges being built is not an ad hominem; it's simply a necessary part of logical and critical thinking. The bridge might still be a good idea, but we recognize that the person may not be an impartial judge of that.

This blog post had an interesting discussion of "looking for bias": http://kitchentablem...hinking-in.html

Certainly the bridge builder *may* have an ulterior motive for recommending that the bridge be built, and I'd certainly scrutinize his arguments extra carefully because of it. *But* while recognizing a potential conflict of interest provides a reason to take a closer look at his arguments, it does not itself *negate* his arguments. If his conflict of interest means he made a bad argument, it needs to be *proven* from the content of the *argument* itself. That's the ad hominem - dismissing/approving the *argument* because of the *person*, not because of anything in the argument itself. It is certainly likely that a biased person makes a biased argument (or a moral person makes a morally good argument), but any quality that you expect to see in the argument (based on the speaker) still has to be proven from the *argument* itself, not merely *assumed* to exist, because of the character or situation of the *speaker*.

I enjoyed the whole book much more than the original article/first chapter, btw - he expands and refines his argument, along with offering proof.

#13 tammyw

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 07:36 PM

Sounds a lot like The Bravewriter philosophy!

#14 stripe

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 08:26 PM

I am slowly working through Janet Angelillo's Grammar Study (which I got as a $1 Scholastic download), in which she discusses the importance of teaching grammar through what she calls mentor texts, in other words, in context. She had some fairly compelling studies that most grammar studies are not effective. She does not suggest not learning grammar at all. It's an interesting book with lots of suggestions.



#15 Occasionally

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 09:01 PM

For a different perspective, one that casts some doubt upon the validity of the research in question and the historical trend that it represents, read The War Against Grammar by David Mulroy.

 

Thanks for pointing this out.

 

To respond directly to the article:

 

It really made me scratch my head. Grammar makes students afraid to write? Sorry, but what idiot would teach grammar without usage and application? And who are these students anyways who need to learn to write papers in college?

 

I was never really taught grammar (I was homeschooled, but never mind that). I picked up how to write correctly just from reading. I'm a "success" according to the article - but I am quite aware that I am a literate idiot. I knew that even before I started my kid on FLL. I knew it when I walked into my college Classical Greek class and suddenly had to figure out what a noun and verb was. I knew it when I worked at my college Learning Center and when asked to edit papers I could only say that a sentence was wrong, and had no idea why. I knew it when I wrote my Master's thesis, and had Grad profs praise my writing style, but I knew that what they called "clarity" I called being uncomfortable with subordinate clauses. I hate it when I am trying to express something, but get tripped up because I don't know how to correctly change a word into a different part of speech.

 

Not knowing grammar means living a life of fear.

 

Hm, that's a rather dramatic statement. But it sums it up quite nicely.

 

I'm a product of the public school system (a very good school, too,) was never taught grammar beyond the very basic parts of speech,and I *might* have seen diagramming once in middle school. When I started taking French in 9th grade, I learned some grammar. I never found the lack of grammar instruction to be a detriment to me, though, and it certainly never caused fear.

 

I am slowly working through Janet Angelillo's Grammar Study (which I got as a $1 Scholastic download), in which she discusses the importance of teaching grammar through what she calls mentor texts, in other words, in context. She had some fairly compelling studies that most grammar studies are not effective. She does not suggest not learning grammar at all. It's an interesting book with lots of suggestions.

 

This "middle way" sounds like the ticket (and other posters have said the same thing.)

 

I was daydreaming about removing grammar instruction there for a few minutes :)



#16 stripe

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 09:32 PM

I'm a product of the public school system (a very good school, too,) was never taught grammar beyond the very basic parts of speech,and I *might* have seen diagramming once in middle school. When I started taking French in 9th grade, I learned some grammar. I never found the lack of grammar instruction to be a detriment to me, though, and it certainly never caused fear.

I was taught grammar by a very elderly, senior teacher who retired soon after. We used a set of 1960s era textbooks that he did not allow out of the classroom, supplemented by his mimeographed handouts. Ha! I actually came across them in a box a few years ago. I don't remember diagramming, though.



#17 IsabelC

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 11:20 PM

Just to clarify, I am by no means against teaching grammar (we do a bit of it here, in fact). I just don't see the logic in the "the world is going to hell because kids don't know what a gerund is" view. I don't agree with the analogy between not knowing what a molecule is and not knowing what a clause is, and I don't believe that ignorance of grammatical terms necessarily causes low literacy levels. Some subjects require more in depth knowledge than others, as far as the average citizen is concerned. I can drive a car competently without ever knowing where the camshaft is or how it is manufactured, and similarly, I can write intelligible English without sentence diagramming.  (Of course, if I want to do my own car repairs, I'd better have a good idea of what's under the hood and how it all works; if I want to correct your sentence diagrams, it would be preferable for me to know something about them.) 



#18 Alte Veste Academy

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Posted 27 February 2014 - 12:43 AM

I think grammar instruction is always valuable. I think some people benefit from (and enjoy) it on its own and can successfully integrate what they have learned with their writing. I think more people probably benefit from grammar taught in context, through writing. I like it both ways. :lol:


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