The Ghosts of Grammar Lessons Past

As an editor, college writing skills teacher, and avid reader, I am constantly bemoaning the demise of the English language, more specifically correct grammar and spelling. When I teach my college students writing skills, we start with the absolute basics, like parts of speech, and go from there. I’m often shocked and dismayed by what my students don’t remember from prior education, or never knew at all.

I read this blog post from Rich Adin, a colleague who writes the acclaimed An American Editor blog. In it, he recalls using the New York Times as a learning tool while in elementary school in the 1950s. It led me to think back to early education, when diagramming sentences was all the rage. I very quickly lost count of the number of sentences I diagrammed back then (under the stern tutelage of Sister Patrick Elizabeth, among others). I’m sure I complained loud and long at the time, but I am rarely stumped by the proper usage of any word, wholely as a result of the education I received in the early 1970s.

In his blog, Rich says that news writing has suffered because teaching grammar and spelling in schools seems to have become a lost art. He worries that those coming into the teaching profession won’t be able to teach proper grammar and spelling, because it wasn’t taught properly to them.

Check out Rich’s blog, and tell me what you think. How were you taught grammar? If you have children, how is it being taught to them? If you are a teacher, how do you teach grammar to your students?

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