Thursday, March 7, 2013

On Education

My wife is an educator. More specifically, she teaches learning disabled and emotionally disturbed children. Over the years, her students have run the gamut from autism to anger issues. Last night, we were discussing the state of the educational system.

In New York state, there is standardized testing. Which sounds harmless until you consider the fact that the results of her students' test scores are added in with other students' scores and then we get the state average. How can one of her students, who might be severely learning disabled be compared to a non-LD student?! We all know that they can't. It's not balanced - it's not a fair fight.

Unfortunately, in the end, the students - the children - will be the ones who lose. Neither the average student nor the LD student will get the full education that they need and they will then be thrust into the real world, forced to struggle unequipped.

What does any of thids have to do with writing?

For me, even as a child, education was of the utmost importance. You had better believe that English class was a top priority. I knew the differences between there, their and they're a long time ago. It saddens (and even frustrates) me that my peers - my colleagues - do not know those differences. I look on Facebook and just see such horrible grammar. When I do so, I am appalled.

Now, I am not trying to pass judgment on people. Maybe they didn't pay attention in English. Maybe they had a crappy teacher. Who knows? The point is, they were not properly prepared for "the real world."

You may be asking yourself, "what difference does it make if they use there instead of their?" The differences are: (a) we are not the only English speaking country in the world. The British know their language pretty darn well. I can guarantee you, they just checked to make sure I used the proper "their." (b)As an aside to (a), we look like idiots on the global stage. We are not looked at in a good light by other countries. The fact that we cannot master our own language makes us the laughing stock of the world. (c) Isn't it important to know how to balance a check book? It's a part of our daily lives, right? We speak constantly, right? Words are also a part of our daily lives. Ergo, proper use of our words should also be not just a part of our daily lives, but an important part of our daily lives.

It is for those reasons that I proudly call myself a grammar nazi. I refuse to appear ignorant and inarticulate. I refuse to fall into the stereotype of the ugly, uneducated American. This is our language, but sadly, I have met many people for whom English is their second language and they have mastered it far better than we (the native speakers) have. I have tremendous respect for those people and their native tongues. I also have tremendous respect for my own language.

What's sad is that a key part of this linguistic issue is that teachers aren't able to teach proper grammar because they are overworked, underpaid and forced to follow curriculums set by the government. They have to cram ridiculous amounts of information into shorter time spans. They do not get the opportunity to teach the way they want to teach. They want to teach proper grammar as much as I want to see and hear it. Sadly, they just can't due to these regulations.

We need to master our language and we need to improve our educational system. Both are in a very sad state. I think that if we were able to improve both, we as a nation, would improve. Our global image would improve and our culture would improve as well.

So, here's to better education and better grammar for us all!

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