You can always tell when it’s Back to School time—Target puts out the aisles and aisles of notebooks, markers, pencils, and folders where lawn furniture was the week before. But wait! Summer is only half over. True. We used to go back to school after Labor Day, somewhere at the beginning of September. Now, teachers are returning to work as early as next week! And students return a few days later. So much for that “teachers have three months off in the summer” remark! School gets out at the beginning of June. Most teachers stay a few days to a few weeks after school ends to get things in order. And most are probably back in their classrooms already getting things in order for school to begin. There are copies to be made, lessons to be planned, and furniture to be put back into place after summer floor waxing. So much for the three months, which is pretty much down to two months now. But I do not need to go back this year, so I digress . . .
Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Common Core, Technology . . . what about grammar? Is grammar taught anymore? Oh, sometimes. I don’t think you find too much grammar being taught in high school (most of the time). What about elementary school and middle school?? I think it varies with the teacher. Some teachers probably don’t really feel comfortable with their own knowledge of grammar; it tends to be one of those things that you forget and don’t think about unless you use it all the time. More importantly, some teachers feel their students will be bored with grammar, so they keep it light-handed (I didn’t, of course). There is the school of thought that grammar should be taught along with the literature and not as its own subject. I disagree with that and think that is like hiding the broccoli in the mashed potatoes so the kids will eat it.
The Common Core standards are full of grammar even though, as an English teacher, I never heard the grammar mentioned. It was always about “critical thinking,” which is important, but so are writing skills, of which grammar is an important part. And the Common Core grammar expectations are very high, much higher than the grammar skills of the students I have seen.
And there is no G (for grammar) in STEM, the new acronym for what is important in education (and the E doesn’t stand for English, either). STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Many of us would like to see that changed to STEAM: the A stands for the Arts. No doubt about it: that is where education is heading. It’s all about technology. After all, that is where the jobs are, particularly in my part of the country.
BUT . . . and there is a big BUT here. Years ago, when I was a technical writer, they liked to hire writers. They said that it was easier to teach the technical things to those who knew how to write than to teach the technical folks how to write. It seems that the tide has turned and more technical people are being hired. This may be because there are more technically trained people to choose from now. And let’s face it: technical knowledge has always proven to be more lucrative than writing.
However, there have been multiple articles recently on the value of a liberal arts education—yes, even for technical jobs. A liberal education teaches one how to think, how to problem solve, and makes one a well-rounded employee. In fact, there is a new book (which I own but cannot talk about because I haven’t yet read it) called In Defense of a Liberal Education. Its author, Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post columnist and CNN personality, “expounds on the virtues of a liberal education, ” according to the book jacket.
A couple of years ago I taught a grammar and business writing workshop to a group of accountants. When I asked them how much of their job required writing, they replied “about 90 percent.” Most of us need to write.
Technology is not taking away our need to write either. The content has simply switched from print to online, while it has increased exponentially in volume. Websites, promotional materials, social media . . . online is where a company’s and an employee’s reputation is often built. Writing is a reflection of who you are. We know that people do not like to do business with a website riddled with spelling and grammatical errors.
Colleges are still complaining about the number of students who enter needing remedial English courses, and companies are still complaining about employees’ lack of writing ability.
How about STELM: Science, technology, engineering, language, and mathematics. We don’t even care if the L is silent.
If you are a teacher or student returning to school soon, have a good year!
If you have purchased one of my grammar books, thank you! And, if you like, a review on Amazon is always appreciated!
By the way, The Best Grammar Workbook ever is now available in PDF form from this site and also will be up on Kindle as an interactive e-book hopefully this week! Other e-book readers very soon!