This week I read about the first STEM elementary school in my town. The next town over has a Technology High. I read an article today about people graduating from Code Camp (that would be computer coding, not Morse code or secret codes) and getting jobs; I am not sure if they were bypassing college. This week, on the radio, I heard about the ten least useful college degrees in terms of getting a job; numbers 1 and 2 were (1) archaeology and (2) radio, TV, and film (my son’s major).
STEM is definitely IN: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math.
Yet colleges are still complaining that their incoming students cannot write; businesses are saying the same thing and spending training money on remedial writing. I myself teach grammar review classes to corporations and other groups.
I have found that the level of grammar and writing competency among adults really varies. Many corporate employees, especially in the technology industries, speak English as a second language. However, their grammar and writing knowledge doesn’t seem to lag behind those who speak English as their first and primary language.
For most of us, our grammar education pretty much ends in junior high school. High school English classes are generally more concerned with literature and critical thinking. And some elementary schools and middle schools don’t teach much grammar, so students are never getting much grammar education at all.
Schools do, however, profess to teach writing. And students continue to write essays. The teaching of writing comprises many skills. Grammar, punctuation, and capitalization issues — the actual mechanics of writing — are but one aspect. I think, of course, it is an extremely important one.
Students are taught the parts of an essay: introductions and conclusions, body paragraphs, transition words. Perhaps they are taught some MLA format and how to write citations. They are certainly taught brainstorming, outlining, and those skills that contribute to good organization, which is very important in writing.
Grammar is taught to varying degrees, although the current Common Core standards include pretty complex grammar. But it doesn’t seem that much of it ends up in the standardized testing. When I was in school, a zillion years ago, one run-on sentence or sentence fragment guaranteed an F on the entire essay. Not true now!
Let us add to this discussion the fact that most of what is learned is lost by the next school year. Therefore, concepts need to be repeated and reviewed each year. And then, once we become adults and may not use these skills any longer, they disappear.
And are the schools teaching the difference between conversation and formal writing? To write to your audience? To not use slang and idiomatic language in academic writing?Maybe writing skill cannot be taught — or can be taught only to a point. Maybe it is a talent like piano playing. I think it is, but then you need to play piano to be proficient regardless of your innate talent. To be a good writer, it helps to write. Certainly, organization skills can be taught. Grammar, punctuation, and capitalization standards can be taught. Sentence structure can be taught. Yes, some people are better writers than others. Some people are better spellers and better at math too. But education in grammar and writing helps too. Doesn’t it?
So, STEM doesn’t include English . . . or art or music, and we know how important those are to education and our society. The question is, then, How much writing and grammar should be taught? Why?
I welcome your comments about this. Next week, I will give you my opinion about why, and how much, English should be taught.
Grammar Diva Announcements!
Do you have any ideas for posts you would like to see on this blog? I am always looking for good ideas! E-mail me!
Do you have something you would like to write about that would fit on this blog? E-mail me.
I will be teaching a Best Little Grammar Class Ever at Petaluma’s Copperfield’s books on Saturday, August 6 to celebrate the launch of the second edition of the book!
I will be participating in a roundtable discussion on September 11 at the Redwood Writers meeting. I will be talking about editing.
Would a group you belong to or work for like a lunchtime grammar review workshop? Contact me.