Rudolf Flesch once observed that language may be the only truly democratic thing on the planet. What he meant is pretty straightforward; what becomes the common grammar does so because of usage. In other words, we ‘vote’ on what proper grammar is, based on how we use words. http://www.dean.sbc.edu/tamburr.html
It is a strange phenomenon that we could keep insisting that our students learn the ‘proper’ grammar…what a death blow to inventive and creative writing! What a death-blow to language, too!
Should our students write correctly? Of course.
Is our current grammar correct? Nope. But, it’s not incorrect either.
If we historically had taken our current approach to grammar and punctuation in education, then we would have tried to codify (and demand submission to) the Elizabethan standards of the 1600’s. Really? That’s the correct way to write? If it is, then why aren’t we teaching that standard instead of McGuffey (or Roberts, or Dr. Seuss, etc.). If it is not the standard, then why not? Why aren’t we writing like Shakespeare? Who is making this decision for you?
Do we really want everyone to write the same way and sound the same way? Do we really want everyone to use the exact same rules and style in grammar and punctuation? It is a socialistic approach that demands children all be the same; and, of course, language will have none of your socialism. Usage will win, and it will be so cool!
We have an instinct for language, which means simply:
1. You learn to talk
2. Your talking grammar is correct (enough)
3. You learn to read
4. Your reading grammar is correct (enough)
5. [Later in school] you formally study grammar (which you have to already know in order to read) so that you can know what things like subject/predicate/present tense/intransitive/verb/noun/ adjective are all about.
6. Eventually, you give up and either learn to write by your instinct, or quit writing except when you have to
There is a whole new world of writing just ahead…and a whole new world you’ll give to the reader…if you will do the following for yourself or your student:
* Write a lot
* Write in our own voice (unique approach)
* Stay teachable and learn to change what doesn’t work or doesn’t make sense in your writing
* Keep reminding yourself that Shakespeare couldn’t have told you much at all about the formal names of the grammatical components he used
Fred Ray Lybrand