Thursday, September 25, 2008

Topic: Parents' View of English

Ten-second review: Parents’ criticism of English as it is taught today (1974).

Title: “The Fear of English Teachers.” Ken Donelson. English Journal (May 1974), 14-15. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English.

Summary: After stating the obvious, that telling strangers you’re an English teacher will evoke some variation of “I better watch my English,” the author quotes parents on other aspects of English:

1. “English teachers should correct my kid’s language more than they do. I want him to be educated better than me.”

2. “English teachers spend too much time on those lie/lay, who/whom things.”

3. “I learned three rules from English teachers: never end a sentence with a preposition; never begin a sentence with a conjunction; and never split an infinitive.”

Comment: I remember a parent who wrote a criticism that her preparation in English was superior to the present-day teaching of English. She read it to the school board and her message was received with applause. She emphasized that we should be diagramming and drilling on grammar. In a fit of hubris, she let me, the language arts supervisor, read her written criticism. Her writing was riddled with grammatical mistakes in sentence structure, usage, punctuation and—can you believe it?—spelling. I spilled red ink all over it. Neither the school board nor the administration would touch it.

1. “…than I (not ‘me’) (am educated).”

2. One junior high teacher, a female, said, “That’s it. I’m never going to teach ‘lie and lay’ to teen-age boys again.” [I suggest that English teachers teach kids how to “write around” tricky usage like “lie/lay” and “who/whom.”]

3. Churchill: “That is something up with which I will not put.”

And that is how I feel about beginning sentences with conjunctions.

I have been taught to not split an infinitive. It often sounds better not to split an infinitive.

Not too seriously.

Moral: English teachers must educate students—and parents!.

The purpose of this blog, English Education Archives, is to review articles of contemporary interest from past issues of English education journals.

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