Saturday, February 8, 2014

Grammar Doesn't Matter?

I've lost track of  the number of times people have said to me over the years "Well you're a math person so you don't have to worry about grammar". I've even heard "math" people occasionally dismiss grammar as only important to writers.

Whether one is a "math" person or not would seem to be irrelevant in the discussion about the value of grammar in everyday communication. It's well known that texting and other forms of social communications can all be entered into without regard to correct grammar or even conventional spelling without too much loss in the clarity of the intended communication. But what about when we are called upon to compose a letter, write a paper, or commit our thoughts to a written form  in a way that requires clear and precise communication of meaning? Do we rely on experts?

I've just started reading carol Dweck's book Mindset since I have been talking about Mindset theory for some time; ever since I audited Jo Boaler's math course last summer. Imagine my suprise when I came across this paragraph in the Introduction section of the book:

       'A little more about grammar. I know it and I love it, but I haven't always followed it in this
        book. I start sentences with ands and buts. I end sentences with prepositions. I use the plural  
in contexts that require he or she. I've done that for informality and immediacy; and I hope
        that the sticklers will forgive me'.

Part of me wants to applaud her honesty and nerve to do what I have always wanted to do; thumb my nose at the purists and the "sticklers" as she says. But, another part of me feels nervous about using this book as a model for my students who are all supposed to use good  grammar in their writing since they have to teach it and be good role models for children. Or do they? I heard recently that grammar is no longer taught at the elementary school level. I wonder what it says in the Common Core language Arts Standards?  

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