Yesterday two fifth grade classes from a private school in Tucson came to tour Tumacacori National Historical Park; twenty-eight students, two teachers and seven parents. In addition to the Park Ranger who led the tour were three volunteers, including myself. One of the other volunteers is an 84-year old former kindergarten teacher who has been volunteering here for 17 years.
During one of the group’s activities, one of the teachers, the former kindergarten teacher and I were talking about how things had changed from when we were in school. Just the day before, the Park Ranger, the kindergarten teacher and I had been to a fourth grade classroom for an activity. I read some notes that were posted on the bulletin board for one of the class’s school projects about medicine. Of all the notes posted I did not see ONE note that had all the words spelled correctly or had the correct grammatical form or punctuation.
With texting so prevalent (and right here, right now, my spellcheck is saying I need to check the spelling for texting and spellcheck) and with bits and bytes being the communication of the day, is it no wonder that our children are illiterate?
I was an English major in college; grammar, spelling, diagramming sentences and knowing parts of speech came naturally, so I did well. I like language, metaphors, similes, puns, and word puzzles. These days I’m not sure that kids are getting a full education about these things. I wonder if the teachers are just grateful that the children are trying, although they are not coming anywhere close to knowing how to write a full, correct sentence.
And frankly, even spellcheck and computer grammar check is not always correct. So here’s my place to name a few of my pet peeves about the language we speak and write.
1) People are WHOs, not whats. We say things like, “the children that…” or “the fireman that…” When one is speaking of a human being, the ‘modifier’ is “who”, not “what”.
2) I cringe when I go to a very nicely designed web site and see a lot of misspelled words or incorrect grammar. I have even written to web sites about that; sometimes the writer is of another country trying to write in English. That is a time when a proofreader would come in handy.
3) I know it’s easy to get into the (bad) habit of short-cutting words, such as, “u” for you, and “r” for are, and “peeps” for people, etc. My mind goes crazy even when my own daughter writes about herself and doesn’t capitalize “i”. Maybe it would be helpful if we all slowed down enough to write right.
And yes, I know that if you are reading this with a critic’s eye, all is not as correct as it could be. That’s also part of being a writer who wishes to express a certain way. I was taught that a sentence should not begin with the word “and”. And I still do it!