A Call for Better Education: Why Grammar Should Still Be Taught in Schools

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By: Lauren Kassien

I was never taught how to use a comma. There was a time not long ago when I had never heard of an em dash. It wasn’t until I was bored one day in my ninth grade English class that I learned the difference between a colon and a semicolon. Instead of participating in my class’s discussion of Romeo and Juliet, I sat hunkered in a corner, pouring over my first copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. If no one would teach me to be a better writer, I had to learn myself.

I’m not the only one who missed out on these valuable English lessons. Several of my friends and current classmates have complained that they, too, never learned the difference between independent and dependent clauses. One of my best friends recently confided to me that she has never heard of an idiom. Websites such as Apostrophe Abuse and Funny Typos make light of the today’s all-too-common grammatical blunders, but this lack of English education is a serious and growing problem.

Recently, educators have begun to argue that grammar is a lost art. The Telegraph published an article in 2013, claiming that today’s crop of new teachers don’t have enough grammatical knowledge to teach their students. They believe technology will take care of spelling and punctuation for us. But we’re still taught math, even though there are computers and calculators to add for us. We’re told learning to solve for x teaches us to challenge ourselves, to problem solve. Doesn’t grammar do the same thing?

In addition to giving us stylistic and organizational skills, grammar also helps us become stronger, more effective communicators. In an NPR blog, author Kyle Wiens argues that, “Grammar is credibility, especially on the Internet. Your words are all you have. They are a projection of you.” Journalist or not, being a solid communicator is a skill that transcends all majors and fields. In a world where anyone can publish anything on the Internet, isn’t it better to stand out through as a more credible source, thanks to a use of proper punctuation and capitalization rules?

What do you think? Were you taught grammar in high school? Does a writer’s grammar skills—or lack thereof—influence your thoughts of them? Would you hire a person who misspelled several words in his cover letter?

Photo courtesy of Richard Leeming on Flickr


8 responses to “A Call for Better Education: Why Grammar Should Still Be Taught in Schools

  1. I am so glad you wrote about this. Grammar is way too overlooked in society and viewed as unimportant in comparison to math or science, and while yes these fields are important and may require different skills, learning how to use good grammar is probably on of the most important skills for any human being, because it’s your voice. I was taught grammar in high school, and my mom is an English teacher, so there was really no getting around that for me. I know in J40 we’ve been talking about how important it is to make sure that you don’t have anything misspelled in your cover letter or resume because employers would just throw it away. I probably would too, honestly. If someone can’t spell something correctly in an essay or article, then it makes me think they didn’t try hard enough, because in the big picture of organizing information and doing the reporting or getting the sources, the grammar should be the easy part.

    • I’m glad you brought up J40. That was one of the big take-aways I got from that class, too. My dad works in accounting–not even close to a communications-related field–and he says he throws away applications all the time that contain glaring spelling or grammatical mistakes.

  2. This is an excellent article. I had grammar skills drilled into my during junior high, and her toughness as really helped me out today. Misused commas are one of my biggest pet-peeves, and these little grammar cues all stem from my education in seventh and eighth grade. I think it is so important for students to learn at a young age the importance of using proper grammar because it is one of the only things we have to share our voice through written communication. We could be the smartest person, or the best journalist, and if we have a typo (or five) on a cover letter, resume, or even a general email, it will be hard to be taken seriously for all of our accomplishments. I think it is so important for teachers to let students know that spellcheck won’t fix everything. Grammar is a vital skill for any future career, and I’m not sure everyone is prepared for that.

    • I find it really interesting that you were taught proper comma usage in school. I learned about nouns, verbs, capitalization, etc. in middle school, but my first formal comma lesson came from an optional ACT tutor. It’s cool to see how this one subject is taught so differently, depending where students attend school.

  3. This is such a great topic! I was never taught grammar in elementary school and just a little in high school. Some of the terms you said in your post I have no clue what they are or how to describe them. Because I was never taught the difference between “affect and effect” or how to properly use a comma, every time I write I feel like an idiot. I feel like people will think I am stupid because I put a semicolon where a comma is suppose to go. But I can’t help it because I was never taught the difference.

    Grammar is such an important topic that every child needs to be taught the basics in elementary school and then a more advanced level in high school. It is such a crucial part of learning and life in general, everyone needs to learn how to write correctly.

  4. I’m glad you wrote about this! Grammar was taught at my school, but I was also a self-proclaimed Grammar Nazi and I know not all English classes were taught the same. Grammar was a subject people didn’t take as seriously as math or science. It is so important to learn how to communicate effectively through writing, and I don’t think a lot of people realize that.

    My dad is a small-business owner, and he always complains that he was never taught grammar in school. I have to edit his emails every time he sends something to an important client because he doesn’t understand the idea of a run-on sentence or where to put a comma. He always stresses about sending these emails. All of his anxiety could have been avoided if his English teacher would have taken more time to teach grammar.

  5. I’m glad you wrote about this! In school I wasn’t every really taught anything about commas, or much about grammar in general. Grammar is so important in the professional world. Every kid needs to learn grammar and how to use it. Even if they aren’t wanting to go into a profession like journalism, or some kind of writing. They are more than likely going to have to write a few emails, and knowing how to use grammar correctly can make you a better communicator, which is important in any profession.

  6. This is a great post! Although I didn’t think so at the time, I was lucky enough to have grammar lessons throughout middle school and high school. My sophomore year of high school we had months of lessons, quizzes and tests on grammar usage. The problem is that just like math, if you don’t continue to practice it it’s easy to forget. As you mentioned because of the use of technology I often overlook what’s grammatically correct because I assume that Word will correct it for me. Grammar is so important and it shouldn’t be overlooked because I would never hire or interview someone with basic spelling and grammar errors on their resume or cover letter.

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