Is Grammar Worth Teaching? By Walt Gardner

Is Grammar Worth Teaching?

For readers of a certain age, grammar was an essential part of the English curriculum. I vividly remember learning about parts of speech in elementary school, and then moving on to diagramming sentences in middle school. I'm sure I was an outlier, but I liked seeing how words came together to form ideas. In fact, I still have Warriner's English Grammar and Composition (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1951).

I was reminded of my experience by an essay tracing the rise and fall of grammar instruction ("Grammarians in Hoodies," Education Next, Spring 2013). During the 70s, there was a push to make English class more "relevant." Feelings about literature became more important than analysis. In 1972, the Conference on College Composition said that students had a right "to their own patterns and varieties and language." I was taken aback when the National Council of Teachers of English in 1974 issued a statement that correcting language was "immoral" because it was an attempt by one social group to exert dominance over another.

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