Filling in for Fausta. She will return in the second week of August.
Writer Sarah Hoyt expounds on education – and miseducation – in a great series of essays, Teach Your Children Well.
My son in third grade was assigned to do an essay on “My best friend.” He proudly showed me a paragraph. And I hit the roof.
The sentences – as far as I could tell through the horrible spelling – were ungrammatical and incoherent. There was no thought progression, nothing the reader could follow. It was as though he thought if he included “my best friend” in every sentence it would work, even if it was “my best friend is rocket fire.” It read like absurdist poetry. And it was maybe all of 300 words.
I thought, “He’s ill. He’s having a bad day.” So we went into his book bag (my son hates the very concept of lockers. Still does) and looked at his graded essays. They were all As. They were all horrible. The teacher routinely gushed about his writing in parent-teacher conferences. I later had reason to realize that the fact he could write at all, with words and everything, as his younger brother would say, was amazing to his teachers.
Which didn’t make any of this better. Further inquiry elicited information that they weren’t actually teaching spelling or grammar or any of that stuff because it was better if the students picked it up “organically” because it encouraged “self-expression.”
Of course, what it mostly encouraged was incoherence.
So I dug out my books on “English for Foreign Learners.” I figured by then it was what my poor child had become. I started assigning him grammar exercises and spelling lists (they actually introduced these in fourth grade, probably because of parent rebellion. They were mostly puerile words the kids should have known). When he got home from school, there was work to do. He got published professionally at thirteen. And he can write with verve, fluency, and coherence, as can his brother.
Hoyt’s children are blessed to have a mother who cares about true literacy, but it seems to me that people like her, even non-writers, existed in greater abundance 30 or more years ago than they do now. (I was taught to read, write, and compute — before Kindergarten — by my first custodial parents, my great-aunt and great-uncle: a beautician and a city employee, respectively. Both had high school diplomas earned during the heyday of segregated public schools.)
The reasons for the dearth should be obvious: the maleducation of American children began at least two generations ago. Today, many of those who are parents and grandparents are unable to grasp the importance of true literacy, much less pass it on to their progeny. But those who are able need to pay attention to the chaos being intentionally inserted into the minds of their children. If you don’t plant your form of order into those minds, government schools will plant their form. We’ve seen these weeds all around us for decades.
And read Peter’s post.
Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.
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