Not all migrants are refugees

Interesting article by David Penberthy in the News papers yesterday.

When it comes to writing, spelling and grammar and punctuation, migrant students are performing better than their Aussie-born classmates across the board.

Okay – we’re all familiar with these stories.

The only area where they lag, and only very marginally, is reading. But in the writing section of the test, 94.9 per cent of Year 5 migrant students reached the minimum standard, compared to 93.2 per cent of children from English-speaking backgrounds.

The biggest difference for spelling was among Year 3 students where 96.3 per cent of migrant children reached the minimum standard, compared to 94.4 per cent of children whose family speak English.

So a couple of things.  Those numbers are pretty good. Okay I know that the system is somewhat gamed – the not-so-smart kids get encouraged to not turn up on the day and so forth. But still those numbers are pretty good. Next thing – we don’t know if those differences are statistically significantly different from each other.

So what does Penbo blame the difference on?

If your parents have fled here on a boat from the killing fields of Cambodia, with half your family back home wiped out by the Khmer Rouge, you’ve got a pretty powerful demonstration of how bleak things can be, and how important it is to grab life with both hands.

To be sure – there is some of that. But Australia’s refugee intake relative to the overall migrant intake is relatively small.

Over the past four decades there has been a lamentable shift away from the nuts-and-bolts teaching of the building blocks of literacy – that is, the basic rules of grammar and the humdrum of daily spelling tests.

There is now a bigger emphasis on creative writing and persuasive writing, and less on the old-fashioned rote learning and repetitive learning to stamp out errors of grammar and syntax.

Yes – this is true. Unfortunately the Orange Free State education system were ‘enlightened” pioneers in this trend, and I didn’t do any grammar in high school at all.

The benefit migrant students have is that many of them study English as a language in its own right through ESL, English as a Second Language. It would probably benefit a lot of Aussie-born kids to enrol in ESL, too, as it is framed around teaching the foundations of the language to prepare students for its use.

Yes – I agree with that.

But …

The other added component to all this might involve the ubiquity of technology in Australian households where parents are both more affluent and more ambivalent about their children’s performance.

I have no doubt that the rise of spellcheck and the constant exposure to the literally-challenged world of social media is having a corrosive effect on the proper use of the language.

I’m less sure here.

One of the criticisms we constantly hear about technological change relates to ‘deskilling’. I agree we are deskilling at some margins. Unlike me my children have never changed a car tyre, push started a manual car, hell – driven a manual car, siphoned petrol, and so on.  Unlike my father, I have never stripped an engine and rebuilt it. Unlike my ancestors I have never grown and cultivated my own food, dug a well, painted myself blue and run naked into battle against the English invaders.  I have other skills.

So too with Penbo’s bugbear – spelling.

Hitting a command to check the spelling of a word doesn’t teach you how to spell, it teaches you how to be lazy. It has the added benefit of not really working anyway, as there is no spellcheck program that can reliably identify words that have been misspelt in their context, but remain correctly-spelled words in English.

Penbo – mate – these days you don’t have to hit a command. The technology tells you immediately if the word is misspelt. Right now the technology is telling me the word ‘misspelt’ is itself misspelt. The technology can also suggest alternatives. Do you mean compliment or complement? And so on.  But the argument remains. One shouldn’t begin a sentence with the word ‘But’ or ‘However’.

There is a deskilling around spelling.

The question is whether that really matters?

To education snobs – yes. Many such people view spelling as a signal of having had a better education. Grammar and spelling errors identify one as being a savage, or worse nouveau riche. 

To everyone else? Less so. As long as words are correctly spelt (is that a split infinite – shocking) at appropriate times and places does it really matter that the author had technological assistance is spelling the  word? Would Penbo argue that we shouldn’t use calculators because our mental arithmetic should be better?

It seems to me that perfect spelling is less valuable now than what it was a generation ago. Other skills are more valuable and as long as we deploy the cognitive savings from perfect spelling to other (more) valuable skills we are better off.

Update: Mark Latham has some interesting thoughts on education over at Quadrant.

Educationists have developed a long list of junk programs: play-based learning, philosophy circles, guided group work, inquiry-based learning, facilitation teaching, so-called “twenty-first-century skills”, general capabilities, creative thinking, growth mindset, co-teaching, collaborative classrooms, flexible learning spaces and constructivist teaching. John Hattie’s research (a global meta-analysis of 95,000 studies involving 300 million students) tells us that Direct Instruction achieves the best classroom results. That is, when teachers actually teach, standing at the front of the classroom and instructing their students on how to do things, creating a rich interchange of knowledge, ideas and inspiration. Yet in many schools this evidence has been wiped and Direct Instruction abandoned.

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53 Responses to Not all migrants are refugees

  1. Roger

    It would probably benefit a lot of Aussie-born kids to enrol in ESL, too, as it is framed around teaching the foundations of the language to prepare students for its use.

    No doubt, but oughtn’t that be the task of teachers in mainstream education?

  2. Tim Neilson

    Spelling can be important for the reasons penbo says.

    If a child is refusing to have its bath, a message instructing the carer to force the child to bathe and urging the carer to “scold” or “scald” the child could have very different consequences.

    The spell checker wouldn’t necessarily get it right. It’s worth while teaching people how to say what they mean and mean what they say.

  3. Old School Conservative

    Correct spelling leads to clarity of communication, which is essential.
    Anything less leads to assumptions and mistakes.

  4. Annie

    Proper punctuation is helpful to proper understanding of what is written.

  5. BoyfromTottenham

    Two things – Firstly, Winston Churchill was forever grateful that he was put in the ‘plodders’ class in school, where his teacher drilled them mainly on ‘how to write a proper sentence in English’. Read some of Churchill’s speeches and you get what I mean.
    Secondly, I think good spelling is far less important than having a good vocabulary – which allows you to say more exactly what you mean to say (even if the spelling is less than perfect). Having a meagre vocabulary means that you have fewer words available to say what you actually mean, creating unnecessary ambiguity and mis-understanding. Lawyers would tend to understand this point, I think. And of course the key to gaining a good vocabulary is READING.

  6. John Brumble

    Some years ago, I would have agreed with you. But now? There is a growing and dangerous tendency for people to intentionally interpret words or phrases in a way that suits their own narrative, when there are clearly other interpretations available. They do this even when the context of the word or phases makes a meaning other than the one they want to make use of. “Sex”, “gender”, “shirt front”; the list goes on.
    In a world where there is a greater understanding of grammar and structural parts of speech, that sort of thing is laughable. Trying to pretend that all words or phrases can only possibly have one meaning is contemptible illiteracy.
    We no longer live in such a world.

  7. Tim Neilson

    Would Penbo argue that we shouldn’t use calculators because our mental arithmetic should be better?

    Fair point, but even there deskilling can go too far.

    Nursing training has to be conducted on the assumption that the students don’t have arithmetical skills. The students get remedial training in “order of magnitude’ calculations so that when the calculator shows up 200 cc’s of solution to be injected they can tell whether it should have said 20 cc’s.

    It could matter.

  8. Neville

    Well-argued, Sinc, but wrong.
    I’m not sure just how much we would be “better off” since there appears to be little evidence those “other valuable skills”, whatever they may be, are being exercised – or even somewhat well-learned.
    There’s no “cognitive saving”, since it takes much more cognitive effort to actually understand what the writer was trying to convey when there’s a cognitive disjoint in an otherwise smoothly-flowing sentence when one encounters a spelling, grammar, punctuation, or vocabulary error, usually resulting in the reader having to re-commence the sentence to try to understand the writer’s intent. Old School Conservative (above) comments that “correct spelling leads to clarity of communication” – I go further, and say it’s not ‘leads to ..’, but nearly essential.
    Further, you defeat your own argument, by utilising near-perfect (and modern; split infinitives are almost never penalised these days) spelling, grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary, in the successful exposition of your argument throughout the article.
    Generally speaking, and of course not for every person, a rambling, ill-conceived text, with spelling mistakes, punctuation errors (including the dreaded use of the apostrophe to indicate a plural!), crook syntax, loose grammar, and especially a limited vocabulary, indicate nothing less than someone whose thinking is mixed, ideas sloppy, and communicative intent lazy. As a quite useful first rule of thumb, seeing such a text indicates a person who unfortunately (but oh so commonly, in out current ‘education’ system) endured a poor education in the one essential skill needed to be fairly successful in life, namely, the skill of being able to express one’s ideas and questions with clarity.
    With good, well-rounded communicative skills, all those other “valuable skills” come so much easier.

  9. Pyrmonter

    Slightly off topic, though the Doomlord may disagree for much the same reason he disagrees with Penberthy.

    The way many native English speakers of my generation (X) learnt grammar in Australia was to learn a foreign language. The collapse in teaching anything other than ‘community’ languages (overwhelmingly Chinese), and in particular the loss of learning European languages (once a requirement for university entry) is one of the more retrograde developments in education in the past 30 years.

  10. Archivist

    When it comes to writing, spelling and grammar and punctuation, migrant students are performing better than their Aussie-born classmates across the board.

    The only area where they lag, and only very marginally, is reading.

    This makes no sense. It’s hard to believe that there is no literacy advantage in English, for children born to English-speaking parents, in an English speaking country, compared to Children born to non-English-speaking parents in non-English-speaking countries.

    Unless the migrant children are from places like Auckland, Manchester, and Virginia Beach, I am sceptical that there’s no literacy gap in English compared to Australian children.

  11. Archivist

    It’s worth while teaching people how to say what they mean and mean what they say.

    They’re the same thing.
    So I heard.

  12. FelixKruell

    Agree – spelling, especially of words that are very poorly spelt in the first place, is a redundant skill.

    As long as you are communicating effectively and efficiently, I don’t care how you spell things.

  13. JC

    I’m not sure you really believe that Kruell. I made the “mistake” misspelling your first name , referring to you as Feelit instead of Felix and you appeared quite upset – promising to never speak to me again, which never followed through.

    I agree with this post. I find it amusing at the Cat that by and large the biggest gram/ spelling Nazis are those who never completed high school appearing to have double chips on their shoulders. It kind of shows why they never went on to university. Okay, I’m being redundant. 🙂

  14. Sinclair Davidson

    The way many native English speakers of my generation (X) learnt grammar in Australia was to learn a foreign language.

    Depends on the language. I did Afrikaans as a second language. That language, however, places the verb at the end of the sentence, not the beginning and mandates the double negative. So I’m not sure how valuable it was in helping me understand English.

  15. Roger

    Depends on the language. I did Afrikaans as a second language. That language, however, places the verb at the end of the sentence, not the beginning…

    Er…in English the subject comes at the beginning of a sentence, the verb in the middle.

    (He runs away!)

  16. Porter

    However much you disagree, Sinclair, it is perfectly acceptable to start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. But you knew that, surely?

  17. Professor Fred Lenin

    When I went to school many many years ago in Scotland you were not considerd educated unless you studied French and Latin ,or German and Greek yes ancient Greek . I still speak and read French and can conjugate a verb in Latin ,a very usefull thing in everyday life ( if I ever need it )
    We were taught English by Scots teachers who spoke with a posh Morningside accent which made the Scots dialect speakers sound lime foreigners ,, just shows what education can do ,you ask joolya giliard .

  18. Kneel

    “It’s worth while teaching people how to say what they mean and mean what they say.”

    “An elephant’s loyal – 100%”?

    (also running away…)

  19. Porter

    I can write by hand without spelling errors, even without glasses. I can’t type without typos.

    These days foreign languages are taught use audio-visual and structural approaches. No grammar. The only exception might be classical languages like Latin and ancient Greek and hardly anyone teaches them in schools these days.

  20. Porter

    I need to correct that. I do make spelling errors when I write by hand,.When I am tired I use homonyms. I no this to be true.

  21. Tony Tea

    No, “are correctly spelt” is not a split infinitive. It is not even an unsplit infinitive.

  22. Roger

    The only exception might be classical languages like Latin and ancient Greek and hardly anyone teaches them in schools these days.

    When I studied Koine Greek two decades ago the course began with a primer class on English grammar, the assumptions being that the younger students weren’t taught grammar at school and the older ones could probably use a refresher course.

  23. Pyrmotner

    @ Doomlord

    In perfect tenses, German does as does Afrikaans, or so my very rusty recollection of it has it doing. Learning it, however, shone a light on what was going on in English.

  24. Pyrmonter

    @ ProfessorFred

    Joolya’s accent was something I held against her. While she was educated in the public system, any pupil at Mitcham Primary and Unley High Schools who spoke as did she would have received correction. The broad accent is an adult affectation.

  25. RobertS

    “Joolya’s accent was something I held against her. While she was educated in the public system, any pupil at Mitcham Primary and Unley High Schools who spoke as did she would have received correction. The broad accent is an adult affectation.”
    I recall someone saying that Julia acquired her accent while working at Slater and Gordon.

  26. John A

    To everyone else? Less so. As long as words are correctly spelt (is that a split infinite – shocking) at appropriate times and places does it really matter that the author had technological assistance is spelling the word? Would Penbo argue that we shouldn’t use calculators because our mental arithmetic should be better?

    “Spelt” is a grain. “Spelled” is the past tense of “to spell” meaning to identify the letters of a word in the correct sequence.

    I note that a number of contributors to this blog more than occasionally rue the decline in thinking skills of people in prominent view (entertainers, politicians, advisors, media “journalists”) who seem to fall for sound bites, political slogans and illogical mantras promulgated by people seeking to manipulate the populace.

    For such communication skills to take their proper place in public discourse requires a wide vocabulary, extensive reading and significant comprehension. Deficiencies in the rules of spelling, syntax and grammar will inhibit the development of such skills, and lock up the great writings of the past. Add to that diminished attention spans, a decline in character traits such as perseverance and the result will be that books are ignored, knowledge is lost and civilization crumbles at the edges.

    By way of illustration, I was once forced to sit through a terrible comedian’s diatribe against the national anthem, complaining at length about the line “Our home is girt by sea.” Being a polite kind of person I did not boo him off, but maybe he needed a dose of such reality.

    On the use of calculators, I suggest that you look at the Hubble telescope which suffered from myopia when launched because of a simple error in calculations which resulted in an incorrect lens shape. An inadvertent change from metric to imperial measure, coupled with such a trust in the machine calculation that no-one applied an independent mental arithmetic check to the result, meant that an additional lens had to be fitted later.

  27. Struth

    I have other skills.

    Hmmmm.

    Productive skills?

    Unlike my father, I have never stripped an engine and rebuilt it. Unlike my ancestors I have never grown and cultivated my own food, dug a well,

    Being an academic in a field where no one agrees with each other and has been detrimental to western countries who take it’s advice, is not a skill.
    So seriously, as this pertains to the “service” mentality of the west at the moment.
    “productive skills” are needed.
    Are you also a tradesman, a doctor, a farmer, can you drive a b double,……………what use are those in the useless fields in Uni’s?
    I’m not being personal, it’s just when talking skills, “productive skills” might be more of an appropriate way of thinking about the issue.

  28. bespoke

    Old School Conservative
    #3340502, posted on March 2, 2020 at 10:44 am
    Correct spelling leads to clarity of communication, which is essential.
    Anything less leads to assumptions and mistakes.

    As someone who’s been on the receiving end of sometimes well dell deserved ribbing that is 100%. Correct. But is it as bad treating the langwidge a as tedious production line?

  29. candy

    Not spelling correctly is probably due to an attention deficit, so that a person can’t concentrate to read more than a page and then starts to skim over it. So there’s not much attention to words themselves, just a rush to get the idea of the story. Maybe this inability to focus is an environmental issue mostly with all the tech around. A first world problem really so the issue about migrants doing better could well be correct?

  30. Porter

    No, “are correctly spelt” is not a split infinitive. It is not even an unsplit infinitive.

    Indeed ” are correctly spelt” is an auxiliary and a past participle with an adverb in between. And “spelt” is acceptable in British or Australian English. American English not so much.

  31. Angus Black

    You can argue that poor spelling and grammar are less important skills than others…but I’d suggest that it would be more persuasive if you were able to demonstrate that, where the skills of expression were poor, effort had been beneficially spent on such other skills.

    My own experience is that skills in expression were fairly strongly correlated with other intellectual skills (I really couldn’t comment on artistic or manual skills). I’m not sure whether that’s a consequence of persistence, a willingness to grasp “first principles” and a painstaking approach to learning … or, ore simply, a causative link between reading and both “learning” and skills in expression.

    Either way, I – like many – do judge a person initially by their presentation and expression. As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression. I find it hard to believe that there is ever a situation in which you would be ill served by these skills.

    In respect of learning grammar through Africaans, you demonstrate the falsity of your own argument by the very act discussing of comparative sentence structuring, don’t you think? You clearly understand grammar in the abstract.

  32. Terry

    How to Write Good…

    1. Avoid Alliteration. Always.
    2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
    3. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
    4. Employ the vernacular.
    5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
    6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
    7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
    8. Contractions aren’t necessary.
    9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
    10. One should never generalize.
    11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
    12. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
    13. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
    14. Profanity sucks.
    15. Be more or less specific.
    16. Understatement is always best.
    17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
    18. One word sentences? Eliminate.
    19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
    20. The passive voice is to be avoided.
    21. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
    22. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
    23. Who needs rhetorical questions?
    24. Parenthetical words however must be enclosed in commas.
    25. It behooves you to avoid archaic expressions.
    26. Avoid archaeic spellings too.
    27. Don’t repeat yourself, or say again what you have said before.
    28. Don’t use commas, that, are not, necessary.
    29. Do not use hyperbole; not one in a million can do it effectively.
    30. Never use a big word when a diminutive alternative would suffice.
    31. Subject and verb always has to agree.
    32. Placing a comma between subject and predicate, is not correct.
    33. Use youre spell chekker to avoid mispeling and to catch typograhpical errers.
    34. Don’t repeat yourself, or say again what you have said before.
    35.Use the apostrophe in it’s proper place and omit it when its not needed.
    36. Don’t never use no double negatives.
    37. Poofread carefully to see if you any words out.
    38. Hopefully, you will use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
    39. Eschew obfuscation.
    40. No sentence fragments.
    41. Don’t indulge in sesquipedalian lexicological constructions.
    42. A writer must not shift your point of view.
    43. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!
    44. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
    45. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
    46. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
    47. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
    48. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
    49. Always pick on the correct idiom.
    50. The adverb always follows the verb.
    51. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
    52. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be by rereading and editing.
    53. And always be sure to finish what

  33. Old School Conservative

    Well done Terry.

  34. Fat Tony

    Anyone who thinks spelling and grammar are not critical, trying reading a technical scope of work written by someone who agrees with you.

  35. bespoke

    Not spelling correctly is probably due to an attention deficit

    Not always candy , I read things two or three times and happy to read long text as long it’s not pointless and repetitive padding or themes.

  36. FelixKruell

    JC:

    I’m not sure you really believe that Kruell. I made the “mistake” misspelling your first name , referring to you as Feelit instead of Felix and you appeared quite upset – promising to never speak to me again, which never followed through.

    If only that was the extent of your failings, I would happily excuse your poor spelling…

  37. Archivist

    I don’t trust the finding.
    It doesn’t make sense that language background makes no difference to literacy.
    We’re supposed to look at the numbers and be full of admiration for the plucky immigrant kids, without questioning whether such a thing is even possible at the population level.

  38. Shy Ted

    DP is married to Kate Ellis, she of the legs admired by most of the ALP front bench. He’s providing cover for the left in teaching. Get into lower socio-economic groups and and the ability to do simple 3 R’s is a rarity.

  39. …94.9 …, compared to 93.2 per cent ….

    … 96.3 per cent … 94.4 per cent ….

    George Calombaris was away the day they did calculus and look what happened to him…

  40. Mark from Melbourne

    Sinc, it isn’t at the end of the day about spelling. Though that is important.

    It is about the training of the young brain to be rigorous. There is a genuine slippery slope here, and we are now quite a good way down it.

    The three Rs are important not in and of themselves, but because they train the brain. Untrained brains lead to – amongst other things – the Greens, wee P-values and bad policy (BIRM).

  41. Roger

    Mark Latham has a very good piece just put up at Quadrant Online about NSW schools – and by extension all state school systems.

  42. notafan

    Correct about Julia.

    Xavier educated Shorten has a similar affectation.

    As for that article.

    Drawing a long now.

    The humitarian intake as a percentage is miniscule, less than 10 percent.

    As for the numbers I doubt aspiratiomal middle classes are letting the native born the down.

    But low socioeconomic groups with little commitment to education, who seem to be found in clusters with poor school attendance, they might be an issue.

    Without claiming Australian education standards are any great thing, because they ain’t.

  43. Lee

    Indoctrination, not education seems to be the thing at schools and unis these days.

    Even some of the teachers at my great-nephews’ very conservative religious school (not Catholic) sound like barking mad leftists, according to their father.

    And he does not like it one bit.

  44. Archivist

    The three Rs are important not in and of themselves, but because they train the brain.

    No, that’s exactly wrong.
    The three Rs are important, in and of themselves. “Training the brain” outside of real knowledge acquisition is for educational fantasists.

  45. Amadeus

    I learnt English as a 3rd language after arriving in Australia in 1950 as a stateless migrant from the British Sector in Northern Germany.

    My native tongues were Serbo/Croat and German.

    Living in Cowra, NSW, unable to speak a word of English, could have been hellish. But it wasn’t. (I used but at the start of that sentence, Sinc). However, sheer determination enabled me to become top of my class in English, both spelling and grammar, over four years of high school before leaving Cowra. (I used however at the start of that sentence, Sinc).

    Both but and however are used in context and are grammatically correct, senility permitting.

  46. Amadeus

    Just wanted to add, my beautiful, youngest adult daughter studied English literature and journalism at UQ and is the editor of academic textbooks on English language and Mathematics (she got her brains from her mother, a pure mathematics graduate) and both are much smarter than me.) My daughter approves of my use of but and however.

  47. 2dogs

    Educationists have developed a long list of junk programs: play-based learning, philosophy circles, guided group work, inquiry-based learning, facilitation teaching, so-called “twenty-first-century skills”, general capabilities, creative thinking, growth mindset, co-teaching, collaborative classrooms, flexible learning spaces and constructivist teaching.

    +100

    We have spent a fortune on education research for zero benefit. Papers have had results that are not reproducible; resultant programs have elicited no significant improvements.

    That is not to say that there are no improvements attainable. In England, Katharine Barbalsingh’s Michaela school has applied an approach that has obtained excellent results. That approach was not the product of research; just her own views. She did not get any research to develop that approach.

    The fact that she could obtain such results straight off while so many education researchers found nothing with a mountain of research reflects poorly on the professionalism of the researchers.

    I’ve mentioned here before how the scientific method has broken into separate left and right versions. The left version is weak on hypothesis formation. So Katharine Barbalsingh’s approach would never have been tested.

  48. Squirrel

    “…the ubiquity of technology in Australian households….”

    When more of that technology is created in Australia, or when we are somewhat better at creating other goods and services which will allow us to pay for the import of that technology, we’ll know that our education system is paying dividends for year after year of real growth in funding – and then we could afford to be more relaxed about spelling and other matters of detail.

    In the meantime, Australia’s utterly lamentable ranking here – http://atlas.cid.harvard.edu/rankings – is a snapshot of a nation of consumers of windfall wealth.

  49. Old Lefty

    The point about migrant children doing better because they learn English as a second language rings true. I’ve had quite a few young Anglo-Australians fell me that the only instruction they ever received in grammar was when they started a foreign language – and they are a diminishing minority. My fossil generation, by contrast, was drilled in grammar in the English class, as well as in Latin and French. But then again, my education was bourgeois, fascist, sexist, homophobic, racist, imperialist, genocidal, etc etc.

  50. John Brumble

    A former teacher of mine, specialising in grammar, had an open challenge. “Bring to me a novel,” he would say, “written by an individual considered a master (or mistress) of the English language. And if that book contains not one sentence beginning with ‘but’, and not one sentence beginning with ‘and’, I shall make you $500 richer.”

  51. Roy Watt

    As long as words are correctly spelt (is that a split infinite – shocking)

    Actually, that is not a split infinitive. An infinitive needs a “to”. It would have been a split infinitive if you had written “to correctly spell”.

    How about that? Another grammar pedant here!

  52. Amadeus

    I remember my English teacher through high school confessing to our class that his command of grammar was poor. He always asked the English Master to come into our classes to impart the basic and finer points of grammar.

    In his defence, the English teacher was brilliant at poetry and drama and we always looked forward to his readings. His rendition of “Wind in the Willows” was fantastic. He could reel off the contents of Ratty’s picnic basket in one breath and not miss a beat. Here’s the extract:

    What’s inside it?’ asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity.
    ‘There’s cold chicken inside it,’ replied the Rat briefly;
    ‘coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscresssandwiches
    pottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater—-‘
    ‘O stop, stop,’ cried the Mole in ecstacies: ‘This is too much!’
    ‘Do you really think so?’ enquired the Rat seriously. ‘It’s only what I always take on these little excursions; and the other animals are always telling me that I’m a mean beast and cut it VERY fine!’

  53. Gwendolyn

    Lee:

    Even some of the teachers at my great-nephews’ very conservative religious school (not Catholic) sound like barking mad leftists, according to their father.

    And he does not like it one bit.

    I’ve heard the Maronite schools in Sydney are known for teaching solid Conservative Christian ethics.

    Otherwise, homeschooling is the only option.

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