It drives me crazy when my seventh-grader brings home school papers marked "A"
but there are grammar and spelling errors in every sentence. It's bad enough
when his English teacher ignores errors. But all of his other teachers don't
seem to feel it is their job to help him produce accurate written work in their
disciplines, either. Why is this tolerated in school?
It really shouldn't be. Bad writing
that persists past the first few years of school is a clear sign of an
unproductive learning system.
It used to be that an entire school
staff helped instill good academic habits, no matter what subject they taught:
foreign language, math, history, science . . . all teachers insisted on
well-written student work.
But that has changed. Schools that
believe that only the child's classroom teacher should pay attention to the
child's written language development, and even then to accept errors without
question at the middle-school level, are working at cross purposes for what
most parents, taxpayers and employers want.
Bad writing also reflects poorly on
teachers' colleges, since they are churning out teachers who don't "believe" in
correcting student writing errors. Either that, or their own writing skills are
so poor, they don't even recognize errors when they see them.
It's a complete and perplexing
turnaround from how the instructional process used to work. And it's definitely
not in the best interest of students to have their errors "blown off" by the
people who are being paid to instruct them.
Children who are taught how to read
and write the proper way - with systematic, intensive, explicit phonics - and
whose teachers gently but firmly insist on getting language down on paper
right, learn to write a lot closer to perfectly than most children write today.
The habits of good writing take a lot of discipline and practice, and
unfortunately, those two important keys are not part of the usual "progressive"
school philosophy taught in teachers' colleges and practiced in schools today.
It's no wonder that most children's
writing is so weak and error-prone. Their language skills have literally been
malformed by the Whole Language school of thought, that avoids focusing the
students on making the end product of their writing as good as it can be, and
instead focuses on the process.
Also a factor is the widespread
moral relativism of this day - the notion that there is no such thing as
"right" and "wrong," that it is more important to tolerate differences than to
discern what those differences are, and that it will crush a child's spirit to
make him correct errors.
Because teachers' colleges teach
Whole Language methods, relativism and permissive psychology, instead of proper
instructional methods, today's teachers almost without exception believe it is
OK to let errors slide in student writing. They truly believe that with more
"time on task," the children will suddenly know how to spell, punctuate,
capitalize, order words, and so forth, some day.
But that's nuts. Children learn
constantly; they need neither cushioning nor artificial rewards. They also
learn by observing what is done by the people around them. Teachers who refuse
to teach children to correct writing errors are doing the wrong thing.
Teaching is a "team sport," they
say. Why shouldn't a basic educational skill, writing, be taught with a team
approach, so that every teacher who comes into contact with your child is
responsible for making that child a better writer? That's not "piling on."
Homework: Talk this over with your fellow
parents and approach the principal with your request to urge teachers to
correct writing errors.