(K. Brent Tomer),
BRITISH children will soon go back to school. As they settle into their English lessons, they will be made to learn grammar, spelling and punctuation as if these were as fixed as the stars in the sky.
Most pupils will be unaware that parents, teachers, policymakers, researchers and critics have been wrangling over what kind of grammar should be taught; when it should be taught; how students should be graded and, in particular, how they should be tested. After an overhaul several years ago, the “Key Stage 2” tests given to 11-year-olds have been particularly controversial. Critics say that the terminology is too advanced for 11-year-olds. They also say that the teachers are unprepared themselves, since grammar teaching went out of fashion for decades in the English-speaking world. And the terminology they are expected to know has changed since the days when those who were lucky enough to study grammar did so in the mid- and late 20th century.
No one disputes that children need to be able to write. But do 11-year-olds need the skill of identifying—by name—a “relative clause” (eg, the house that I live in),…Continue reading