Sunday, May 16, 2010

Reading and Writing, to hell in a handbasket

If you write without punctuation, no periods, commas, apostrophes, if you do not know the difference between their, there and they're, if you do not know that an apostrophe indicates possessive nouns [do you know what a noun is?], can you comprehend anything you read? This thought has been haunting me since I read that transcript mentioned a couple of posts ago. I presume people who write so badly read very little. But in our society some reading is necessary. Even more to the point, if you do not know that communication is done in sentences, can you actually understand what others say to you and can you think clearly enough to function well socially or in a job? Are education academics asking these question when they emphasize testing students but not via their writing ability? I'm not surprised a garbled phonetic spelling makes up most text messages -- will those young people whose only written communication and reading is in this form of texting ever be able to read a newspaper or write a business report? [Oops, sorry, I forgot, business reports these days are Power Point presentations and those have bullet points, not sentences.]

I'm aware the certain levels of a-literacy [to make up an inadequate word for people who supposedly are literate but can't write a sentence] has been around a long time and that even illiterate people function -- but have an extremely difficult time. Imagine being a truck driver entering a large city and being unable to read highway signs! When I was growing up I went to a very small rural school. In many classes students sat in an alphabetic arrangement. So from 1st through 12th I often sat by a boy named Eddie. He was not dumb although he was lazy and he did not pay much attention to teachers and probably copied test answers from my papers part of the time. I remember that our 12th grade English teacher was talking about grammar and I was horribly bored because I had learned grammar basics in about the 6th grade. But that day, when we were about to graduate, Eddie whispered to me, "What's a verb?" This has stuck with me because my opinion of him took a deep dive at that moment. He's a dunce, I thought. He'll come to no good end. He didn't.

I'm told by my daughter who works at a superior charter school that the students in her school have to do a great deal of writing. The school's goal is that every graduate will be able to get into college and they prove their ability on exams. Still she says many write badly. She believes many young people graduate from other schools in the area -- an affluent area -- unable to write any better than the abysmal transcriptionist of that interview.

This is one of my "hell in hand basket" scenarios. As I get older I more and more often see things that make me think this or that is going to hell in a hand basket -- literacy, American civil rights, the environment, the fitness level of junk food eaters -- oh, I could go on and on. I'm told it comes with gray hair and liver spots on the hands. I think it comes with caring and looking seriously at the world in which we live.


Marie aka Grams said...

I'm in complete sync with your sentiments. We have the same conversations going on in our house, and it's about more than literacy. It's about decency, too, and right action. Please keep writing. We all need to ponder these values.

standing on my head said...

i was extremely fortunate. i was well educated in all aspects of grammar and syntax, in 3 languages. when i disregard them, i'm doing it out of choice.
i'm not sure that the ability to communicate clearly, or think clearly, is tethered to the written word. i know too many brilliant people who can't write.

June Calender said...

"Standing" - as the IQ testers have finally learned, there are many kinds of intelligence, I'm sure many brilliant people are not especially verbal. Being a verbal person I have difficulty imagining a rounded life without being able to read complex material. I try to realize that lots of people simply don't think the way I think which makes them different but is not a judgment of good or bad. Still I worry about logic and understanding if people don't have a grasp of grammar. And I think schools are shortchanging children by not teaching them the elements of good writing.

Kass said...

Intelligence is one thing, the ability to express yourself fully is another. Why would anyone want to limit their avenues of expressions? Writing opens the mind and makes the world vibrate.

June Calender said...

I agree totally, Kass. I don't think people choose to limit their ability to express themselves, I think they are not given the tools to do so and many turn to other avenues of expression [music, dance, all kinds of sport, creativity that is not verbal]. Some individuals are lazy but many are impoverished through bad education.