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Teaching English: A lost art?

By Kay S. Pedrotti Those teachers who know how to use semi-colons, commas and proper verbs may suddenly feel they are becoming obsolete in this day of LOL, OMG and r u kidn. It’s my fervent hope that they may not disappear before my grandchildren and my greatgrandchildren learn to express themselves clearly and correctly. The task of making sure that happens, however, is not solely up to the teachers — parents, are you listening? My parents, a teacher and a newspaper writer, spoke correctly to me; I did the same to my children and now they are passing it on to their children. My children’s expertise with language was probably absorbed by a mental osmosis, because none of my children can tell you ‘why’ a certain method of speaking or writing is the right one. They never remembered the English teachers’ rules, but they did it anyhow. I do know that their language arts grades were perfect or nearly so, despite their repeated reluctance to turn in homework or timely reports. Therefore, parents, support your local English teacher. Your children may think that now all that grammar stuff is old-fashioned, unnecessary and totally without merit. They would be wrong. Internet and social media notwithstanding, try telling those to whom you are applying for jobs such things as: ‘I has a lot of skills.’ ‘I like to work with them kind of tools.’ ‘I do got a lot of job’s and expurtness on my list.’ Unless the boss speaks perfect street-patois or backwoods jargon, the above statements will not create a desire to hire the speakers/writers. The number of people emerging from high school with just such speech patterns, not to mention the absolute absence of spelling knowledge, is appalling. In this office, we sometimes fight the battles of Otha Woodcock (Walter’s premier English teacher) versus Billy Bragg, my best ever experience with grammar and literature. I understand Ms. Woodcock hated commas, so Walter may leave them out where they might provide a breather or clarity for the reader. I cannot violate any of the rules taught to me by Addine Bateman, Bragg or Ruth Cochran so my copy often looks as if it’s shot with little crescentshaped bullets. Sherri Ellington and I regularly have friendly bouts over the proper use of quotation marks. Nevertheless, I think that this newspaper — as has been told to me several times — is ‘more literate’ than most newspapers, especially small-town weeklies. You may not agree with our viewpoints, politics, sports coverage or story placement; but by golly, we usually manage to say it right. So thank you, parents, and especially English teachers. Writers write to be understood; therefore, we will always need you.

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