Grammar: conforming or improving?

I have been struggling with something for a few years. Who says that a specific set of grammar rules is right? While I have not specifically studied the history of grammar of the modern American English language, it is my belief that it is based on the writings of the white, elite men. That is to say, it is the “white” culture that decided what was proper English.

But stating that it is “white” culture is another one of my points. There is country and inner-city English, neither of which conform to the standard rules of English grammar. And within each of these cultures can be found people of all different skin colors.

So why do we teach a certain set of grammar rules? Because they are what is considered intelligent, as deemed by elite, white males. In order to succeed in this world, an individual must speak using proper English grammar.

But do you believe this is conformity to the standard, a killing of culture, or is it teaching success? How important is it that we kill this culture? How important is it that we make American culture conform to succeed? We teach other aspects of conformity, nudist colonies are considered outside of the realm of what is appropriate, but it is simply the human body that is freed.

My point is this, if an individual can string a series of words together and can communicate and be understood with this string of words, why can these sentences not be accepted? What makes one sentence more acceptable than another?


Grit, Money, and Moral Support in Education

Americans have a long tradition of throwing money at a problem. Our focus on the government budget is just one example. But money does not resolve every problem, or even most problems. Andreas Schleicher, in his TED talk goes into great detail about data mining and the findings as a result of research done on education systems from around the world. What he found was that money does help education, up to and including a certain point. Basic supplies and well paid teachers are very necessary to a good classroom. However, he goes on to explain that at a certain point, money does not improve education, the way money is spent is the deciding factor. In America, we have surpassed the level at which money improves education, and yet education has not improved as rapidly as in other countries.

So what can we do to graduate productive students ready for the real world? Angela Lee Duckworth¬†completed an interesting study in which she talked about hard work, what she called “grit,” and how this trait can be the difference between a productive individual and an unproductive individual. Surprisingly, however, the findings showed that the students who did well in school never developed this “grit,” simply because they didn’t know what it was like to have to struggle. Instead, the students with “grit” were those who struggled. These are the students who succeeded in the real world.

So how do we create a work force with “grit?” While some personality traits and personal interests do assist students in school, there is nothing that should prevent a student from doing well in school. In my experience, the most common factor in whether a student will succeed in school and in life is the students’ belief that he or she can succeed. There are other factors, money, other aspects of home life, etc, but I firmly believe that any individual who believes he or she can succeed will succeed.

Support at home cannot be controlled. Teachers can send emails and letters home every day about the role of support, but if a parent or guardian is working multiple jobs, or is simply disinterested, nothing can be done at home. Support at school can be controlled. Placing students in the optimal learning environment, doing one on one work, not comparing, and celebrating goals met are all ways to facilitate a more supportive school environment.

This is all easier said than done. But we need better teachers, we need go pay the profession better to better motivate teachers. We need to do more research on how to discover the best learning environment for each student. There is no one solution, smaller classrooms won’t fix it for everyone, technology won’t fix it for everyone, we need to be able to observe a student and know how he or she learns and produces best.

What do you do to motivate and support your students?