Re[2]: FWD: "Illiterate America"

Subject: Re[2]: FWD: "Illiterate America"
From: "Arlen P. Walker" <Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 4 Dec 1995 07:18:00 -0600

I trust Joanna will not take this personally, but I suspect that one
major reason why so many Americans hate their language is because of the
way it is taught.

I haven't formulated a strategy, mind you, but I do know that, at
the way reading and writing is taught to children creates a kind of
right/wrong dependency and paranoia that does little but stunt the
imagination and limit one's capacity for discovery. Or, put more simply,
think about how you learned your language in grade and high school. Were
you encouraged to read and write with abandon or did you sit in straight
rows identifying parts of speech and conjugating verbs?

I have two daughters, one in HS and the other in 8th grade. They progressed
through different schools in the same district, which used different methods to
teach english.

My oldest daughter diagrammed sentences, learned parts of speech, etc. In short,
learned via the right/wrong method you decry above. My youngest daughter was
constantly encouraged to write, and in her early years was encouraged to invent
the spelling for words she couldn't spell when she wanted to write them.

One of my daughters is now a sports reporter for her school's paper. She
constantly is writing, either stories or reportage or just in her journal. The
other, despite excelling in debate and forensics and loving literature, all
activities closely related to writing, absolutely hates to write any sort of
paper or story.

This experience might be considered to be supportive of your point, except that
it's my oldest, the one taught the "right/wrong dependency and paranoia," that
is the reporter. The one who "sat in straight rows identifying parts of speech
and conjugating verbs" loves to write; the one "encouraged to read and write
with abandon" hates it.

My youngest repeatedly came home from school frustrated because she was being
encouraged to do things she knew she couldn't do correctly. It was like she was
being encouraged to build a house, but no one had shown her how to wield a
hammer or a saw. She grew up hating to write, because she didn't know how to use
words properly. She knows, now, but she still hasn't shaken the frustration she
felt in her early years. Hopefully someday she will, because she is really quite
intelligent, and comes across that way when speaking (her debate team is 9-3 so
far this year, and she's one of the best at cross-ex in her division) but not
while writing.

Have fun,

arlen -dot- p -dot- walker -at- jci -dot- com
In God we trust, all others must supply data

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