I did think hard before posting this. Relevant to the forum?? Well, if we want others to follow us, I think it may be!
I will be 75 this year. Due to moving house, I attended two different Grammar Schools. In my O-Levels in 1958, I got 97% for Enlish Language [edit: I have a feeling it was actually 79!! Still won me the school English Prize to the chagrin of Head who had labelled me as Science Set!]…Yet I have no recollection of ever being taught the definition of a subordinating conjunction! Some of you (well @seren and one other) have been kind enough to mention enjoying my way of expressing myself! I therefore believe that the lack of this piece of information has not been a handicap!
I find it hard to believe that even an expert in Grammar like @garethrking would advocate teaching such to Primary School children. I would expect it to bore them to tears and put them off learning for life, or at least learning languages!!
If any of you in England agree, how about telling your MP?
I well recall ‘Educationalists’ on bandwagons! The IQ test was supposed to measure Intelligence. If it did, we wouldn’t have improved our scores with practice, which we all did and which all teachers knew we did, but it took my generation years to get rid of the 11+ exam! Then there was ITA, Look and Say… and woe betide poor kids who moved house and ended up being taught to read by every method there was!!
This latest ‘wagon’ doesn’t affect Scotland, but if you are in England, what do you think?
I did think hard before posting this. Relevant to the forum?? Well, if we want others to follow us, I think it may be!
I have always thought that grammar is something that is acquired not taught. When I was in school ( I am 62 now) I always said things in my head to see which felt right. My husband, Colin and I were talking about this subordinating conjunction business yesterday evening and neither of us could remember being taught about them but, of course, memories fail. I read recently that academics, feeling that only classical languages had any validity, tried to make English comply to Latin rules of grammar.- not a good fit. I’m sure you’re right to say that nothing is more detrimental to the enjoyable learning of a language ( including ones first language) than learning too many rules too early. Which is probably why I am enjoying learning Welsh with SSIW so much. I don’t even read the small questions section on the forum- too much grammar!
This is interesting for me because i am of the generation that wasn’t taught any grammar in school,though we did some basics in primary school. All my grammar I’ve learnt purely from experience. My generation are parents of children at schools now. I know parents who are being asked by their children for help with grammar and the parents are frustrated that they can’t help, or have to teach themselves grammar. At school we did free flowing writing, with no punctuation and lots of verbing and experimental structures, it be not was with me none harm don’t you know! I would have liked more grammar education, my grammar still isn’t great, my professional writing has to be corrected, but learning Welsh is helping me understand grammar better anyway!
My view is teach grammar, when it starts to be needed, once reading and writing skills are firmly embedded, so it is an interesting challenge rather than something tedious and off putting.
Too much testing, not enough learning, seems to be the problem. It happens at universities, I was a mature student and I was surprised by how much effort other students were putting into exam preparation and technique. I perhaps could have got a 1st if I tried to become proficient the skill of doing exams. Exams test the ability to do exams, not skills or subject knowledge. subject knowledge and skills do help with exams though, but people have learned that it is more efficient to improve exam technique rather than subject knowledge. I concentrated on useful skills and knowledge in the subject, rather than learn exam skills, which would be useless after I graduated. It seems that schools concentrate now on teaching exam technique at the cost of actual learning. I’m so pleased we are keeping the 11+ out of Wales.
I didn’t even know about that bandwagon!! But it explains a lot about the problems some quite intelligent lads and lasses at work had with writing! I remember cringing at a Dinner when our Professional Society’s Guest Speaker, the local MP, told us that his invitation had said that we liked “short and entertaining speakers”! Afterwards, I made the offending Member of Council agree never to send out such a letter again until I had vetted his grammar!! I honestly thought it was just that most scientists were dreadful at English, unless they had learned it as a second language in Wales!!!
I was a GCSE guinea pig. I vaguely remember criticism in the media of how ‘wishy washy’ our English education was. when I went to university, my English was picked up on and my tutor started talking about verbs, nouns and adjectives and saw my eyes glaze over, such things hadn’t been mentioned since primary school, though they probably were in Welsh and French classes.
I am a scientist, so maybe that is part of it too, I think we are not comfortable with the perceived lack of logic and rationality in language. I know a lot of scientists are also dyslexic who struggle with the written word. Scientific writing is quite cold, it is written for international audiences, precision is key, rather than nice sentences. People often discuss how to make scientific writing better and more appealing to wider audiences.
It’s kind of like religion. I am unusual in being a scientist who gets religion. Most scientists don’t get religion because, they struggle to see past the perceived lack of rationality.
The other thing is that people perceive scientists as being clever, we really are not any more clever than anyone else, we are just people who like science, so when it comes to subjects like language we can be pretty ‘thick’.
Maybe this is why SSiW works so well. If you try and learn from the grammar you do get too bogged down in trying to find rules and systems, which language doesn’t quite have in a scientific sense, so scientists tear their hair out looking for structures that don’t really exist, or that they do but in a different way.
Grammar is fine, so long as it is descriptive, and not prescriptive. But in order for it to be descriptive, it has to describe something, and my fear is that modern children are not exposed to enough good quality language, i.e. they don’t read enough. This is probably a trend that has been around for many decades, but modern technology will have accelerated it. Much of their "reading " time is taken up by social media, so not exactly a guarantee of high quality.
When I first saw the thread title, i.e. “English Education”, my first reaction was to think of the phrase which is attributed to Ghandi:
Mahatma Gandhi is credited with a brilliantly acerbic remark made in response to a question from a self-satisfied journalist:
Journalist: What do you think of Western civilization?
Gandhi: I think it would be a good idea.
(although he may not have said it:
Be that as it may, what I really think is that meddling politicians and Education should be kept as far away from each other as possible.
I was absolutely incredulous when I read about the ‘grammar’ syllabus for primary school children. I’ve been a professional editor for well over 20 years (including as an editor of linguistics textbooks), and I couldn’t identify half of the structures they have listed. Utterly ridiculous.
Personally, I find a good understanding of grammar useful - but I’m an editor and not a writer, so it’s my job to unpick it.
And anyone who has been through the SSiW system can vouch for the fact that you don’t have to know the ‘rules’ of grammar to be able to use the language fluidly and effectively. I support their being taught, but not like this.
And in a general query … does anyone know if Wales is also going to be subject to the wholescale buyout of the education system that the Chancellor announced recently (aka “Academization”)?
I’ll spare you my rant about handing public services over to private profit-making companies…
Shouldn’t be - education is devolved - I believe academies are part of the Tory party’s manifesto in Wales, but I’d like to think we’re not on the verge of voting for an Assembly administration that includes the Tories…
Well I’m relieved for us, at least!
Although ‘not being relieved’ to the point of campaigning would probably be a good thing in general terms, given the distressingly high levels of support for Tories in Wales, and the frankly heart-breaking levels of support for UKIP…
What concerns me, is you may have heard of the plans to close Builth Wells and Llandrindod high schools, to build a new school in the middle of nowhere (at the Young People’s Village site at the Royal Welsh). and also to close Gwernyfed and Brecon high schools and build a new school in Brecon. Won’t it be great for the children, the environment and not to mention the cost of having everyone bused to school! It seems everyone opposes these plans to take schools out of communities. However Chris Davies, our Tory MP, used the opportunity to ask in the UK parliament for academies in Wales, instead of highlighting the different needs of schools in rural areas, grrr!!!
This i find interesting, on the one hand i don’t feel i want or need a religion.
But from a evolution point of view it’s really interesting that we could discover a lost tribe somewhere in the world and they would have their form of a religion, so it seems part of human makeup.
You could be talking about me there, (though i’m sure i am not the best of scientists), anyway grammar seems a mystery to me yet i understood things like scientific notation or electron orbitals in one lesson.
But of course all things (idea’s , concepts ) go in a circle.
and from an evolution point of view science struggles with things like random mutations or recombination (in DNA), the only way we can try and use equations for this is to assign them a probability (so grammar is full of exceptions and so is evolution).
Somehow i’m not surprised.
This is such an unusual view for me. There was a big division here, in the sixties, into “scientists/technicians” and “humanitarians”, based on how the people’s brain worked and on which subjects they preferred. And the “scientists” used (and still use now) to make fun of the “humanitarians” because they are good at everything: at science and at literature, if they want to, and we humanitarians know only our subjects and are totally lost if we have to deal with maths/natural science. There were lots of fantastic Russian writers who were, originally, scientists, including my favourite brothers Strugazkie.
Besides, linguistics and linguistic systems are very close to mathematics. All linguists have to study it, sooner or later. There are even subjects such as mathematical linguistics and semiotics. The thing that makes languages interesting is this blend of the abstract and ideal (the theoretical language system) with the real living language, with all its imprecisions, and variations. I like how L.S. Vygotsky described the language, as being in a state of a flexible equilibrium between the ideals of mathematical harmony and the continuous change and development which we call evolution.
Some would argue that I am not a true scientist, as I study Biology, which is all to do with dealing with probability and perceived randomess, it’s not random it’s just very complex, so to model systems we put in randomness because we can’t control all the variables. biology is still at the stage where we look at one reaction in the millions of reactions in living organisms, so it takes a very long time, with scientists all around the world to build up even a rough idea of what goes on in a system. We still either look at individual reactions or behaviour of whole systems, it is goign to take so long until we can really join the two ends together. As a post-grad I was amazed about how little is actually known.
Again, this is the whole boxing problem, often when trying to classify things you find as much variation in each box. Animals personalities are made up of so many traits which all have complex interactions with each other. It’s not that non-scientists are not also interested in science, it’s this myth that it is difficult that stops people, like it stops people learning Welsh.
If you spend any time in a scientific laboratory you will see many rituals taken to make a procedure work and praying to the great gods of chemical reactions, it’s funny but sometimes there is something in the ritual, or by adding randomness that somehow makes a procedure work. For example, you may think that time isn’t a factor at a stage in a procedure, but because you do your ritual, the procedure then works, because you didn’t account that for something that needed time to happen before plunging your sample back down to freezing or whatever.
Snap, but with exactly the opposite result!!
Historically, in England, which, due to dominance, for a long time, meant in UK, those with authority and influence were the aristocracy who owned the land and whose sons eventually came to be educated at Public Schools such as Eton and Harrow. Mainly the subjects taught were Greek, Latin and Philosophy.
Grammar was regarded as important. History was useful. Science, when it came to be noticed as useful… well Charles II valued it, but after him I can’t think of many with power.
The attitude of my Headmistress who, on hearing that, at 14 I had not been taught German, only French and Latin, that I could not go into the top ‘arts’ set where Ancient Greek was taught, so had best be a scientist… it was a common attitude. I will never forget the grind of her teeth when she had to announce after O-Level that I had won, not just the Mathematics Prize, but the English one!!
Thanks to all for the input!!
Somebody better with words than me, thank you Stella.
I’m a governor at Ysgol Uwchradd Llanfair-ym-Muallt/Builth High School, so I’m not going to comment on this too much, but the fact is that Powys has not identified any site. Everything you have heard is rumour and supposition.
When I was at school I struggled with the creative writing side of English and I struggled with the grammar aspect. Every parents evening my mum asked for help for me, yes Mrs L of course we will do that. I did GCSEs in 1999 and I am still waiting for this assistance. Between 1996 and 2003 I learnt German at school/ uni and learnt far more about grammar then than I ever did in English. I’m hoping my hubby will help our daughter with her English he got an alevel in it,
I’m slightly older than you, but I didn’t learn much about grammar in my English lessons either - I got most of it through French and then other languages. But when I started out in my job I did a lot of revision through teach-yourself books - I’ve been told that the “Dummies Guide to Grammar” is very good, if anyone fancies giving it a go. (Not saying that anyone should - just if there’s an interest.)