Hubris is dangerous in the classroom. The student that believes nothing can be learned that isn’t already known catches nothing. The instructor that believes in an all-knowing prescience guarantees nothing worthwhile is cast for the capturing. That battle between student and teacher can dangerously become a war between good and evil — and that fight leaves no winners on the field of learning.
It is incredibly hard to improve student writing without destroying the spark of inspiration that ignites one to place pen against paper or to press fingertips into keyboards. We can require writing by rote, but we cannot force passion by routine.
Teaching writing can quickly become only about creating a false allegiance to a stodgy set of rules — that’s the “Superman Syndrome” and it happens when instructors believe they can save the world from bad writing by crushing a student’s criminal grammar instead of lifting the overall writing — and that adherence to grammar at all costs can, in many cases, discourage the student from the delight of a sifting thought process.
Are all students required to meet a standard set of writing rules? Or are regional, spoken, dialects and habits fine to use on the page — even in formal, scholarly, writing?
Grammar is important, but structuring a sentence that also makes sense to at least one other person can be an effective way for learning how to stretch communication beyond the inner mind.
If we do not allow students to test what they know against a rigid expectation, then they will never learn how to be malleable or creative. We also tend to lose those on the lower end of experience by requiring a hard line for the toeing. Those students quickly get lost in the weeds of belonging by trying to write to a communal standard they cannot meet.
Not every teaching method works for every student, and that’s why really good teachers are hard to find because those who are hired to know need to find a way to connect with each student and not just place an overlay of a theory across an entire classroom.
Defining, and then achieving, a standard of competence is important. We need to be able to recognize ordered thoughts in each other and the clearest way to do that is through words.
We share definitions. We recognize the methodical placement of verbs and nouns. We become understanding of each other in the way we construct our sentences.
We discover cogency through the rules of learning — yet I still wonder if there’s a danger in imposing social grammar rules on those who may be incapable of mastering them.
How do we handle the grammar-challenged — or even the functionally illiterate? Do we blame them for their station? Do we continue to forever teach them even if they are, through no genetic fault of their own, hopelessly unteachable?
Is intelligence found in perfect grammar or in the ingenious invention against expectation?