Grammar Groans

by Lee Shainen

IN THE AUGUST 12th edition of Parade, this headline
caught my eye: “Help for Failing English Students.” As an
English teacher, I was obliged to read on: “The ‘Microsoft
Encarta College Dictionary’ not only features new words, but
its publishers also asked college professors nationwide how
their students were doing with the words they already had.
The answer: Awful.” The paragraph-sized blurb ended with the
dictionary’s editor, Anne Soukharov, calling for a “national
conversation” about why students are failing at English.

Confidentially, I am often baffled by what Microsoft’s grammar
check finds right or wrong, and I am certainly troubled by
my students’ unquestioning trust in the correctness of their
checked papers (especially regarding spelling and usage).
When I show them that there are still mistakes, they look
at me in an impatient “get with it” way, as if I’m the one
with the problem for not agreeing with the software (sigh).
Perhaps we do need “help for failing English students.”

Perhaps Microsoft will wear that cape and costume and rescue
the students from our impoverished and overcrowded school
districts. Perhaps.

Look, I’m not so vain as to believe that the business community
has nothing to

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