Basic Grammar in Today’s Schools: What the Heck Happened?

It seems like every day, I’m getting more and more horrified by things that I see on Wattpad.  One of the most troubling, I think, is basic grammar.  Now, I’m not talking commas in dialogue, hyphens, when to use italics, etc.  I’m not even talking about the difference between the words “President Kennedy” and “the president, John F. Kennedy.”

No, I’m talking about what I am going to call “baby grammar” for this post.  Mainly two basic things: the capitalization of a single “I” and the period at the end of a sentence.  This I’m calling “baby grammar” because it was something I learned when I was 5 years old, in kindergarten.

I still faintly remember the days of my teacher, Mrs. Martin, telling my class back in 1999 to put periods on everything we wrote.  I don’t remember how I learned to capitalize an “I”, but I do remember about halfway through the year when we were given a cutout hot air balloon.

“Just write where you’d like to go,” Mrs. Martin said.

Since I had no logic of time and space, I wrote out in my scribbled handwriting, “I would go to Pluto.” I capitalized my I and dotted the sentence with a period.  Now, maybe my education was just “better.” because I was in an upper-middle-class New York public school…but here is my counter to that.

Last year I had a great time volunteering for my sorority at a local Florida public school.  This school was considered a “grade F” in literacy (the lowest possible). The area was so bad that the cab company wouldn’t even drive me there.  The kids were so great, and I miss them a whole bunch.  But even though the school literacy rates were low, I still noticed that they could write.

I worked with 3 children who had the lowest grades in their second grade class. One had been held back 3 times.  Now, their handwriting wasn’t great, but they were able to capitalize their I’s and dot their sentences with periods.

Here is why I’m really bothered: there are a whole bunch of stories I see where people don’t do those things.  Some of them are American teenagers as old as 17. Some are from other countries and still learning English.  If it’s a character language like Chinese, I’ll give you a pass.  I know that I could never learn Chinese.  But a romance language?  After my first week of beginning French I could write out, “J’aime aller a la plage.” (I like to go to the beach.)

Main point of this post: what is going on here?  Is it the people?  Our school system? There has to be a reason why teens, for some reason, aren’t using “baby grammar.”

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