Her and him don’t know English grammar

Guest blogging on Core Knowledge Blog, Fred Strine laments the ignorance of his fellow teachers, now known as “facilitators.”

Of my 28 colleagues in the English dept. only one other geezer and I know what a direct object is. My grammar diagnostic test routinely given to 7th graders in the 70s proved way too tough for my current high school TEACHER colleagues. Our Language Arts department has no Standard English textbooks. The facilitators wouldn’t use them anyway. “Besides, nobody cares about stuff like subject-verb agreement anymore,” I’ve been told. Meanwhile glaring errors such as, “Her and me feel the same,” pass muster with both students AND their facilitators.

Strine just retired from teaching after 36 years, taking his knowledge of the direct object with him.

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  1. Richard Nieporent says:

    One of the things you can’t help noticing when you read blogs is the number of people who don’t know English grammar. Obviously one expects typos, but there are too many mistakes to simply blame it on typos. Besides the one you mentioned, the three most frequent mistakes I see are not knowing the difference between to and too, there and their and its and it’s. Also I constantly see the incorrect use of the subjective as in “If I were smart I would know that one uses were and not was in the subjunctive tense”.

  2. It’s dreadful: the English language is the richest in the world and is being lost to ignorance.

  3. Well, it’s the lovely side-effect of those alleged studies that explicitly teaching grammar does not improve student writing. Writing scores were flat before that tenet was incorporated and they haven’t improved since.

    Of course, it doesn’t help that students have role models who shun correct grammar. After 5 years, I know what my kids are and aren’t taught–they are explicitly taught correct grammar, but many of them either don’t think it’s important or don’t bother to retain it–and even the so-called TAG kids can’t always tell you the difference between a subject and a predicate, much less what a noun or a verb is (even though they’ve been taught it).

  4. Richard Nieporent, forgive my ignorance, but why is your example an incorrect use of the subjunctive? Aren’t counterfactuals entirely appropriate?

    BTW, you forgot lose vs loose, a very common evil, and one that has crept into many places you would not expect – “reign in” instead of “rein in”.

  5. linda seebach says:

    “Subjunctive” is not a tense. It’s a mood.

  6. How about “taken for granite”? Arrrgh?

  7. If I listed the thing that irritate me the most about online writing (or even bad writing among Associated Press reporters), I would be here all night. So I’ll just say that I’m glad there are still a few people who feel my pain on this issue. 🙂

  8. Of course, in the Irony Department is the fact that I have at least one typo in what I just posted — since it should say “things” instead of “thing.” It’s not the same thing as grammar or spelling, but it’s still pretty stupid when you’re criticizing others’ online writing. 🙂

  9. How about “taken for granite”? Arrrgh?

    Why, Chuck Norris is so stone-faced he’s mistaken for granite all the time!

    Seriously, the lack of appreciation for the English language is sad, and it’ll only get worse until we take the ed school asylum back from the inmates.

  10. David said, “Of course, in the Irony Department….”

    At my institution of “higher education,” the Irony Department is the Humanities Department. They’re supposed to teach English, history, philosophy, and the like. Instead, they teach the opposite of what used to be expected or considered appropriate in these subjects.

  11. And after the Irony Department, there’s the Department of Redundancy Department, of which a division is the famed Institute for the Study of the Totally Freaking Obvious.

  12. Mrs. Lopez says:

    How about “could of” instead of “could have”? I never used to notice that, but I’m seeing it more and more.

  13. Richard Nieporent says:

    Devilbunny, what I was trying to say was that the correct usage of the subjunctive is “If I were”, not “If I was”.

    Subjunctive” is not a tense. It’s a mood.

    You are correct Linda. I am able to use it correctly even if I don’t know the proper term for it!

  14. It all boils down to race, gender and class, which explains everything in the solar system. I’m not sure how, but to find out I’d have to fight my way through postmodern gobbledygook like the following, and I’m just not up for it, even though the grammar might be correct: [Discourse] is a space of exteriority in which a network of distinct sites is deployed. — Michel Foucault. Yeah, that sounds about right.

  15. Sister Howitzer says:

    “Well, it’s the lovely side-effect of those alleged studies that explicitly teaching grammar does not improve student writing. Writing scores were flat before that tenet was incorporated and they haven’t improved since.”

    I’ve heard this, but have never been able to find any of these studies. Anyone know of any offhand?

  16. How about “tow the line?”

  17. Ohio, if you explained that “toe the line” comes from the lines in front of the front benches in the chamber of the House of Commons–two swords’ lengths apart across the floor–you’d probably raise more questions in the minds of most modern audiences than you’d answer. More’s the pity.

  18. In my experience, good writing MUST be preceeded by the reading of good writing (reference content-rich curriculum) and frequent, regular practice. That means starting in the earliest grades with copying, then dictation, before proceeding to composition. It shouldn’t be necessary to say that ALL writing, ALL subjects should be corrected for grammar, spelling, style etc. as well as for content. Each year, the length/complexity of assigned writing should be increased, until all high-school students can write an in-class essay/letter in appropriate format and few errors and upper-division college prep students should be writing real term papers. When I was in high school (small semi-rural), a frequent in-class assignment for kids in the commercial track was to compose/type a business letter in response to a very brief prompt: “Ask Mr. Jones to meet with me to discuss possible job placements for next year.”

    All students should be expected to speak standard English and errors corrected as necessary.

  19. I think that part of the problem is that many people just don’t think that proper English matters in life. Yet there are tons of jobs where a mastery of proper English is essential.

    Speaking of pet peeves, one of mine is the use of “comprised of” instead of “comprising” or “composed of.” An easy way ot keep this straight is to realize that “comprising” is basically the same as “including”, and one would never say “included of.” (So sayeth this patent attorney, for whom “comprising” has its precise proper meaning in determining the meaning of patent claims.)

    Side note: I think the rise of “could of” is because people don’t realize that the contraction is “could’ve”, and they goi with what it sounds like.

  20. Transposing “continuous” and “continual” has long been a pet peeve, as has been the related error of using “less” in place of “fewer.”

  21. Yes, Dave, “few/fewer” is for count nouns, such as apples, while “less” is for noncount nouns, such as water. My current craw sticker is the use of “different than” instead of the correct “different from”.

  22. For all intensive purposes, your splitting hares. I can’t help but read this as “back in my day, things were different, and therefore better.”

    When the cheese moves, some people move with it, and some people complain until they retire.