Why can't bright young people spell, punctuate, or form grammatical sentences?

Look, I myself have instances of fumblefingers, and I make typos from time to time. I'm no stickler for Oxford English and I pepper my writing with colloquialisms. I use "ain't" and "gonna" and "hopefully" (which technically should be "one hopes"). Occasionally, I'll even say "anxious" when I should say "eager" (to be anxious is to be suffering from anxiety, not full of anticipation).

However, there seem to be two categories of people who don't know how to spell, to puncuate, or form actual sentences. 1) Hillbillies playing a banjo out on some Appalachian porch or 2) people under the age of 30.

Did the schools stop teaching English? Did it become an optional course in high school? Were the kids skipping class in favor of smoking dope? Is it too much texting? What's going on here?

By cracky (LOL), back in my day we graduated students prepared for college. Today many good institutions of higher education spend the first year bringing the students up to speed on skills they should have learned in high school.

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It seems to be a "pet peeve" for some when exposed to communications laden with lapses in grammatical or spelling correctness. Is it justified or warranted? In the context of an online social forum where we should feel somewhat relaxed, I don't place too much emphasis on such things, and care more about the content of the message. Everyone comes from different levels of educational background. I do not possess a formal high level education and that probably is apparent to some of our members. I do my best to convey my feelings on a subject and hope that improper grammatical structure can some how be overlooked. 

We need to communicate in terms of the other person's understanding otherwise you accomplish little. I live in the aforementioned backwoods of rural America and make no apologies for my friends who play banjos on their front porches. It is unwise to confuse literacy with intellectualism. Being literate does not automatically produce intelligence or even common sense. I can appreciate a well structured sentence complete with spelling correctness but it really is the content of the message that matters in the end. Substance trumps correctness from my hick point of view.

I think the teaching of good language skills is not just a matter for schools, we parents must also play our part and constantly talk to our children, engage them with books, poetry and conversation, not equip their bedrooms to the point where each is a self contained media centre where they no longer have to interact and converse with their family !  We do not have Appalachian Mountains here, in fact we have no mountains at all, but I must come to the defense of Dutch youth who by the age of 15 all appear to be able to spell and punctuate in Dutch and at least one other language (English or German mostly), and all of this in a nation where drug taking is not criminalised ! My two oldest children can spell correctly and construct grammatically correct sentences. My oldest (11) can do this in three languages and my deaf from birth son has a good command of written Dutch and is now learning how to read and write English, it will be another few years before he can write well in English but I think he will make it by the time he is entering his teens. Both schools and parents must make an effort, and parents must support teachers and not undermine them.

Nina van der Roos.


Your children are fortunate to have an interactive Mom. Often in America schools are simply a babysitter, followed by TV and video games at the home. Teachers certainly cannot shoulder all the blame as parental involvement is a key ingredient to success.

Nina, the problem is what do we do when children are being born to the lost generation? The kids whose schools were more concerned with socializing them than educating them are now popping babies out.

We already have the problem of a generation of poorly educated teachers. We're reaching the point where we are losing the kernel of well-educated people to turn things around. I am not optimistic about the future of the U.S.

My own daughter, now in her late 30's, had a learning problem and suffered for it until it was diagnosed and she learned and was shown alternative ways to study. Now she's not only the wonderful mother of three kids, but she teaches in a Montessori school.

So, don't get the impression I'm slamming people who have a legitimate excuse for language problem. I'm slamming the lazy ones who don't have learning difficulties other than that they prefer entertaining themselves to actually learning something. Unfortunately, I can't criticize them out of the (figurative) earshot of people such as you.

I'm sorry the world isn't fair to people like you who are dyslexic or people like me who are growing old and are balding and can no longer attract the young ladies. However, if you'll check the subject line, and read my post you'll see I'm not talking about people your age who have a pathology but people under 30 who don't try. I'm also decrying an educational system which lets them get away with it.

So, no, I can't tell who's dyslexic from who isn't and I don't need to. I'm not dealing with individual cases. And if people are going to tippy toe around every topic which may cause someone some discomfort, what would be left to talk about that would also be relevant?

There are many ways one could approach the question you ask.  Personally, I doubt that there is any great relevance to smoking herb.  I inhaled more than once and in fact I got my best grades when I was stoned most often.  Also, people from different places will be reading this, so, it is difficult to come up with any type of blanket answer.  I will tell you what I believe is the basic problem with public education in the USA.  It is probably applicable to any and all of the lamentations we hear about how education is failing us. 

The basic problem with public education in the states is the same as the basic problem with politics in the states.  They both are controlled by panic.  Since the 1960s, there has been this insane insistence that everything about education is wrong.  The kids are weird.  There is no respect.  There is a huge problem which must be fixed, RIGHTNOW.  This has led to constant replacement of texts, constant reeducation of teachers and, in general, panic.  No one takes the time to understand that nothing can be accomplished if one does not know and understand the tools available.  No one wants the teachers to be able to take a couple terms to get familiar with their tools.  That might lead to good results.  Good results might lead to a lessening of panic.  Lessening of panic may well lead to reduced sales of new instructional materials.  Reduced sales of new instructional materials will, sure as hell, lead to reduced profits for textbook publishers.  Good results will also deprive the panicmongers of a platform from which to harangue the public.  So, there you have it, in a nutshell.  Further, deponent sayeth not.

But the situation you describe itself seems to induce panic, for I don't see any change on the horizon. Parents, politicians, psychobabblers, et al, are not about to let up anytime soon.

I can only feel so much better because I'm sure because they are absolutely atypical. Most kids today seem absolutely NOT fascinated by language, and so they feel no impulse toward mastering it.

Oh, I wear the mantle of curmudgeon with pride. And didn't you notice the word "bright" in the subject line of this thread? Most of the great minds you refer to would be even greater if they knew English better than they do.


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