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Michael Gove And 'correct Grammar': Let Me Explain This Slowly

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/10/michael-gove-grammar

From a purely theoretical standpoint however, I do think that there is no such thing as one single correct grammar. Here's my argument:

1. All language has grammar, otherwise it wouldn't be language. Grammar is what gives words sense. We produce language in strings of words, and the means by which they stick together and make sense is grammar. This applies to all language, all dialects – not one particular way of speaking and writing. So grammar is not a matter of being correct or not. It's a way of describing how all language works. All linguists believe there is grammar, but linguists do not all agree on grammatical terms or categories. Pretending that there is only one correct way to describe language is confusing and untrue.

2. I think we have to assume that Gove is using the phrase "correct grammar" to mean "the grammar of Standard English".

3. Standard English is a form of writing that has developed, has changed and is still changing. There is not one correct form of Standard English, and to tell children that there is would be to tell them an untruth. To take one simple example, we can write in modern Standard English: "Do you have any wool?" "Have you got any wool?" "Have you any wool?" All three are acceptable forms of Standard English.

4. If there were one "correct grammar", we wouldn't be able to explain how and why grammar changes. So, the method by which we ask questions in English changed in the era before Shakespeare. If you listen to journalists and politicians, you'll hear and read that they show a growing tendency to discuss a plural subject, eg "drugs" or "teenage mothers", and follow it with a singular verb. It's as if people have started to give themselves permission to turn these plurals into a title or a topic. What was "incorrect" is becoming "correct". In other words, the term "correctness" doesn't help us understand language.

6 more reasons listed at the link.

I'm sure the HPC grammar police will love this topic. :ph34r:

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It's an interesting question... but I guess it devolves down to whether you want your surgeon to be 'innit, nyarwarraymeen' or someone who can string together a cogent argument as to quite why you should let him shank you in the guts.

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For some reason Cameron just lets Gove run riot and set very important education policy based on `what he reckons'.

His modus operandi is:

1. Try to find something that he can criticise (even if out of context and very minor)

2. Say that this proves things are very wrong and must be put right

3. Putting it right is synonymous with `what he reckons'

4. Don't ask for evidence that it will work - " We are driving up standards"

5. Don't ask "what standards"

6. Aggressively accuse any education professionals who disagree of wanting to harm children's prospects.

7. Meanwhile create more and more pressure for schools to become academies ( via Ofsted inspectors whose other job is advice in setting up academies) and for schools to then buy services from large corporations run by cronies rather than through councils.

Other tactics have included:

Use of private email addresses to try to avoid freedom of information obligations

Blaming of `officials' when wrong information given out about playing field sell offs

Refuse to visit boroughs where school rebuilding cancelled

Aides to use social media to smear opponents in the press.

Plausible deniability about exam grade boundaries being changed.

Plausible deniability about bullying in the DofE.

Be very chummy with press so they never look at the detail.

You do wonder what school experience he had - it must have been very traumatic to be so antagonistic.

Rant over.

Y

Edited to improve my standard of English.

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From a purely theoretical standpoint however, I do think that there is no such thing as one single correct grammar. Here's my argument:

Typical Grauniad.

Advance an argument. Support it, ad absurdum if necessary.

Omit the crucial fact it's a strawman: you're arguing against some nonsense noone would support (even Latin has some flexibility)! The suggestion that correct grammar implies "one single" correct grammar against which you've argued is patently absurd.

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I was also disappointed to see a letter received by one of the Yokel family inviting her to a job interview at Westminster came in the form of a colour leaflet entitled:

An Invite to the House of Commons.

No, it is an invitation. Invite is a verb.

Mr Gove could look closer to home for poor standards of English.

Y

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I was also disappointed to see a letter received by one of the Yokel family inviting her to a job interview at Westminster came in the form of a colour leaflet entitled:

An Invite to the House of Commons.

No, it is an invitation. Invite is a verb.

Mr Gove could look closer to home for poor standards of English.

Y

Saw a piece recently on hugely successful children's writer Jacqueline Wilson. She was bemoaning the fact that in general, fan letters she gets from foreign children (in English) contain better spelling and grammar than those she receives from UK kids. Some of them even write in txt spk. 'I want to be a famos ritter' was one she quoted - probably an extreme case.

But probably typical that the kid wanted to be famous. As JW said, they think you just have to write a book, it will take off and you get a film deal, sorted. (sor'ed) . Maybe we should have a new letter of the alphabet to indicate the glottal stop - when you have a Prime Minister in waiting* dropping his Ts like mad in the hope of sounding common, I don't suppose it'll be long.

*heaven help us

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Thank God someone with an "education" is in charge of "education"! :blink:

I find him to be a right interfering nob! :angry:

Do we have nay teachers here to comment?

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...

You do wonder what school experience he had - it must have been very traumatic to be so antagonistic.

Rant over.

Y

To my eternal shame, I was at school with Gove, so I can answer this accurately. Minor public school in Scotland. His experience there was the very opposite of traumatic - he was wafted to the top (first ever non-sporting head-boy) on a self-reinfocing wave of academic, social and political success, bolstered by those pliant staff and pupils who just *loved* him. They were in his thrall, and he was held up as an example to all the other boys. Gove, in turn, would deliver scathing crtiques of the teaching staff he didn't approve of, undermining them in the eyes of us, his pupil colleagues. Similarly, he would praise those teachers whom he liked, enhancing their respect in the eyes of pupils. Those staff members who had received his imprimatur would be those who, in turn, eased his passage - first to class monitor, then house head, president of the debating soc. - on to snr. prefect and head boy.

No joke, no satire: Gove could often be seen in the corridors and halls, leaning on a column in the quad, openly reading Machiavelli's "The Prince".

He repeated this playbook at Oxford, where he became President of the Oxford Union. But by then, he was reading Rand - "The Fountainhead", "Atlas Shrugged". But he only got a 2nd class degree. Other than which, Gove has never yet suffered a setback or humiliation of any kind.

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/10/michael-gove-grammar

6 more reasons listed at the link.

I'm sure the HPC grammar police will love this topic. :ph34r:

I don't think the point is to teach children one correct grammar, but to teach them to at least use full stops and commas etc in a sensible way? The issue is some schools have basically been saying children can write text speak and its ok because its their own interpretation or some such nonsense - of course thats what the newspapers say, so it may be exaggerated, but....

.....I know my grammar is far from perfect, but honestly some of the stuff I see youngsters write is essentially indecipherable so something has gone wrong - when they apply for jobs thats going to count against them in a big way, because if you can't communicate with other people thats a problem.

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It's an interesting question... but I guess it devolves down to whether you want your surgeon to be 'innit, nyarwarraymeen' or someone who can string together a cogent argument as to quite why you should let him shank you in the guts.

I think that nails it really. Whilst there may be no one perfect generally accepted set of grammatical rules for English (or any other naturally evolved language for that matter), most reasonably educated people know bad grammar when they see it.

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I don't think the point is to teach children one correct grammar, but to teach them to at least use full stops and commas etc in a sensible way? The issue is some schools have basically been saying children can write text speak and its ok because its their own interpretation or some such nonsense - of course that's what the newspapers say, so it may be exaggerated, but....

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.....I know my grammar is far from perfect, but honestly some of the stuff I see youngsters write is essentially indecipherable so something has gone wrong - when they apply for jobs thats going to count against them in a big way, because if you can't communicate with other people thats a problem.

I was roundly criticised here recently for suggesting that the very language was going to the dogs, chav types communicating with their own children in little more than grunts etc. Apparently I was being superior, or patronising, or something.

The destruction of English culture does seem to be a bit of an obsession to some. Perhaps they've decided just to destroy English, and be done with it.

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Do we have nay teachers here to comment?

Given the state the education system is in they're about the last people I want to hear from.

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neighbours kid comes over ( about 6) and tells me shes done ever so well in her reading test today....her mum is delighted too, so I asked her (the kid) to read the number plate on my car.

couldnt do it.

I asked why....apparently, the method they use at the school was to learn the shapes of the words....letters and numbers werent taught at this stage...hence, she could read words she had learned by shape, but couldnt read the number plate.

to me, you solve a problem by breaking it down into small parts...understand the parts and a collection of them can be made sense of...thus, the problem is to read...you learn the letters, then learn how they work together, then the words come automatically.

I posted this story about 5 years ago....I dont know how the kid is getting on as i have moved...Im sure she can read just fine.

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To my eternal shame, I was at school with Gove, so I can answer this accurately. Minor public school in Scotland. His experience there was the very opposite of traumatic - he was wafted to the top (first ever non-sporting head-boy) on a self-reinfocing wave of academic, social and political success, bolstered by those pliant staff and pupils who just *loved* him. They were in his thrall, and he was held up as an example to all the other boys. Gove, in turn, would deliver scathing crtiques of the teaching staff he didn't approve of, undermining them in the eyes of us, his pupil colleagues. Similarly, he would praise those teachers whom he liked, enhancing their respect in the eyes of pupils. Those staff members who had received his imprimatur would be those who, in turn, eased his passage - first to class monitor, then house head, president of the debating soc. - on to snr. prefect and head boy.

No joke, no satire: Gove could often be seen in the corridors and halls, leaning on a column in the quad, openly reading Machiavelli's "The Prince".

He repeated this playbook at Oxford, where he became President of the Oxford Union. But by then, he was reading Rand - "The Fountainhead", "Atlas Shrugged". But he only got a 2nd class degree. Other than which, Gove has never yet suffered a setback or humiliation of any kind.

Did you call him Goove?

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I don't think the point is to teach children one correct grammar, but to teach them to at least use full stops and commas etc in a sensible way?

... and question marks too, we might hope.

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neighbours kid comes over ( about 6) and tells me shes done ever so well in her reading test today....her mum is delighted too, so I asked her (the kid) to read the number plate on my car.

couldnt do it.

I asked why....apparently, the method they use at the school was to learn the shapes of the words....letters and numbers werent taught at this stage...hence, she could read words she had learned by shape, but couldnt read the number plate.

to me, you solve a problem by breaking it down into small parts...understand the parts and a collection of them can be made sense of...thus, the problem is to read...you learn the letters, then learn how they work together, then the words come automatically.

I posted this story about 5 years ago....I dont know how the kid is getting on as i have moved...Im sure she can read just fine.

I don't believe that letters and numbers aren't taught at that age - they are.

However to a very young child if you are asked to read HP58 CTU or whatever, it makes no sense - it isn't a word so can't be read. That is one of the major weaknesses of the governments current policy on phonics. They have become besotted with one part of learning to read and elevated it above all others (with suspicions of vested interests advising the DofE). They are also using a tool for learning as a tool for assessment. This is a fundamentally flawed policy - they are finding that children that are already at the stage of reading words and making sense of them, are failing the assessment because it asks them to read non-sensical collections of letters like your number plate. These collections of letters are of some (but limited) value in learning to decode unknown words but are not adequate for assessment.

English has so many anomalous pronuciations that recognition of words is just as important as decoding letter by letter.

Try decoding "Michael Gove" through phonics.

Y

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... and question marks too, we might hope.

I did say my grammar was far from perfect (perhaps because I was never taught it at school....), but what I write is reasonably understandable compared to what else I see - as I said I see youngsters writing stuff that I cannot understand at all (20 lines without any full stops for example or extensive use of text words that mean nothing to me). When it gets to that state, then I think something has gone badly wrong. Even if everyone is taught grammar, not everyone will use it in a perfect way - but at least perhaps it would stop the sort of examples I have cited.

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I did say my grammar was far from perfect (perhaps because I was never taught it at school....), but what I write is reasonably understandable compared to what else I see - as I said I see youngsters writing stuff that I cannot understand at all (20 lines without any full stops for example or extensive use of text words that mean nothing to me). When it gets to that state, then I think something has gone badly wrong. Even if everyone is taught grammar, not everyone will use it in a perfect way - but at least perhaps it would stop the sort of examples I have cited.

Fair play. Forgive me, I just couldn't help it. That question mark thing is a bugbear of mine, as is it's spoken equivalent "upspeak".

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I don't believe that letters and numbers aren't taught at that age - they are.

However to a very young child if you are asked to read HP58 CTU or whatever, it makes no sense - it isn't a word so can't be read. That is one of the major weaknesses of the governments current policy on phonics. They have become besotted with one part of learning to read and elevated it above all others (with suspicions of vested interests advising the DofE). They are also using a tool for learning as a tool for assessment. This is a fundamentally flawed policy - they are finding that children that are already at the stage of reading words and making sense of them, are failing the assessment because it asks them to read non-sensical collections of letters like your number plate. These collections of letters are of some (but limited) value in learning to decode unknown words but are not adequate for assessment.

English has so many anomalous pronuciations that recognition of words is just as important as decoding letter by letter.

Try decoding "Michael Gove" through phonics.

Y

thanks for that...I am not a teacher.

My childrens school didnt do phonics....they did it the way i was taught, as I described above.....there were letters of the alphabet all round the walls, there were cards also of things like cat, dog, car, with a nice picture and the word underneath.

as for decoding, I think I had a good teacher when i was young....he used to break difficult words up into blocks...for example

together

your mum says to go and get your sister.....where are you going?....to get her so you are together.

the assessment was a booklet we read to the teacher out loud at her desk....at the head of each page was the age range....it was a matter of boasting how much older you read than you actually were....probably banned now as the class dumpling mustnt feel left behind.

As an aside, it is amazing your brain can identify a non word at a glance.....I bet those learning shapes dont have the same advantage.

not sure this is anything to do with grammar though.....thats the relationship between words?

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  • 239 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

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