Does he take Sugata with that?


The Daily Torygraph recently published an article provocatively headed “Lessons in spelling ‘have no place in 21st century schools’, reporting an interview with the controversial Sugata Mitra in the TES in which he suggested:

“This emphasis on grammar and spelling, I find it a bit unnecessary because they are skills that were very essential maybe a hundred years ago but they are not right now. Should [students] learn how to write good sentences? Yes, of course they should. They should learn how to convey emotion and meaning through writing. But we have perhaps a mistaken notion that the way in which we write is the right way and that the way in which young people write through their SMS texting language is not the right way. If there is a generation who believe that SMS language is a better way of expressing emotion than our way, then are we absolutely sure that they are making a mistake and we are not?”

The article then included a rather pointless online ‘vote’.

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in which of course 97% agreed with statement a, because statement b is absurd, and not what is being suggested in the first place.

However, at the same time perhaps we need to revisit the whole idea of teaching and learning spelling and grammar in the same way as we do knowledge. We need to acknowledge ‘texting’ as a genuine and popular form of communication with its own conventions and rules. While children probably learn these quickly and independently, perhaps some could do with being taught how to improve their texting? There are two possibilities: either texters make mistakes that leads to confusion, or they don’t. If the former, that justifies the need for teaching them to improve, if the latter, perhaps we should all start to use texting as being a more efficient means of communication?

All Change Please!‘s very smart new smart phone seems to take predictive text one stage further. It not only provides suggestions for the word being writing before it has been completely typed, but also, when as the next word is started it often spookily manages to predicting what word is coming next. So, soon such devices might present us with complete predictive phrases or even sentences? Or even paragraphs? Perhaps in the future most people will simply select from pre-written paragraph templates, aided by artificial intelligence?

Meanwhile perhaps we need to ask our teenagers themselves for their views on what aspects of spelling and grammar they feel are important to learn? “Does he take spelling with that?”

More recently has been the case of Apprentice finalist, runner-up and star Luisa Zissman, who has attracted much criticism and scorn for tweeting…

“Can you all help me out as I’m crap at grammar. Is it bakers toolkit or baker’s toolkit with an apostrophe?!”

before adding:

“I like the look of bakers. Would it be terrible to stick with bakers?”

So maybe how a word looks is now important than whether it is grammatically correct? And indeed from a commercial branding perspective, that’s fair enough – after all we don’t, for example, question why there are no apostrophes in Morrisons or Boots.  And it seems the last laugh here is on the media, because, All Change Please! has been very reliably informed…

‘Bakers Toolkit’ IS acceptable – it’s called appositional agreement, where you link two words together by proximity, the commonest example being ‘car park’. Nobody thinks of writing ‘cars’ park’, even though that would make perfect sense. Actually, of the three alternatives, ‘Baker’s Toolkit’, ‘Bakers’ Toolkit’ and ‘Bakers Toolkit’, the one I like least is the second, since it implies a toolkit for a certain identifiable number of actual bakers, which isn’t the point.’

Though interestingly, when challenged, the Daily Telegraph didn’t seem to want to know about this, and maintained its stance that Bakers should have an apostrophe as there was more than one Baker.

But the final words must surely go to The Daily Mash for this report that clearly explains exactly how truly amazing All Change Please! and its merry band of old-fashioned pedantic followers really are…

Image credit:   Flickr:Didi