Wednesday, August 07, 2013

gRAMMUR n Speling R Harrd LOL

Learning how to spell and construct grammatical sentences has long been considered a basic pillar of good schooling.

But now one of education’s most radical and influential thinkers has claimed that the growth of technology makes spelling and grammar a “bit unnecessary”, at least in their conventional form.
The only word that fully encapsulates how I feel about this.

I should like to point out that the invention of the wheel did not inhibit the need to walk properly.


Professor Sugata Mitra - famous for his “Hole in the Wall” experiment, which allowed children to teach themselves after he installed an internet- linked computer into the wall of a slum in Delhi, India - said that resisting developments such as “text-speak” could be a mistake.

“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,” the academic, who is based at Newcastle University in England, told TES.

“Firstly, my phone corrects my spelling so I don’t really need to think about it and, secondly, because I often skip grammar and write in a cryptic way.”

Professor Mitra said this suggests that the importance of good grammar is declining. “My entire background tells me, ‘No, no, it is really bad what you are saying’, but I think there is a change and we have to learn to live with it,” he said.

The academic, who is now using the $1 million (£670,000) TED prize he won this year to set up seven internet-controlled “cloud schools”, suggested that technology may have changed what good grammar means.

“Should (students) learn how to write good sentences? Yes, of course they should,” he said. “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?”

Where does one begin?

As the keystone species of the cosmos (yes, because I don't see animals writing plays, constructing spacecraft or managing entire economies), we have both the ability and gift of language. It allows us to convey what our (for some, anyway) ostensibly complex minds are thinking. We standardise and use written and oral forms of language to not just get our point across but to live. One could go on and on with the complexity and richness of the oral and written word but let it be sufficient enough to say that we have it, we should use it. Why, then, set the benchmark of human communication to memes with as few vowels imaginable and grunts? Do we consider a car drawn with crayon perfectly drivable? Being able to properly and thoroughly communicate orally and through writing shouldn't be considered passe because someone's cell phone has a (poor) spell check feature. It's laziness and bound to keep classes of people as functionally illiterate as possible. Keep in mind that for some wags different accents and abilities are reason enough to exclude people from public office or even living. LOL and text-speak (and any other garble one wishes include in this debate) has no business been accepted as a proper mode of communication.

It's not snobbery; it's literacy and it's awesome.

(With gratitude)

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