“Says who? Teaching and Questioning the Rules of Grammar” by Anne Curzan
I agree with the author in saying that it is crucial for students to question the rules of grammar and that is should never become a “because I say so subject” (Curzan 8). Once a teacher makes grammar an issue of authority, the student will be less likely to follow the “correct” rules of grammar and this may in fact foster a student’s aversion towards grammar entirely. If that becomes the case, then students become in danger of losing the opportunity to learn about word origins and the impact of society on grammar. The use of certain words brings forth pressing social issues by questioning who are the people who have the power to determine what is accepted or condemned in the English language. Why does their word have more authority over others? Students may find it intriguing in delving into the issue of social hierarchy when it comes to setting grammar rules.
Curzan’s mention of the problem of the term “standard English” is also important to acknowledge in teaching grammar; she says that “Standard English is a slippery term, and that much ink has been spilled trying to pin down a definition” (Curzan 6). Using the word “slippery” is an interesting way of describing the term “Standard English”; personally, I believe that it is a rather an impossible task. Verbal English varies across the United States and across the world, considering the fact that it’s become the international language. It only makes sense that the written English language differs as well based on where an English-speaking person lives. The characteristics of speech based on a location undoubtedly must have an effect on a person’s style of writing. Living in New Brunswick, we are all exposed to individuals of diverse backgrounds, so as tutors we must refrain from expecting our students to follow a strict code of grammar rules because they have been exposed to different influences.
As tutors, we should encourage our students to challenge grammar rules and perhaps they will find that they can make their points in their essays even stronger if they manipulate grammar rules. For example, using the word “ain’t” when it would be considered inappropriate by traditional standards of grammar could act as a social commentary. Grammar should not be viewed as an unrelenting, isolated practice in writing but should be presented as more flexible and connected to more issues than one would expect.