Says Who?

Julia Hill

Says Who?

In Anne Curzan’s article regarding the teaching and understanding of grammar she highlights many interesting points about the hierarchy of Standard English. There is a certain connotation that has developed over centuries that puts Standard English on a pedestal above all other forms of English.  Curzan views this outlook as “intellectually dishonest and pedagogically irresponsible” (871).  Students and teachers alike should challenge these rules and ask why they make sense and who is the judge of them.

The difficult part is trying to find a common ground as far as language goes. If every student were able to submit a paper in the particular style of writing that they were taught at a young age, then what possible instruction could a teacher educate in the classroom? Some of the students would view “ain’t” as a sign of ignorance while other students see absolutely nothing wrong with it. The teacher must then set rules that are applicable across the board, and this is usually done with the instruction of Standard English.

Another problem that may present itself when teacher are trying to be lenient on the grammar rules is the grade. Every student is so overwhelmed with the grade, and nothing else. If teachers were to circle every possible grammar complication and write “’come talk to me about this construction’ rather than crossing it out as an error” than the teacher would have an extremely tough time determining what grade the student should receive.

This article has allowed me to look at grammar in an entirely different way. Rather than just accepting the rules I will begin to question why, and says who, so that when the students I tutor have the same questions as I did, I will be better prepared to answer them than just “because they say so.” Another important aspect to keep in mind is the audience the student is writing for. When I am sending my friend an e-mail I may use some double negatives or slang but if I am writing an essay for a possible job I will be sure to write in Standard English.


About julhill

I am a graduate student at the Graduate School of Education. A am a recent alumni; graduating Summa Cum Laude from Rutgers University with a bachelor's of Spanish. I am currently spending three months in Mérida, Yucatán to better my Spanish, learn more about the culture and have fun! There's no time like the present. "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
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2 Responses to Says Who?

  1. amandabright says:

    I agree with the questioning approach to grammar. I think having the freedom to question will open a lot of doors for better understanding of Standard English and why it is that way. You make a good point about the time constraints though. A teacher often struggles returning papers in a speedy and efficient manner as it is, adding so many more corrections could be tedious and excessive. I think it would be sufficient if a teacher simply presented the opportunity for students’ to question.

  2. I would have liked to see more specific connections to the text.

    3/5 (one point was taken off for lateness)

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