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Re: [xmca] new national curriculum in Australia: grammar as logic

I have a question for those that follow teaching systems for grammar that is based on some of my own experience with grammar working in a factory. An odd place to learn something about working with grammar, but very interesting. Here are some of the things I think I learned.

My take on grammar for first language speakers would be to shrug off most (but not all) of the parsing, often irrelevant categories and terminology, and all that boring minutia - and focus on teaching people how to learn how to use **consistent** grammar rules and skills to write, speak, and think, clearly and logically.

It doesn't have to be the Queen's grammar, just consistent grammar. For example, I understand that Black English can be just as grammatically consistent as standard English can be. As I understand it, this is true for many or probably all minority versions of any majority tongue. Grammar problems - using one rule one time and another rule another - can frequently mask vagueness, self- contradiction, disagreement, unclarity, uncertainly, etc. And not infrequently, when this happens, this is not an accident! In other words, grammar problems are not fundamentally about ignorance or lack of education. Being vague and ambiguous is a coping skill used by many, including people in the working classes and other marginalized sections of society. Not to mention, of course, it is also used by certain kinds of politicians and many others in places where such skills are rewarded. It is a mark of the more confident sectors of society to use consistent grammar - and, not infrequently, the mark of those feeling a little defiant of these sectors to do otherwise. It can also be a way of speaking "code" to some people while not being fully understood or even being purposely dismissed by others. Grammar usage styles and problems, in other words, can be quite political. I saw this in the factory all the time. You can see it anywhere, and especially where people with opposing class interests are interacting. Ain't it the truth?

In this view I am suggesting, skill-building in grammar could revolve around learning ways to read and hear one's own writing and speaking - and that of others - in terms of logic and clarity. It becomes a process of editing for clear and intentional meanings and watching for grammar problems that can confound those intentions and that clarity. This means providing challenges where students are coaxed into wanting to speak and write clearly, thereby becoming motivated to use grammar consistently and skillfully when they want to be fully heard. (And that may be easier said than done! And is perhaps the Achilles Heel of this idea.) This approach would also include teaching teachers about grammar styles and usage that can indeed be consistent - but are just not "standard." That is a major issue working people face when it comes to grammar - they come from many, many cultures and sub- cultures, and many teachers and programs literally trample on people's ways of thinking and speaking, which includes how they use grammar. If the new grammar movement, like the English-only movement, aims at continuing this trampling, it is a reactionary maneuver.

I'd be interested if there is a place where grammar is taught the way I am describing - not as about speaking "correctly," but as being consistent about rule-use for the purpose of removing ambiguity and creating clarity. Not about definitions of parts of speech, but about the logic and meanings of sentences and paragraphs.

Some of what I am reflecting here comes from years of working with fellow factory workers helping to produce complex documents on things like how to explain to others (new workers, workers transferring in, etc.) how to do aspects of our jobs. I did a number of projects like that over the years. I noticed over and over that forcing the issue of consistent grammar often drove out uncertainties in the information, revealing deeper issues, and moving us closer and closer to more clarity and better logic. Putting the idea in factory lingo, if the grammar and writing were not yet excellent, there was usually some hidden B.S. still in there.

The idea is not that consistent grammar is about **how** you should speak or **what** you should say, but that truly saying and writing **what you precisely mean** requires using consistent grammar. (Assuming you *want* to "precisely mean" something, of course!)

So back to my question. Has anyone run across this concept of teaching grammar? This seems to me to be something every English (or any language) teacher in one way or another teaches, each in their own way. But has anyone turned this approach into a method for teaching grammar? Or am I generalizing too much from my individual experience?

- Steve

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