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

And here in England we have the Plain English Campaign:


Which also includes a gobbledygook generator!


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Worthen, Helena Harlow
Sent: 02 March 2010 14:20
To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
Subject: RE: [xmca] new national curriculum in Australia: grammar as logic

To follow up on Steve's message, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has a remarkable program called "Clear Language"


Which is about getting contract language out of jargon into clear language. There are examples on line at the website above which show the difference between familiar brain-buster jargon and clear language.  

Just think about what it must have taken to get this effort going, supported and sustained! 


Helena Worthen
Clinical Associate Professor
Labor Education Program University of Illinois
504 East Armory, Champaign, IL 61820

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Steve Gabosch
Sent: Tuesday, March 02, 2010 12:23 AM
To: Activity eXtended Mind Culture
Subject: 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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