The Politics of Teaching Grammar

radical eyes for equity

The pronoun/antecedent debate about “they” has continued at the NCTE Connected Community’s Teaching and Learning forum—mostly by advocates of prescriptive grammar.

That many English teachers continue to beat the drum for prescriptive rules is troubling—as I noted earlier when calling for descriptive grammar and conventional awareness. Troubling on one level since prescriptive grammar is solidly refuted by linguistics and the history of the English language [1]; troubling on another level since one staunch defense of the rules posted at the forum by an English teacher included a dangling modifier—highlighting that prescriptive grammarians often by necessity are themselves picking and choosing which “rules” to emphasize (an ironic type of descriptive grammar).

Another post called for ELA teachers to “hold the line with pronoun – antecedent agreement” because “[w]hile I think that grammar is a reflection of society, this is really about singular vs. plural.  It is not a political platform.”

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