Self-esteem makes for sucky grammar. As I type that, spell check is underlining away. That’s right folks, there are BUILT-IN tools for checking spelling and grammar. They’re certainly not infallible, but helpful and correct at least seventy-five percent of the time. High school students seem completely unaware of these tools. How is that possible in an era of information overload? Why are kids confusing subject pronouns with verbs and why, for the love of God, are they handing in assignments riddled with the worst conglomeration of sentences you’ve ever read? …And then they EXPECT an “A”. The expectation chip on their shoulders is inconceivable. The sense of entitlement they’re kicking around is infuriating.
CREATIVE WRITING TURNED TRIPE
Creative writing has taken on a whole new look in the form of JOURNAL writing with a capital “J”. Brittney, the Valley Girl, spews her profound inner feelings, complete with Johnny’s slutty prom date, OMGs, and smiley faces; a real work of art. But it’s uber important for her development that we encourage her to share her feelings for a grade, right?! I’m not the only teacher who found themselves saying, “Great job, Brittney. You put a period at the end of your sentence. You’re a good person and will go far in life.” That doesn’t mean it didn’t make me want to vomit.
The heart of my ranting comes from a decade of reading and grading high school students’ creative writing. It’s not that they aren’t capable of putting together fluid sentences with correct parts of speech. And make no mistake- this is not necessarily the fault of the teachers involved in the learning process. Language teachers have hovered over assignments with a dark red pen, groaning while reteaching the basics that should have been taught all along. They have gagged while “leading kids to discover” grammar structures through “mod” techniques and in their reading, which, ironically, kids aren’t doing. Not unless they’re threatened by grounding, anyway. So if it’s not the fault of the teachers, and the kids are capable of well-styled writing, then who’s to blame?
I chalk it up to the gray funk of the “self-esteem” movement that has beaten the life out of structure; structure which happens to lead to UNDERSTANDING and beautifully crafted PARAGRAPHS (another concept beyond their reach). Unfortunately, this nasty little social movement invaded parenting on a wide scale as well. Lecturing kids without consequences only goes so far, buying a new toy when someone takes theirs doesn’t teach children to stand up for themselves, and allowing unlimited “screen time” doesn’t model how to develop real relationships with people. The self-esteem movement was designed to encourage us to learn creatively so that we may be individuals. What it has actually accomplished is letting O.J., ahem…I mean, little Brittney, get away with murder. Not to mention it’s wreaking havoc on language learning and writing skills across the universe.
On an optimistic note, I’m hopeful we’ll fight back by rewriting curriculum to include syntax and grammar, we’ll inflict curfews even if they’re “so totally unfair”, and we’ll work at teaching others to be responsible for their actions! So dear, self-esteem movement, make like Michael Jackson and BEAT IT.