Sticking to the basics

Nicole Daughhetee

Nicole Daughhetee

Life As I Know It

By Nicole Daughhetee

Having not one, but two parents who possess degrees in English and experience teaching writing courses, you can go ahead and shake your head in an act of pity (as if to say “those poor children”) for what my daughters must endure from the writing and grammar police.

You would be correct in assuming we uphold high standards in my home when it comes to language and the written word. I don’t expect my girls to be perfect or to even enjoy English the way I always have, but I would like them to learn to write and speak correctly.

Last week one of my daughters had to turn in a writing assignment — her first stab at the traditional standard five-paragraph essay, structured with an introduction, three supportive paragraphs and a conclusion.

Her essay was about South Carolina and why it is a great place to live. All of her reasons were well-outlined in the introduction, supported throughout the body, and neatly wrapped up in the conclusion. The only major problem with her writing assignment was the spelling.

Spelling, believe it or not, has never been my forte, so I am in no way throwing stones from a glass house. However, when I strongly suggested that she make corrections to her spelling errors, my daughter said that spelling didn’t really matter.

Obviously, I took my daughter’s response with a grain of salt because I know her teacher has to care about spelling. At the same time, I’m not certain spelling, vocabulary or grammar exist in the way they did when I was in school.

In Mrs. Spears’ second-grade class, we were introduced to a class set of dictionaries and we were taught how to use them. When we had a question about how to spell a word, we were immediately directed to the bookcase at the back of the room where we had to look the words up ourselves. Dictionaries were a staple in every classroom and in our homes.

While I don’t remember the exact grade, I also remember having to learn subjects and predicates as we diagramed sentences into funky little geometric-looking problems where adverbs and adjectives got their own diagonal lines.

There are subjects that are no longer emphasized in the classroom because our brains have been outsourced to technology. I am thankful Microsoft Word has a built-in spell and grammar check, but if it didn’t, I know how to use a dictionary to look up words.

It concerns me that many kids don’t know or are not being taught these basic fundamentals, and that books like dictionaries and encyclopedias are considered obsolete in comparison to the latest and greatest technological advances.

Have you ever been in a check-out line at the store and had the experience of the computerized cash register not work? Did the young person at the register struggle to figure out the correct change?

I know I sound like an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy; however, I am willing to take that risk. We all have to learn how to walk before we run; I don’t see what’s wrong with sticking to the basics and building upon them.