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James C. Valkenburg wrote:

>I still find it hard to fall
>into step with folks who believe that we can allow our children to write
>as they please without correcting spelling, etc.

>Communication theory was developed in order to focus us on what is
>essential for good commuications in a technological arena.


Illustrative example! If the point of *commuication* is to make a point,
let's make sure our "little darlings" are *commuicating* as well as
proofreading. (I think I also saw a few unclear pronoun references, an
unattributed quote, and a subject/verb agreement problem.) The fact is,
these "mistakes" don't matter. Your communication was clear, James, in spite
of them. Sure, they gave me a point of leverage to use against you in a
dirty-trick, ad-grammarium kind of argumentation, but they didn't obscure
your meaning.

My point is that spelling, grammar, and usage are partly involved in clarity
and partly involved in power-relations. Misspellings and grammar and usage
errors are used as pressure-points against a person, much in the way a
distinctive dialect might be, I suspect more often than they are simply
impeding clarity. I'm not saying we shouldn't teach grammar, but let's make
sure we're schooling students of writing in the realpolitik of grammar and
usage, and not just bludgeoning them with red-marks that seem more
derivative of medieval penitence than instructional technique.

I don't wholly buy whole language, either, but let's not ride the pendulum
back to skill-and-drill exercises. Let's continue in what seems like a
productive direction: grammar, spelling, syntax, usage, and semantics IN A
MEANINGFUL CONTEXT. Use whatever works. There's some good stuff in Whole
Language, just as there was some good stuff in Warriner's grammar, circa
1980.

The more any of us contributes to polarizing and labels, the more "us" and
"them" gets in the way of dialogue between university-level educators and
k-12'ers. Communication is more about meaningful dialogue than grammatically
correct diatribe.

Respectfully,

Steve Runge
Academic Skills Coordinator
St. Lawrence U.
Canton, NY 13617
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