Back to basics

Recently a large response was garnered when I offered a list of Latin words with their Romance reflexes. I got balled up in trying to send the list via email and so mentioned on a listserv that those who had asked should send me a SASE. Tons of people responded with a “me too”.

Now I’m very glad that people want this sort of thing. But doesn’t this point to huge gaps in our education? I always taught my students about language relationships. Even if I had taught English, I would have taught that. But our teachers are graduating language “programs” (see Frank Smith for the problem with “programs”) without the fundamental knowledge or resources to deal with language. Even the strong grammar orientation of so much of our language education – and I am seeing this as I sub: all grammar all the time – we still get remarkable questions about grammar on the various Listservs (I’m on at least 6 of them).

Not just in high school but in college, we need to get rid of the plethora of courses and focus on basic education; not the Back to Basics stuff with its strong religious and authoritarian associations, but the basics of language, of society and its history, of the law, of science, of art, of sports, of mathematics. Just think if kids had speech, writing, reading, literature and poetry, all integrated with science and computers and sports and history. They would be able to apply knowledge and use it. Now… it’s just a bunch of facts, a bunch of school subjects.

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