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Geiger’s Counter: Proper grammar is dead

I have written in this space before about Mrs. Otha Woodcock, my sixth grade teacher at Virginia Lord Heard Elementary School in Savannah. Grammar, punctuation, verb conjugation and the diagraming of sentences were pounded into us at Heard School but we had to get past Mrs. Woodcock to get to the promised land – Wilder Junior High School.

Mrs. Woodcock blended everything we had learned. She felt one had to read the work of good writers in order to learn to write well so she filled our reading lists with classics. I have always loved to read, so that was no trouble for me.

Cursive writing was a problem, however. My handwriting was bad then and it is terrible now. I can’t read it myself after about 15-20 minutes but I can glean enough from my notes to create the stories I need to write.

Mrs. Woodcock was strict on us. We had to write papers and, if she came across a comma fault or some other egregious error, she would mark it in red, stop reading and affix a big red F atop our work in perfect cursive script.

Offenders would then have to stay after school and seek redemption by cleaning erasers. She used her two blackboards extensively so there were a lot of erasers to be cleaned.

Mrs. Woodcock pushed us hard. More than a handful of kids repeated sixth grade. But, she got what she wanted out of most of us: newly-minted junior high students who had command of the English language and could read and write it well.

I thought of Mrs. Woodcock this weekend when I heard a mother lament the number of errors in grammar and punctuation in the parental handbook sent home by her kid’s public school.

In my experience, most kids today write like they text which is to say they can’t write at all. They are not taught good grammar because many of their teachers were not taught good grammar nor were their teachers’ teachers before them.

Proper grammar is dead. It is buried in the cesspool that is Facebook where virtually no one can differentiate between the use of ‘lose’ or ‘loose’ and where items are ‘for sell’ not ‘for sale.’
It is so bad that I have thought of posting one of those ‘unspoken prayer requests’ in hopes of saving proper grammar.

Sadly, it is too late.

Teachers use white boards and smart boards now and that is a good thing.

Were she alive today, Mrs. Woodcock could not find enough erasers to stem the tide of ignorance.

As it is, she is twisting in her grave in Brooklet City Cemetery down in Bulloch County and clutching her red pen in agony.

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