A teacher's perspective
As a teacher of college English, my students moan and groan when I mention the topics of grammar and usage. The reflexes of fear, dread, and disgust are guttural and instinctual.
I feel the intense collective downer that I release upon the classroom environment, and I always regret having mentioned the words at all in the classroom. The collective classroom mind slams shut.
But, I understand the repulsion they feel. Grammar and usage are matters that we are always told we screw up. Teachers often broach the topic as they would the rules of classroom behavior - write and wrong, success or failure. Of course, I overgeneralize.
A student's perspective
Students perceive a separation between the way they speak and write in the real world and the rules of grammar and usage, which are closer to Greek than English. These are topics outside their own environments and inside the confines of authority.
The fact is that we should kill the words grammar and usage once and for all. Not that they are irrelevant now, but because they have so much conceptual negative baggage. They are like the prune industry's move away from the use of "prunes" and toward "dried plums." Grammar and usage have become the linguistic equivalents of fruit laxatives for an older generation.
And, really what meaning do they carry now? Who knows the difference between grammar and usage for example? They belong with the pagan gods of Greek culture, now culturally dead.
The pagan gods are not really dead though. Just look at Percy Jackson. They are not dead, but they have evolved. Grammar and usage have not, however, and that's why students hate the subjects. We yank these topics from their origin in communication and teach them as arbitrary rules, serving no real purpose.
So, kill the words but not the concept. Just as pagan gods can still enliven our imaginations, communication is more relevant now than ever. This is what we invoke with the terms grammar and usage. Kill the words, or evolve them. I propose we discuss communication aids instead. Even syntax has less connotations than grammar.
My students understand that it is important to communicate effectively and comprehend one another. They see that if we all were to speak and write individual languages, with our own rules, communication would be impossible. Students realize, if it's pointed out, that communication aids are assets, skills to be acquired for success. And, even though we are talking about the exact same the exact same thing, grammar and usage shall remain forever dead to them.
What are your thoughts on grammar and usage? Do we emphasize it too much/too little?
By Darin L. Hammond
Writer for ZipMinis and owns ZipMinis Freelance Writing.
Darin Publishes across the web on sites like Technorati
BC Blog, and Social Media Today.