Language lessons: It ’s time for English teachers to stop teaching that the earth is flat

Dennis Baron debaron at ILLINOIS.EDU
Wed Dec 2 05:02:16 UTC 2009

There's a new post on the Web of Language:

Language lessons: It’s time for English teachers to stop teaching that  
the earth is flat

When I asked a class of prospective teachers to discuss the impact on  
students of prescriptive rules like "Don't split infinitives," "Don't  
end sentences with prepositions," and "Don't use contractions," one  
student ignored the descriptive grammar we had been studying to equate  
correctness in language with intelligent design:
I think I support prescriptivism. I believe that some words are  
absolutely unacceptable in any situation. I think there should be an  
accepted way of speaking and deviation would not be tolerated. I  
believe in a set of absolute values. I believe there is one right and  
wrong for everyone. Perhaps what I think is right is not what you  
think is right but in the final analysis that isn't going to matter.  
What God thinks is right is what really matters and He doesn't have  
one right for you and one right for me.

Her faith-based answer, God speaks standard English so you should too,  
may be extreme, but her emphasis on correct language is one that too  
many English teachers accept without question. So far as grammar  
lessons go, it's time they stopped teaching that the earth is flat.

Read the whole post on the Web of Language:

Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321

read the Web of Language:

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list