variouis topics

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Thu Dec 14 01:27:06 UTC 2006

Tom Zurinskas <truespel at HOTMAIL.COM> on Tue 12/12/06 at 12:06 AM asked an interesting question:

Diagramming.  I had sentence diagramming as a kid and thought it was a
good way to learn and understand sentence structure and parts of speech.  I
thought that way as a 12 year old and still think so today.  Dont know
why it was ever stopped.

I too fondly remember diagramming.  If nothing else, it helps a writer with parallelism.  Bad grammar is a venial sin, but a writer with bad parallelism is shooting himself in the foot.
(Another ADS-L member, I don't remember who, recently wrote about inflectional languages "you have to diagram the sentence in your head", so that makes three).
My children (born 1983 and 1987) did not get diagramming in school, so I asked their English teacher why not.  He said that he, too, was a fan of diagramming, but it was one of those things that had gone out of fashion in the educational world, probably to re-emerge a generation from now as the greatest thing since sliced bagels, and he simply couldn't teach anything that unfashionable (considering that he doubled as assistant principal and loved controversy, educational fashion must be a powerful force indeed).
Incidentally, fashion is not restricted to English teachers.  Back in the 1970's "non-standard analysis" was the latest and greatest thing in teaching calculus.  By 1990 it was all but forgotten and calculus was being taught with epsilon-delta, which was invented by Cauchy back around the days of Louis XVIII.

    - Jim Landau

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