teaching grammar stops violence

Dennis Baron debaron at UIUC.EDU
Sun Dec 17 22:28:24 UTC 2006

I've tried replying twice to Arnold but my reply messages never seem  
to get through to the list, so I'm writing directly and pasting in  
what I wrote:

1. First email reply:  Yes, Arnold, mordant political satire or, if  
you will, joshing -- and that can never come with a surgeon general's  

But de Robien's initiative is real.  The report, by Alain Bentolila,  
a linguist whose work I do not know, but who elsewhere makes this  
stunning remark -- particularly the last part:

« Plus j’avance dans ma réflexion, plus je pense que c’est  
vraisemblablement la maîtrise de la Langue qui conditionne un destin  
scolaire et un destin social. Sans réelle maîtrise de la Langue, il  
n’y a pas d’entrée possible dans le monde de l’écrit, sans réelle  
maîtrise de la Langue, il n’y a pas de chances réelles d’intégration  
sociale [3] . » [http://www.edufle.net/Alain-Bentolila-et-Louis-Jean]

B. makes some pretty strong claims about the power of grammaire, and  
the report makes it pretty clear that by grammar he is focusing on  
learning the parts of speech (dont le verbe est la reine) and a bit  
of syntax.  He's no Calvet, that's for sure.  It's apparently also  
Bentolila who initially makes the connection between teaching grammar  
and stopping violence, a claim which de Robien reiterates to the  
reporter who wrote the Times Educational Supplement article that  
seemed to invite a response.  And the Brits do think he's a kook,  
though my quotes are indeed made up.

2. Second email reply.  Bentolila actually has an article in today's  
L'Express which I just came across -- an interview -- in which he  
claims that 10% of French schoolchildren have a vocabulary of only  
500 words compared to an average of 1200 (both outrageous claims)  --  
he claims as well that this linguistic inequality ghettoizes these  
kids and is responsible for "une grave inégalité sociale."




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


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