It’s easy to talk about how great education was a generation ago. People do it all the time, and they don’t even have to offer but maybe one or two anecdotes to “prove” what they see as the abysmal condition of education today. Now I’m not going to knock today’s education (nor am I going to compare it to the good ol’ days). I think both eras likely typified instances of excellence and shoddiness … depending on multiple factors.
In my case, I’m confident I received a relatively high quality education, though I’d venture to say there were faddish practices embraced in the 1950s and 1960s just as there are today. If I have a complaint, it is that education often becomes captive to trends; I’ve wondered if it’s because teachers get bored teaching the same material every year. Rather than stick with what they know works (can we say phonics?), they eagerly adopt “new, improved” methods.
The teachers in my early grades were sticklers for following the rules of our language and arithmetic. Hence, at an early age, I memorized my multiplication tables as well as rules of basic grammar and spelling. Additionally, these elementary school teachers strenuously believed in review, so almost everyday we’d have both a spelling test and a math test … usually twenty words and twenty math problems.
Experiencing all that review during those early years, I became an excellent speller and still have good recall of those multiplication tables. As I get older, I realize I have to check my spelling and usage (even when I’m pretty sure I’ve written and spelled correctly) because certain words on the page don’t always look right. That’s why I keep the dictionary.com tab open in my browser.
I remember when word processors first boasted their spell checkers. A couple times, I thought I could rely on them, but changed my tune pretty quickly. I also remember a couple times using Word’s grammar advisor. I’m not certain they still have it, but as I remember it, I turned it off because the advisor kept insisting I needed to adjust my writing style for no more than a ninth-grade level reader! In my personal view, one of the reasons people lack a broad vocabulary is they’ve never been challenged to develop one. Dumbing down one’s writing doesn’t stretch anyone’s grasp of new words. I think it only contributes to laziness!
Yes, spelling and vocabulary can be a challenge for some individuals. The English language has multiple exceptions and plenty of words that one may potentially trip over. Charts (like the one above) are helpful. Occasionally, rote memorization is the only choice; though some people hate memorizing, it has its place and shouldn’t be ignored.
In our digital age, misspellings and usage errors are highlighted everywhere for our amusement. In the image at right, I think I’d have tried to fix these cans (or baskets) by adding an HY to the left side of BRID. It looks like the picture is a bird, so HYBRID might be stretching it, but I think people might have seen the cans (or baskets) as charming and unique containers. (Always worth a try!)
My good friend (and neighbor) sent me a text with a picture the other night. She said it reminded her of me! I got a good laugh from it … especially because it combines two items of particular interest to me: poetry and spelling! This poem (below) has probably been around the web for a long time, but this was my first look at it. In my search around the web, I even found a link to the “translation” (providing the correct spelling), but I think it’s clear, albeit misspelled.
The poem is a fine sample of light, rhymed verse that makes an excellent point, which is, the Spell Checker (or Chequer as the Brits spell it) is a tool. It can be useful; it can also be annoying and a pain in the neck! And one final note: apparently, there are hundreds of entries for “spell checker poem” posted online (including this one). When you’ve got some time to kill, you might find them entertaining.