For example, in The Motley Monk's courses, students are provided the oppotunity to rewrite and have their first paper regraded. Then, as the project develops, students continuously revise each section so that, when the completed project is turned in, it will read "letter perfect."
That's good in theory. But, in practice, there are problems.
Only a tiny minority of students appreciate The Motley Monk's efforts on their behalf, as measured by few thank you comments appearing in faculty evaluations, notes, and emails.
The great majority of students simply incorporate only The Motley Monk's suggested changes, wondering "Why do I have to do this?" Many of these students express their dissatisfaction with being required to learn to write well, venting it on faculty evaluations.
What The Motely Monk is attempting to do is what Frank Cioffi--who has taught college composition since 1977 and currently directs the writing program at Baruch College at the City University of New York--calls helping students "see and internalize the patterns of the English language.”
However, the majority of The Motley Monk's students consider him what Cioffi calls a "pedantic nitpicker."
Grammar matters and knowing how to communicate effectively as a leader is important. Among others, passive and active voice, subject-verb agreement, pronouns, punctuation, split infinitives, appositives, gerunds are laws of English language that matter.
Yet, The Motley Monk admits, students are correct when they assert that much of what they read in publications--even prominent publications--exhibits the very errors which The Motley Monk is spending his time to correct. "They're supposed to be 'professional' writers, aren' they?", students ask. "They get paid for those errors. Why do we get penalized for making them on our papers and projects?" Perhaps The Motley Monk is wasting his time, his students may be suggesting.
The simple response is that one mark of an educated person is writing and speaking as educated persons do. Learning provides a start. Reflecting upon what one learns as one practices those rules provides the route to becoming an educated person. As this applies to writing, learning the rules of grammar and style provides the start. Reflecting upon one's errors in writing and disciplining oneself not to commit those errors--until good writing becomes "second nature--is how one translates that learning into the eloquent prose and, ultimately, eloquent speech of an educated person.
Which brings The Motley Monk to the point of this post. Cioffi has published a grammar handbook, One Day in the Life of the English Language: A Microcosmic Usage Handbook. In his “anti-handbook” handbook, Cioffi uses more than 300 sentences--all printed in newspapers and magazines that were published on the same day--to delve into how sentences are constructed in proper English. Examining those sentences, Cioffi poses questions to the reader about the best usage (and, yes, sometimes does settle for a gray area where more than one approach may work equally well).
For those who are interested in learning to write well or just want to test their grammar skils--testing one's skills is a great way to learn--Cioffi's "anti-handbook handbook" is worth the read.
For example, reading the Cioffi's handbook, The Motley Monk has learned that he should no longer note when students end sentences with prepositions or split infinitives. Language evolves and upholding those two rules today makes for a "pedantic nitpicker."
Let the discussion begin...
To learn about Frank Cioffi's anit-handbook handbook of grammar, click on the following link: