Calliope Writing

Is “Grammar Amnesty” the Same as “Let’s Give Every Kid a Trophy”?
June 18, 2015, 9:36 am
Filed under: Grammar | Tags: , ,

If you’re part of my generation–which Research Maniacs says is Generation Y–or older, you remember a time when kids’ sporting events (whether in a city league, as part of a school team, or during PE or field days) were pretty damned competitive.* If your team lost, you lost. If you got last place in a race, the most you would get is a flimsy “Participant” ribbon–not that kickass gold medal with “1st Place” proudly displayed on it. But now, in many situations, that’s not the case.

Everyone gets a trophy!

Everyone gets a trophy!

Now, there’s an “everyone gets a trophy” mentality, and it seems that quite a few people aren’t on board with this methodology. (For more on this debate, check out Moms Magazine and Pittsburgh Post Gazette.)

But let’s step away from sports because, let me be honest: I hate sports. There are few instances where I think they’re fun (kickball, floor hockey, bowling, ping pong, darts, and the like are my kinds of sports), but sports typically equal ugh for me.

Let’s move on to the juicy stuff: grammar.

grammar amnesty 2

Earlier this month, grammar entered the (minor) spotlight when Helena Baker-Thornton, the literacy head of the Torquay Girls’ Grammar School in the UK, proposed introducing “grammar amnesty” into schools. It would encourage teachers to post pictures of themselves with a grammar mistake they recently made, and there wouldn’t be as strict an attitude in regards to grammar (see the below quote to understand my inferring this).

Her reasoning is that kids are often embarrassed to ask a language-related question because they fear being made fun of (for not having known the answer). This kind of program would assert that it’s perfectly okay to make a mistake, she says, going on to comment:

There is a culture of grammar elitism amongst people but things are moving away from that horrible legacy of the literacy hour, which was this standalone lesson with a straight faced grammar mistress leaning over you and imposing all these rules that had no life in them and sometimes grammar can be viewed as being very inflexible and that doesn’t reflect life.

Put away your red pens. Grammar amnesty is coming!

Put away your red pens. Grammar amnesty is coming!

…Am I a part of this “culture of grammar elitism”? I’m pretty sure I am (you only need to see my grammar Nazi post to gather that info)…wait! Is Baker-Thornton insulting me?! (Although “grammar mistress” sounds kind of sexy. From now on, refer to me as Grammar Mistress, please.)

After reading this section of Baker-Thornton’s quote: “imposing all these rules that had no life..sometimes grammar can be viewed as being very inflexible…” I, for one, had the following response:

grammar amnesty 5

Grammar rules do have life, thank you very much (at least in my meager little opinion), and aren’t rules inflexible? Isn’t that kind of the definition of “rule”–that it’s something that should be followed, period?** Let’s move on so I don’t have an aneurysm.

I’m sure there are those who are all about enforcing grammar amnesty. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any authoritative quotes taking that stance; however, there are tons of comments on the articles linked to within this blog post that argue both sides of the debate.

As for the opponents of grammar amnesty? They’re a little easier to find. As The Telegraph‘s Judith Woods wrote:

For the love of Dr Johnson, grammar is the scaffolding that keeps our language, our culture, our identity aloft and intact. It is not something for teachers to have a laugh about.

Otherwise everything – particularly conversation and comprehension – falls apart. When your son’s French mistress teaches him French, she doesn’t say: “Don’t worry about the grammar, it’s fine to make consistent slips.”

Well said, Ms. Woods. Well effing said.

Let's take a cue from these giraffes and debate this issue calmly (and while looking adorable).

Let’s take a cue from these giraffes and debate this issue calmly (and while looking adorable).

As for grammar amnesty, what are your thoughts? Do you think kids should be given some leeway when it comes to grammatical rules? Or is that blasphemy?

And, as I ask in this post’s title, can grammar amnesty be compared to the “every kid gets a trophy” mentality? In other words, are we being too damned easy on our kids? Sound off below.

*This is not to imply that children’s sports aren’t competitive currently. I know there are plenty of very competitive (some excessively so) kids’ leagues.

**Just in case you were wondering, yes, this is one way to define the word rule. See here.

2 Comments so far
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There’s no amnesty in grammar! This is an outrage! Such discussions are a piffle! And yes, it is akin to giving everyone a trophy just for showing up. When I was a boy, only the winners got trophies. If you lost, you were beaten and sent to bed without dinner. If you misspoke in class, or wrote incorrectly, you were tarred and feathered. Your name was entered on a wall of shame. The scars on your psyche were permanent. Ahh, good times.

Liked by 1 person

Comment by David B. Seaburn

Yes, we definitely need to go back to the times of tarring and feathering. Now, only to figure out how to establish this process in our schools…


Comment by calliopewritingllc

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