February 1976

Johnny can't read; Nor can we
by Margaret

   Do you receive themes back with an A for content an a F for grammar? Are 13b, 16b, 17a, 19i, 21f, and 37a through 37i common mistakes on those corrected English papers? Well then, welcome to the majority of future college students who will probably fail their freshman college English course.
   Does the above sound somewhat ridiculous? Many people graduate from college. They must have passed all of their courses, including English Grammar 101. Yet, according to a cover story in the December 8 issue of Newsweek (and an article by Ron Powers in the Sun-Times), the English language is headed for disaster. For example the lead sentence inn the Newsweek article, "Why Johnny Can't Read," began:

If your children are attending college, the chances are that when they graduate they will be unable to write ordinary, expository English with any real degree of structure and lucidity."

Our language, apparently, is slowly becoming incoherent.
   Every student (or almost every) probably had trouble writing an English theme or reading an assigned passage from a book. Reading this article might be hard for some, mainly because writing this article so far hasn't been easy. Thinking of what to put down for an article about the inability's of writing in precise, clear English is an inability. I hope all the "English teachers at Maine South are having fun cutting up this editorial. But the above comment is a 23i: "Do not let an argument or discussion be confused by an irrelevant point."
   The above exemplifies the illogical pattern which many students follow inn writing themes. Some essays I've written or read begin with a very unified opening paragraph. The topic to be discussed is presented in one sentence (the topic sentence), and then logically developed by supporting details in the paragraph. From then on, nothing is considered sacred. (Did I just commit a 19a? Avoid trite expressions.) Reading such material takes a lot (not "alot") of concentration and time.
   Consequently (bad transition?), spelling poses a problem to many student when writing themes and also wanting to impress their teachers. For example, advantageous becomes advantagis, enthusiastically transforms into enthuseasticly, and unmistakable turns into unmistakeable). Small words are also confused by the student. For instance, "Its time!" for "It's time!", confusing they're with their or there and to for too or two. These errors only lead to 37i's on papers.
   Two reasons for such mistakes may be laziness on the student's part and/or permissiveness on a former teacher's part. One instructor may have let a student pass his other English class out of sympathy or a desire not to have that student again. Students may wait until the last minute to do a theme and then not proofread it. A dictionary may be at hand, but too much trouble is involved looking up a word. Whatever the reason might be, the fact still remains that many students can't write very well.
   So college, here we come. I hope space will be open for all us future leaders inn Remedial English 101.