29 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Li
    Sep 30, 2012 @ 15:28:28

    I hate to sound like a Luddite, but I’ve been convinced for years that youth’s dependency on gadgets would prove costly in more ways than one. Reading is in steady decline; who has time to read books when there are Facebook statuses to update and twitter streams to peruse along with homework and sports? Why learn to spell when there’s spellcheck; why use spellcheck when everything is abbreviated by texting? And who cares if it’s spelled correctly – u no what I meant, right? Duh.

    Figment, a site which encourages young writers and has a large following of teens, recently ran a contest. The author judging the contest gave some general feedback on the entries, many of which contained large numbers of typos, grammatical errors, incorrect/missing punctuation, blocks of writing without paragraphs – the list goes on. Somehow, kids are getting into high school either without knowing these things or without caring enough to use what they have learned. I agree Stu, it’s so so sad…and wrong.


  2. Sigrid Hice
    Sep 30, 2012 @ 20:42:35

    Hi Stuart,

    I completely agree with you. As a teaching artist, I have seen horrible spelling, punctuation, and syntax even in high school, where I consider it inexcusable. English is my second language, and I feel that everyone with average intelligence can and should learn how to command his cradle language properly.

    Years ago I received a handwritten thank-you note from a young lady, who teaches elementary school. The short note contained so many spelling and punctuation mistakes, that I wondered how she earned her high school diploma, much less her college degree.

    I believe that written communication should be effective and free of mistakes as it is a representation of self. I compare typos, faulty syntax, and improper punctuation to being dressed in a stained T-shirt, jeans with holes in the knees, and untied sneakers when going to an interview. Everyone should dress and write for respect.

    We’ll continue to work on it as much as possible.




  3. Monica L. Matthews (@AidScholarship)
    Oct 01, 2012 @ 08:08:14

    College scholarship judges also throw out applications with blatant spelling errors. There needs to be a “Back to Spelling” movement in our country!!!


  4. Denise Ahlquist
    Oct 01, 2012 @ 10:06:42

    Please think about the purpose of different kinds of writing as you consider this subject.

    If you are writing a grocery list for yourself or a journal entry, that is a VERY different kind of writing than a resume! Students absolutely need to learn that double-checking spelling and grammar is essential for public forms of communication. But if I understood the assignment, the focus was on students getting their ideas down on paper. For many people, worrying about spelling at that stage is counter-productive and actually inhibits the free flow of ideas. Checking spelling should be done as part of an editing phase whenever the writing is to be made public.


    • Stuart Nager
      Oct 01, 2012 @ 17:26:16

      Denise, I’m sorry, but I disagree with you in this regard. They were Ninth and Tenth graders. Yes, the focus was to get ideas down, but to disregard the spelling is just a wrong message to send out. When we went to school, it all counted: getting ideas down, grammar, spelling, punctuation…the works. Should it be done as part of the editing process? Yes, of course.

      To blatantly state “don’t worry about spelling” is lazy and sets a bad example. If we got away from the phonetics garbage, they’d know how to spell by High School. See Daryl’s comment for why I feel this way.


    • Sigrid Hice
      Oct 01, 2012 @ 18:33:06

      Indeed, creative writing or any writing that is shared should be edited. However, I feel we should not lower the standards, especially in high school, by giving students permission not to worry about spelling. Lowering our expectations of students results in bad habits. Not spelling accurately, in part, is a careless attitude toward language in itself.


  5. Daryl Devore
    Oct 01, 2012 @ 12:50:23

    I teach in Canada. My daughter now teaches in the US and her boyfriend is American and is also a new teacher. My daughter proofread all of his resumes and covering letters to catch the spelling mistakes and now checks the assignments he gives his class for the same thing. He has a Master’s degree and is not unintelligent – what he is – is educated in the “Hooked on Phonics” generation.
    A student in Ontario cannot graduate high school until they can pass the grade 10 literacy exam. Yes, my daughter makes spelling errors, but those are more likely to be typos than misspelled words.
    I remember sitting in a workshop when the presenter matter-of-factly said, “And spelling isn’t important in this type of assignment. Let the child’s creativity flow.” That did not go over well.
    I pity the young teachers having to deal with the future generations of students who can text, but can’t spell.
    Sad, but true..


    • Sigrid Hice
      Oct 01, 2012 @ 18:03:02

      My three daughters grew up during the phonetic spelling education fad. All three graduated from college, and all three spell and punctuate properly. When students read, they also see properly spelled words. There are many ways to acquire knowledge, including how to spell accurately. Considering that college students have to study volumes of text, they are very much exposed to language and, therefore, to correctly spelled words and, as a result, being academics, should be able to spell.


  6. Wendy Van Camp
    Oct 01, 2012 @ 18:50:31

    I fear that our education system is failing our students and our future. Creative thinking is not taught, only passing tests is important now. Don’t learn to spell, rely on the machines. Don’t think for yourself, only do what you are told. I meet many young people via my writing groups and they view paper with derision and refuse to use it. It is “yesterday” to them. Common sense ways of doing things, ways that people communicated for hundreds of years in a successful manner is foreign to them. My only hope is that many people are taking their kids out of the public school systems and homeschooling.

    I am worried for our future as a nation. While I am not a Luddite and embrace tech in many ways, I don’t believe that we should be throwing out the baby with the bath water. I agree that learning grammar, how to spell properly, and how to write on paper is important. The human brain retains more of the information that is written on paper via a pen than it does on a computer via a keyboard. It has something to do with the way the images and text remain in the same place on paper as compared to how it moves on the screen. I just read a study that shows that when you stare at a back-lite tech device for too long, it lowers the beneficial chemical levels in your brain. This does not happen when you look at paper. There needs to be found a happy balance between the old and the new, before the tech swallows us up and turns us into a nation of ill educated idiots. I wish I knew what that balancing point was.


    • Sigrid Hice
      Oct 01, 2012 @ 19:50:22

      I completely agree with your thoughts. Everything should be consumed in moderation, including technology. Sadly, we are entering the age if digital dementia.

      I also wonder about the biological/physical aspect of children being exposed to electromagnetic radiation emitted by all of today’s tech gadgets.

      Educators feel totally pressured, and much burden is placed upon them to produce well educated human beings. One issue that is often overlooked is the parents’ responsibility and accountability in the education equation of our young people. It all begins at home.


  7. Samantha Bangayan
    Oct 01, 2012 @ 22:57:58

    Wow, I have never heard of that approach to learning and I wonder if this goes on in Canada too. I’ve always had so-called “strict” English teachers who cared about spelling. Though students would complain that it wasn’t fair to lose marks for something so simple, I would argue that if spelling is so simple, then we should get it right. =) I think spelling continues to make all the difference in professionalism these days.

    By the way, is the “then” in “…then to dumb it down” a trick spelling mistake we were supposed to catch? =)


  8. Author Ashley Howland
    Oct 02, 2012 @ 05:48:10

    I think there is room for a bit of both approaches. Yes spelling is important and should not be taught independently of writing, but there are times when the goal is to get kids writing. I love to see kids write a story, yes you do need to go back and edit, but so do the best authors. This is also an important part of writing. I hate seeing kids who won’t write a story because they are worried about their spelling, they have so many good ideas. There needs to be an even ground, but essentially the spelling needs to be taught and never dumb down education!


    • Stuart Nager
      Oct 02, 2012 @ 22:46:59

      Ashley, that is the key thing: Don’t Dumb Down Education. The private prep schools (monied versions) never will, and they remain “on top” due to that.


  9. Peggy Lee Hanson
    Oct 02, 2012 @ 07:07:23

    Back in my corporate days, I applied for an upgrade position. The manager said the first thing he did was throw out the resumes which had grammatical and spelling errors. I do believe it holds true today, as you pointed out. I loved spelling in school…to this day I love it. Maybe because I am a writer. Oh, and by the way, I did get the promotion!


  10. RAAckerman@Cerebrations.biz
    Oct 02, 2012 @ 08:32:00

    This is one of my biggest complaints about the school systems. They ruined my middle child with this inane “teaching” (sic) concept. She can’t spell a darned thing – and spell check is simply too confused to provide any guidance.
    I have also railed about many a tome (and even more blog posts) that are written with that destitute third-grade standard applied. Communication is not optional- unless one expects to live alone and bereft for the rest of their lives. It is yet another pernicious nail pulled out of the arsenal of folks who hope to remain or attain middle class.
    And, as PeggyLee said above, we decided years ago to require IN-PERSON, on our forms, applications (after narrowing down the applicant pool with those whose submissions failed to demonstrate proficiency in one of the languages of our offices) so that we could be assured that the individual was capable of reading and writing in the vernacular- in a timely fashion.


  11. Rebecca Mealey
    Oct 02, 2012 @ 22:43:02

    I think we may as well go ahead and embrace technology. It is only going to grow. I use to spell OK, I Think, until spell checkers came along!


    • Stuart Nager
      Oct 02, 2012 @ 22:45:32

      I do not feel one has to be exclusive of the other. Knowing how to spell, proper grammar, etc. should not go the way of technology. Really…it should never be an either/or situation.


    • Sigrid Hice
      Oct 03, 2012 @ 13:55:15

      Computer spell checking is a cop out. It’s fine for quickly correcting misspelled words, but there is so much that spell check cannot accomplish, which still requires the human brain for checking. Just look at the punctuation, or lack thereof, of this sentence: Woman without her man is a savage. Maybe it should be punctuated like this: Woman, without her, man is a savage. What a difference only two commas can make. I think proper punctuation falls in line with accurate spelling.

      Technology is here for us to use and apply, but we should never become fully dependent on it–it leads to digital dementia.


  12. Marie
    Oct 03, 2012 @ 10:12:23

    I used to be a good speller, until spell check. I feel like my brain has turned to mush. It’s a travesty really.


  13. Sonia G Medeiros
    Oct 04, 2012 @ 15:11:55

    As a homeschooling mom, I do take the “don’t worry about spelling” track…at first. My concern, especially when my children first start writing is to give them confidence and joy in writing. I go through the writing with them and find misspelled words though. We work on them but I don’t usually do spelling lists and such. I want them to learn to recognize when words look wrong and know how to fix them (looking them up, etc). I find the spellchecker really helps with this when they’re using the computer. The underlining feature makes the misspelled word stand out. It’s even helped me improve my spelling over time.

    I can see where a lack of concern for good spelling could be a problem but it doesn’t have to be. I don’t think spelling should be ignored forever but too much of a focus on it can really strangle a child’s writing. I used to have a lot of spelling anxiety as a kid. It was hard for me to just sit down and write a first draft because I worried so much about all the words being spelled correctly. I wish I’d had someone tell me not to worry about spelling, at least until it was time to work on a revision.


    • Stuart Nager
      Oct 04, 2012 @ 15:16:37

      Sonia..again, the area that got to me was that it was still “don’t worry about it” in High School. Only a few students went to find a dictionary (btw, only TWO dictionaries in that classroom, with an avg of 25 students per room).

      In the beginning, to get ideas down, is one thing.

      When you are asking them to “publish” their work, and it’s still not corrected or worked on…that, to me, is the ultimate problem.


      • Sonia G Medeiros
        Oct 04, 2012 @ 15:36:31

        Good point. High schoolers should have been honing those spelling skills over time. I agree. I guess I missed the “high school” part the first time around. *blush*

  14. MuMuGB
    Oct 06, 2012 @ 08:17:27

    Well, I can tell you that, on this side of the pond, my 7-year-old has to learn to spell 15 words every week. Her school seems to take it very seriously and I am delighted ! That said, I have heard that some schools don’t even correct spelling mistakes any more. How can you learn if nobody corrects you? I wonder what’s next…Don’t bother about knowing how to count?


    • Sigrid Hice
      Oct 06, 2012 @ 11:35:55

      I am glad to hear that the British education system takes spelling more seriously.

      Growing up in Germany, we had to write dictation weekly and were graded on it. We also had to learn proper English–spelling, grammar, and punctuation. My daughters grew up in North Carolina, and education is different here altogether. I always felt that students spend more time in school and learn less. They have opportunities to earn extra credit by completing easy assignments, which helps them pass the class. Too, most school calendars are still scheduled as the old agricultural calendar, ten weeks off during the summer, though we have passed the agricultural era many decades ago and have long since arrived in the technological age. Students graduate from high school and do not know how many ounces are in a quart, pint…not knowing how to count may be next. They certainly have difficulty with mental math already.


  15. Janine Ripper
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 04:27:21

    Well said Stu and I totally agree. I’m disgusted in the state of play of the education systems around the world – or is it just ‘western’ countries… I’ve actually been in the position of reviewing CV’s and cover letters – tearing them apart to totally rebuild them due to all kinds of errors. But, like you, I’ve also failed to proof read my own.

    There has to be a dramatic change of focus in regards to education.


    • Stuart Nager
      Oct 07, 2012 @ 10:56:42

      We have always had an evolution of language and spelling…but, total disregard is a MAJOR step back, and it does seem to get worse. We’ve gone too far away from a “well balanced student” and have allowed excuses to take over.


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