Stephen Jay Gould interview

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Tue Dec 21 12:05:06 MST 1999

Louis Proyect wrote:

>  Stephen Jay Gould
> It's like saying, "We're going to continue to teach English, but you don't
> have to teach grammar anymore."

This disappoints me. "Grammar" is and always has been the biggest
shuck in the public school system. Believing that teaching grammar
is teaching English is almost as bad as creationism. In any case, what
is called "grammar" is usually a particular etiquette -- real grammar
doesn't have to be taught. For example, would any native English
speaker have to be taught to say "She is a fine Spanish teacher"
rather than "She is a Spanish fine teacher"? And yet probably
very few people know the rule for that. (I presume speakers
of languages in which nouns cannot be used as modifiers
would have to be taught the rule when learning English.)

"Bad grammar" in writing does not come from not knowing grammar
but from causes that have only partly been explored because the
assumption that the problem is "grammar" blocks research into the
actual causes. Everyone's *speech* is always grammatical -- i.e.,
rule bound --  and no one needs to know the rules in order to
follow them.


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