March 28, 2006

The adjective "the"

Geoff laments that Senate aides or Boston Globe columnists don't know their basic lexical categories, but it's actually worse than that. Of all people (other than professional linguists), you'd think that high-school English teachers would know basic grammar, but they don't. In the past few years, two of my friends in British Columbia have retreaded as secondary school teachers. Both of them majored in English as undergrads and are now teaching English or mostly English. One of them took a couple of linguistics courses as well as a year of Carrier language, so she actually knows something about grammar. When she did her practicum, she reported in dismay that one of the regular English teachers was teaching that "the" is an adjective and was not to be persuaded otherwise. The knowledge of the other English teachers was no better, but such questions didn't arise because they never expressed themselves on grammatical questions at all.

My other friend had had no linguistics and in fact had to take a Structure of English course in order to get into the teacher training course. She took it as a distance course, where the students interact with each other and the instructor via email and a wiki. I was often unable to help her when questions arose because her course materials were so vague as to make it unclear what was intended. When I could work out what they wanted, I often found that it was outright wrong. From everything I've heard, British Columbia is not particularly backward in this respect.

Posted by Bill Poser at March 28, 2006 02:04 PM