Bad Grammar?

For years, among English teachers and writers alike, there has been a war over whether or not teaching grammar in the classroom is helpful and worthwhile. In his article “Grammar, Grammars, and Teaching Grammar”, Patrick Hartwell outlines some of his positions on the subject. He outlines three different types or levels of grammar and explains how grouping their definitions together is problematic. The three grammars are as follows:

  1. Grammar: This is what most people master by age 5 or 6. Basic uses that are not discussed.
  2. Grammar Two: This is when basic grammar begins to be discussed and looked at, where students begin to describe their grammar.
  3. Grammar Three: This is grammar etiquette, which tongue is appropriate to speak and write in.

Hartwell tells his readers that grouping the three types of grammar is problematic because the teaching of one type of grammar could be more helpful and necessary than the teaching of another type of grammar.

Personally, I have never really been a fan of in depth grammar lessons (as you probably get a sense of in my writing). However, as I enter deeper into my studies as a communication arts student, I am beginning to see the importance of grammar just a little more. If teaching grammar is used to “…help students understand the system they unconsciously know, showing them the necessary categories and labels (Hartwell),” then what grammar really is is a tool for meaning making. The ones who are making the meanings are the ones who have power. Therefore, maybe grammar is more than what we give it credit for, it is a tool for empowerment.


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