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and have made the connection of the several words clear. More difficult by far is the analysis of the following lines:
Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Sing, Heav'nly Muse. In this passage, the meaning is determined by the arrangement of the words and by a logical insight into the words. English Grammar necessarily becomes a more difficult, abstract, and disciplining subject than the grammar of any highly inflected language. Professor Whitney of Yale once said, "Give me a man who can, with full intelligence, take to pieces an English sentence—brief and not too complicated even—and I will welcome him as better prepared for further study in other languages than if he had read both Caesar and Virgil and could parse them in the routine style in which they are so often parsed."
Closely associated with this undisputed use of Formal English Grammar is the educational value of Formal Grammar in giving the mind power to interpret all thought that is difficult to understand. The pupil who can analyze a difficult sentence is very likely to interpret the thought of that sentence. Whenever a pupil has but a vague conception of the thought of a sentence, the trouble can usually be located by means of questions pertaining to the grammatical structure of the sentence. Grammatical analysis is usually a sure instrument of interpretation, and can be made effective in the study of any subject in the curriculum. How often does a pupil fail in his several subjects, because he is unable to interpret his text-books ? Formal English Grammar, then, is a valuable asset to the several subjects that constitute a curriculum, because of the power it gives the mind to interpret difficult thought.
Formal English Grammar serves also as a means of correcting glaring errors in speech and writing; for a knowledge of the grammar of the language is sure to produce practical results. A conscious endeavor to conform to the laws of the language is conducive at least to practical results; for a clear understanding of what is correct and of what is incorrect cannot fail to be of appreciable service. No matter what the pupil's environment may be, that pupil is sure to form some erroneous habits in Englishhabits that originate partly from imitation and partly from the linguistic perplexities of English. Analogy most naturally plays an active part in creating such errors. It is not strange that the child who has heard such words as "sang", "sprang", and "rang” used to express the past action of their respective “i” forms, denoting present time, should introduce “brang” into his speech to express the past time of "bring.” We can all sympathize with that pupil who gave as an excuse for a whole week's absence that he "had a bad cow on his box.” He had learned that b-o-u-g-h is pronounced "bow”, so he concluded that c-o-u-g-h must be pronounced "cow”; and he had further learned that "box" is another word for "chest", so the "bad cough” that had settled on his "chest” became, through analogy, "a bad cow on his box.” Such gross errors are sure to disappear partly under the discipline of correction. The proper prevention of poor English, of course, is to be got from habit—not from rules; but practical results may reasonably be expected from a knowledge of rules—a knowledge gained through persistent drill.
Formal English Grammar, therefore, has obviously these four important uses: it gives the pupil possession of a necessary knowledge pertaining to the vernacular; it has a disciplinary value, inasmuch as it gives exercise to the powers of observation and discrimination, in dealing with words, idioms, and sentences, in their several collocations and distinctions; it has an educative value in giving the mind power to interpret difficult thought; it serves as a means of correcting glaring errors in speech and writing. But the teaching of English Grammar is often so awkwardly handled, that these real uses are frequently overlooked; and the whole subject is condemned as one of those vile things that education "designed should be thrown into the lumber-room, there to perish in obscurity.”
A proper understanding of some of the abuses of Formal English Grammar may serve to improve the teaching of the subject and to give the subject greater consideration in the curriculum. To begin the study of Formal English Grammar too soon is to abuse the subject. The average pupil is hardly ready for the
study of Formal Grammar until his twelfth year. To the pupil, at an earlier age, Formal Grammar becomes hardly more than poll-parrot knowledge. Much earlier a pupil may be taught to recognize the principal elements of a sentence. He may, further, receive a training in the language, by reading simple literature and by writing short compositions. But beyond such elementary practices, it is a risk to urge more before the pupil is twelve years old, because at an earlier age, his mind has hardly developed sufficiently to be able to grasp Formal Grammar.
Teachers, apparently not understanding this, have recklessly abused the teaching of Formal Grammar, by insisting upon it in grades in which the pupil is too young to comprehend it. A lesson in grammar, under such circumstances, is nothing more than an exercise in committing rules, and the fallacious test of the pupil's progress in the subject is the readiness with which he responds with the definitions that he has committed. He will tell you, without the slightest urging, what an adjective is—that it is a word that modifies a noun or a pronoun; but that is as far as his knowledge extends. He does not appreciate the full meaning of “modify”, because if the word conveys any meaning at all to him, it is invariably only that of "describing"; and it is hardly probable that he can give a sentence in which an adjective modifies a pronoun. More pathetic than the condition of the pupil is too often the self-satisfied attitude of the teacher, that her sole duty has been performed in teaching grammar, because the pupil can repeat with facility every definition in the book.
If the study of Formal English Grammar is begun too early, nothing but such instruction can be expected, inasmuch as the pupil's mind is too young to respond to the demands made by Formal Grammar. The only part that he can be expected to play in such a classroom drama is the recital of his committed lines. And even though some real benefit may accrue from committing rules, the positive injuries done the pupil's development in English far outweigh any possible benefit; for the pupil is led to believe, from his success in committing rules, that he actually knows the grammar of his language, and, consequently, when he reaches the age at which the subject really should be taught, he feels that very little can be taught him; and he has become such a slave to the belief that committing rules and actually knowing English Grammar are synonymous, that he frequently maintains an indifferent attitude towards his subsequent study of the vernacular.
Another abuse of the study of Formal English Grammar is the unreasonable amount which is usually insisted upon for a year's study. It is a grave mistake and an unwarrantable undertaking to attempt to teach all or even a considerable portion of English Grammar in one year. Why such haste? Is English Grammar perishable? Will it not keep? Why prescribe a textbook or reference book, if you prefer, in Latin Grammar, for four years in the high school and four years in college, but expect the pupil to learn all his English Grammar in one or two years in the elementary school? Why make the graded school teacher a veritable Atlas, supporting the whole world of English Grammar on her shoulders ? The high school has no right to hold the graded school responsible for the student's complete equipment in English Grammar; and the college has no right to hold the high school responsible for the student's complete equipment in English Grammar. Each institution has its own peculiar part to play in teaching the student English Grammar. Only last year, the dean of one of America's greatest colleges, in reporting, after an exhaustive examination, the bad English used by the average student of that college, asserted that the preparatory schools should assume the responsibility of teaching the students simple rules of grammar, during a period when their minds are most capable of assimilating those rules. He complained, further, that the college had to take over a large portion of the burden, although preparatory schools were better able to teach Formal Grammar than the college could ever hope to be. It is precisely this notion of the place of Formal English Grammar in the curriculum that has led the college to shift the responsibility to the high school; and the high school, in turn, to the elementary school; and the elementary school, in the absence of a convenient dumping-ground, and in its zeal to defend its professional reputation, has actually attempted to cover, in instruction, the whole field of English Grammar. The inevitable has resulted. Pupils have left the graded schools, with a smattering of grammar, in the form of a hazy conception of every rule and principle in grammar, but with a definite knowledge of practically none. Then the high school, feeling as it does, that Formal Grammar
should be taught only incidentally in secondary schools, does virtually nothing in the way of real instruction in Formal Grammar. And the college, in turn, considering its scope far beyond that of teaching grammar, usually gives no instruction whatever in grammatical principles, but laments the student's deficiency in English. The colleges of this country are unanimous in their complaints against the students’ bad grammar. The appraisement of a student's proficiency in English is largely translated in units of grammatical accuracy; for though a student's knowledge of literature be extensive, and his expression graceful, if his grammar be deficient, he is numbered among the illiterate. Yet the college cannot feel itself partly responsible for instruction in such a vital subject.
The definite amount of Formal Grammar that should be studied in one year cannot easily be determined or prescribed. There should be a little at a time and that little well taught. There is no need of haste, yet no need of rest. The smaller the amount attempted, the greater the opportunity for the drill that should form an essential part of the instruction. There is no definition, rule, or principle in English Grammar that can be taught and learned in one day, and the teacher who feels that she has successfully taught a new principle, in one development lesson, may well conclude, without serious reflection on her ability, that her efforts have failed. Reiteration, drill, and patience are indispensable to the successful teaching of English Grammar; and in order that the all-important drill in grammar may be afforded, the work covered for the year must necessarily be restricted to that amount that can be done well. By no means should the amount attempt to cover the entire grammar or a considerable portion of it. The seventh grade teacher who has succeeded in teaching the parts of speech, even if such a task has taken her all year, has done more for the pupil's development in English Grammar than the seventh grade teacher who has covered considerably more ground, but whose pupil calls “but” a conjunction wherever he sees it.
Teaching Formal English Grammar by the deductive method is another abuse that has helped to make instruction in Formal Grammar unpopular; for students taught by this method have invariably proved weak in the application of the rules of grammar. The inductive method, on the other hand, offers such superior inducements that it is hardly conceivable that such a method is so