No Lazarus Resurrection for Grammar without Help

Article excerpt

AS A self-confessed desecrator of signs abusing apostrophes (you're not selling "pie's", people. Or "car's". And no, you aren't closed "Monday's". My black texta and I maintain the rage), you would imagine I am delighted to hear our deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard announce that "grammar is back!"

Yes, apparently it will be back to basics - you know, those annoying little things such as spelling, grammar, writing - for Aussie school kids according to the draft national curriculum Ms Gillard announced this week.

Announced with so much glee that I was wondering if "grammar" was actually a code-word for "Colin Firth" and Julia was heading off on a hot date behind the Speaker's Chair that night. The thought is enough to get anyone excited about the correct use of semi-colons.

It is, of course, great news that the light has finally been seen and education will now start to return its focus to those fundamental issues in numeracy and literacy whose standards have slipped alarmingly in recent years.

But I'm not sure the proclamation "grammar is back!" is correct.

If it's back, then where has it been?

Was it dead? Should this draft be called the "Lazarus Policy" for its powers of resurrection?

Or is the grammar bandwagon just an easy one on which to jump in a federal election year?

The bottom line is this: grammar has never been gone.

It has always been on the teaching curriculum in Queensland schools and teachers have always endeavoured to teach it - some with greater success and levels of interest than others, obviously.

Baby boomers - many simply jealous not to have grown up in an era of calculators, spell-check and corporal punishment-free classrooms - moan about the appalling educational standards of gens Y and Z, but just ask any teacher and they'll say students today are no less clever than those schooled under the cane.

Most teenagers know perfectly well where to place those pesky apostrophes and have a better understanding of the use of hyphens, colons and commas than the cynical older generations want to believe. …