Why Spelling & Grammar Will Always Be Essential

Spelling and grammar are usually not hot topics. But there’s been a lot of controversy  surrounding the recent statement by Sugata Mitra, a Newcastle University (England) professor of educational technology. Mitra announced earlier this week that traditional language rules have become “unfashionable because electronic devices are now programmed to do the work for us.

Unfashionable? Really? I beg to differ. The fact that our electronic devices adjust incorrectly keyed words is surely a convenience—and a handy one at that. After all, in the world of texting and tweeting, we need to be quick. Everything happens at a moment’s notice, and we certainly don’t want to miss a beat.

Mitra goes on to say that spelling and grammar have nearly become extinct skills. According to Mitra, spelling and grammar are “a bit unnecessary because they are skills that were very essential maybe 100 years ago but they are not right now… my phone corrects my spelling so I don’t really need to think about it.”

But since when does this convenience replace the necessity for the actual knowledge to put a sentence together in correct grammatical fashion? We are a civilized society, of course. And one of the true marks of a civilized society is the ability to communicate effectively—whether we are speaking in public, chatting among a group of colleagues, or putting together a presentation or a professional email.

When we give up the basic functions of knowing how to spell and put together a grammatically correct thought, we give up the ability to communicate on any level beyond basic caveman-speak.

Let’s take this concept a step further. When we forfeit our communication skills to a computerized object, then all communication becomes impersonal. Not only do we lose the power of communication, we eventually lose the power to think at all. Did I go too far here? Stay with me.

If today’s technology uses a complex set of algorithms and probability calculations to predict which word we are about to type, then the obvious next step is predicting entire sentences and trains of thought. When technology advances to the point of finishing your sentences for you or putting together a sentence using only a few provided key words, then why think at all?

In the end, I predict that should grammar and spelling be thrown by the wayside of sentence diagramming and the like, then grammarians, like myself, will surely be in high demand. In terms of salary, we’ll rank among the highest income earners—perhaps even surpassing those of doctors, lawyers, and CEOs. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d surely love to be making a six-figure salary, living in a mansion, and driving a Rolls Royce. But at what cost?

I do want my children and my children’s children to speak effectively—to communicate their wants, hopes, needs, and desires without the intervention of a computer or other device. We do want our society to continue to be productive and create great solutions to the problems that we face. But surely language is not a problem. Communication is not a farce. And thinking is not a disgrace.

If we want to remain a civilized society and continue moving forward, then we need not remove what makes us civilized in the first place. Let’s keep grammar and spelling in our schools…and bring back multiplication tables and handwriting as well. The more we know, the better we become.

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