[T]here are native speakers and there are native speakers. My second grade son lost a point on an English assignment today for writing, "Anna gave my sister and me the book." The teacher crossed out "me" and replaced it with "I," explaining that the proper expression was, "my sister and I."
My son complained to me that, in his opinion, "gave me" was correct, not "gave I," so "gave my sister and me" should have been right. I congratulated him for his correct analysis, but told him not to mention it to his teacher, because nothing good would come of it.
She's a middle class, educated, native English speaker yet she, like most of us, could have benefited from some explicit grammar training. Her students would have benefited, too.And, later, responding to the possibility that "prescriptivist" grammar instruction is responsible for sentences like the teacher's Anna sentence above:
Explicit, prescriptive grammar training doesn't cause bad grammar. Bad grammar by overcorrection is caused by untrained attempts to sound trained. While there may, of course, be limited examples of "a little learning is a dangerous thing" in grammar, the cure is mo' learnin', not no learnin'.I'm with Glen. I don't see how we can blame prescriptive grammar classes for constructions like "President Obama and myself are concerned..." (which I'm pretty sure I saw Arne Duncan use in reference to public education). Public schools stopped teaching grammar "in isolation" decades ago, not too long after the 1963 Braddock report:
In view of the widespread agreement of research studies based upon many types of students and teachers, the conclusion can be stated in strong and unqualified terms: the teaching of formal grammar has a negligible or, because it usually displaces some instruction and practice in actual composition, even a harmful effect on the improvement of writing (p. 37).The Braddock report was followed in 1986 by the Hillocks report:
Braddock, R., Lloyd-Jones, R., & Schoer, L. (1963). Research in written composition. Urbana, Il: National Council of Teachers of English.
None of the studies reviewed for the present report provides any support for teaching grammar as a means of improving composition skills. If schools insist upon teaching the identification of parts of speech, the parsing or diagraming of sentences, or other concepts of traditional grammar (as many still do), they cannot defend it as a means of improving the quality of writing" (Hillocks, 1986).Although Hillocks and Smith claim that by as late as 1986 "many" schools were still teaching the parsing or diagraming of sentences, that is certainly not my experience, nor is it the experience of anyone else I know. Parts of speech, yes; parts of sentences, no. And as far as I'm concerned, the grammar of writing is the grammar of the sentence, full stop. If all you're teaching is noun, pronoun, adjective, and adverb, you're not teaching grammar, prescriptively or otherwise.
The Braddock and Hillocks passages are quoted liberally by education school professors and college composition instructors alike. There is a near-universal belief that teaching grammar "in isolation" is useless or bad or both, and today's K-12 teachers would have themselves been taught by teachers who held this view.
Related: The other night I asked a professor of English at one of the Ivies whether he knows grammar. I was curious.
He doesn't. He said that at some point -- the 1980s, possibly -- English departments had required graduate students to take courses in linguistics. Then that came to an end, and today English professors know literature but they don't know grammar or linguistics.