- Public schools stopped teaching grammar decades ago because the NCTE believes teaching grammar in isolation does not improve writing. In lieu of explicit instruction, students are expected to acquire their knowledge of grammar via reading and writing. Grammar is "caught, not taught." (Phyllis Davenport)
- Reading comprehension falls apart in the 4th grade. The 4th grade slump was identified and named by Jeanne Chall in the early 1980s.
- The syntactic complexity of the texts children read increases each year, eventually becoming more complex than anything children hear in conversation. This point is reached in the 4th grade. We have Jeanne Chall to thank for this insight, too.
And, also starting in 4th grade, children's rate of progress in reading comprehension collapses.
Nobody seems to have noticed the coincidence. The National Reading Panel doesn't talk about syntax, E.D. Hirsch doesn't talk about syntax, and the NCTE is interested only in the question of whether formal instruction in grammar improves writing. Not reading.
No one seems to have asked himself whether it was all those precision diagrams of yore that brought children to the level of syntactical fluency that allowed 4th graders to read McGuffy Readers and 10th graders to read Dickens.
Instead, it's been left to speech-language pathologists to discover the fact that if you want children to read, you had better teach them how to read sentences, not just words.
reform writing (Robert Connors on the Erasure of the Sentence)