There’s nothing so stupid that you won’t find some professor, somewhere, saying it.
My attention has been drawn to this article in which Sugata Mitra, professor of educational technology at the University of Newcastle, claims that here is no need in our modern world for children to learn spelling and grammar.
“Firstly,” he says, “my phone corrects my spelling so I don’t really need to think about it and, secondly, because I often skip grammar and write in a cryptic way.”
He seems to speak “in a cryptic way” also: anyone have any idea what the bleeding hell he means by “skipping grammar”?
He seems to think that SMS texting language can replace the more traditional forms of written communication, and that this texting language can be used to “write good sentences” and to “convey emotion”. Perhaps. But lack of familiarity with more traditional forms of writing, and ignorance even of the basics of grammar, would mean disaster, one would have thought, in all those very important areas of life where precision of written communication is vital: are we to expect legal documents, say, or medical reports, to be written in textspeak?
And as for our literary heritage, it would become quite incomprehensible. Which, perhaps, wouldn’t cause the good professor to lose much sleep, but would, nonetheless, be quite upsetting for a few old farts like myself, who rather like literature, and feel that our literary heritage ought to be passed on to future generations. But then again, as Prof Mitra says, it would be “a mistake to resist technological change”.
I think Prof Mitra goes a bit wrong, though, in imagining that abbreviating words, doing away with punctuation, and ignoring the rules of syntax in order to communicate in the fewest possible characters, are all new phenomena. For well over a century, and until quite recently, people have been doing just that when sending telegrams. But back then, we didn’t have learned professors telling us that this made unnecessary the learning of spelling or of grammar. Now, that is new.