Monday, December 27, 2010
Not or Never
A fascinating issue is playing out in the editorial pages of my local paper. Actually, just the fact that I still have a local newspaper is in no small way related to this issue. But that comes later. Here's the deal: The state Superintendent of Public Instruction recently ruled that it's Ok for students to use spell checks when taking tests on computers, or for any assignment. First of all, it's not that they could prevent this, but just the fact that a ruling came down from on high has sparked a huge disagreement. For some it's about the importance of knowing how to spell words. If we allow students to conveniently have their mistakes corrected for them then we are doing a huge disservice to them. On the other side is the view that using a spell check program actually teaches spelling.
I see the merits of both sides. The traditionalists want students to learn spelling and grammar. The progressives feel that while important, it's more important to allow students to take advantage of all the technology, possibly learn to spell by using the spell check program as a dictionary, and turning in a better piece of writing to boot.
I think it's all a moot point. When are some folks going to learn you can't go backwards on technology. It's wishful thinking. If the technology is available, if it exists, students will find and use it. Punto! (that means period...end of sentence...end of argument)*
I think, too, that the expression, development, and illustration of ideas trumps spelling and grammar. Now I know all about the form vs. substance debate. Both are important, but really now, if you had to choose between the two, which is more important?
What's clear is that things are changing and we have to change with them.
What happens when people are not burdened with making spelling errors because anything glaring will be caught? A few things. Proofreading becomes even more important because of all the typos that waltz through undetected. Take a little commonly made error like writing n o t instead of n o w. "We should now pursue that plan."
Let the spell check teach, let the writer proof read.