Friday, May 8

At last, The Australian shows how education should be reported

Have my prayers been answered? The front page of today's Australian runs a long, detailed report by education writer Justine Ferrari about the national introduction of a grammar curriculum.

It's balanced, fair and comprehensive. It explains the different types of grammar.

Did you know that in addition to Traditional, there are other grammars: Transformational or Generative; and Systemic Functional. Like most people, I'm all for traditional grammar, but the others have their place in academic theory and understanding the way we use English.

If you go back a couple of posts to April 30 ("Time to say adieu to The Australian"), you will see criticism of the Oz's reporting of education issues. Some might call it bias, but as I said:

. . . when the Oz reports only one side of an argument, it's not because the editors are biased. The editors know children should learn to read by phonics alone – they know every other approach is
discredited. Me? I'd like to make up my own mind by evaluating the differing arguments. I'd like the news reports to lay out those arguments, even briefly.

Ms Ferrari's report today suggests my comment is out of date.

Note added Saturday, May 9:

Several letters in The Weekend Australian support the introduction of tradional grammar, but correct some points. Read them here.

This summary from yesterday's Australian wasn't published online, but is invaluable in explaining the various grammars. I hope the Oz will forgive my scanning it to assist understanding.

WHICH IS BEST? -- The different types of grammar
TRADITIONAL GRAMMAR: Classifies words based on the eight parts of speech: verb, noun, pronoun, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, interjection. This grammar also describes the function of words in a sentence, with the typical construction of subject verb object, as in: "The boy hit the ball".
TRANSFORMATIONAL OR GENERATIVE GRAMMAR: An analytical grammar used to look at the possibilities of a language within the constraints of its deep structure. No matter how complex the sentence, it can be reduced to subject verb object -"the boy hit the ball". It's not possible to say: "hit the ball the boy".
SYSTEMIC FUNCTIONAL GRAMMAR: An analytical grammar that examines language on three levels: what is being represented (ideational); who is being affected by what is being said (interpersonal); and what is the intent of the sentence (textual)
An example of systemic functional grammar analysis:"Who's seen my screwdriver?"
Textual meaning: Who (theme or what it's about) 's seen my screwdriver (theme or the outcome)
Interpersonal meaning: Who (subject)'s (finite) seen (predicator) my screwdriver(complement)
Ideational meaning: Who (sensers)'s seen (mental process) my screwdriver(phenomenon).

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