Monday, October 25, 2004


What are you going to be for Halloween? How about something scary -- an educator who doesn’t believe in correcting kids’ spelling errors.

By all accounts, despite the fact that we’re spending enormous amounts more cash on K-12 education than in past years, academic fundamentals such as spelling are getting worse, not better.

People who dispute that might want to take a look at some student writing samples. They’ll have you howling at the moon. The ghosts and goblins of lackluster and downright lousy language arts instruction are apparent in student papers, and it’s getting scary.

My daughter played varsity softball this past season. I occasionally visited with the JV players as they did their homework during varsity games. Naturally, being snoopy, I peeked at what they were writing. It curled my hair, the spelling was so bad.

One girl actually thought ‘’husband’’ was spelling ‘’huzzbun.’’ And these are freshmen and sophomores in one of the state’s best-regarded high schools.

My softball daughter carried on a penpal correspondence with a couple of grade-school students during the season, set up by a teacher who wanted to encourage the younger students to do more writing. I totally approve of such mentoring. But I’m saddened by the utter lack of language facility I saw in their notes:

cryed for cried
allot for a lot
Hellow for Hello
movei for movie
lik for like
scard for scared
noise for nose
first for first
cetch for catch
realy for really
Tinnisy for Tennessee
none for known
hole for whole
qwit for quiet
werd for weird
were for where
costom for costume
probaly for probably
brot for brought
starded for started
springkool for sprinkle
wasent for wasn’t
minet for minute
pord for poured
lod op for load up
clos for clothes
woch for watch
iny for any
kam for came
dor for door
faforiet for favorite
naem for name
sester for sister

Scary, isn’t it? And yet teachers indoctrinated into ‘’progressivism,’’ ‘’constructivism’’ and Whole Language don’t believe it’s a good idea to correct misspelled words like that. Their theory is that the kids will learn the proper spelling later, on down the road. Suuuuuure they will.

Wish I could put this in every educator’s treat bag this Halloween: it takes a WHOLE bunch more effort to undo a bad habit than to teach it correctly in the first place.

No wonder spelling, vocabulary, reading comprehension, and reading enjoyment, for that matter, are in the cellar. We’re turning the English language into a secret code, and denying these kids the secret decoder ring!

This is no Halloween trick. This is serious. I say the kids deserve a treat . . . proper spelling instruction. And I spell that N-O-W.

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