Spelling and grammar not fetters

21st June 1996 at 01:00
I am astonished that Karina Law (English Extra, TES, June 7) is still perpetuating that sterile old myth that English teaching is concerned with either creativity and self-expression or correctness.

While she makes a number of salient points about the value of learning English, I must take issue with the picture she creates of children being fettered by being taught standard spelling and grammar. On what grounds does she make a connection between emphasis on the "surface skills like handwriting and spelling" and inadequate self-expression and creativity? Her argument for allowing plenty of incorrect expression first, followed by teaching our "rules of correctness" is deeply flawed.

True creativity could be said to be nurtured by the reverse process - teach children the correct version and then they will have the tools and the confidence to experiment. The majority of our great writers have proved and continue to prove this route a success.

As an experienced adult education tutor, I teach many adults who have been denied this basic right to knowledge of the structure and use of our language in their past education, and who are eager to grasp it now. English language does not "defy logic", as Ms Law asserts; it includes a number of fascinating historical and other logical patterns. Students of all ages can enjoy learning to appreciate these and to write both correctly and fluently. Ms Law's attitude is both condescending and unrealistic. English language teaching is not about correctness or creativity - it is, of course, about both.

J Davies Summerleas Crapstone Road Yelverton, Devon

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