Teaching Smart vs. not LO13604

Benjamin B. Compton (bcompton@geocities.com)
Wed, 14 May 1997 17:00:02 -0700

Replying to LO13583 --

David wrote:

> My daughter is graduating from high school in a month and she is not only
> a poor speller but she doesn't have a good grasp of grammar, such as "its"
> vs. "it's". She also writes both run-on sentences and non-sentences.
> After years of frustration with the schools and her mother, who is an
> elementary-level teacher, I am just beginning to sense that she is
> learning how important good language skills are. She is extremely bright,
> but I'm afraid it will be a painful path as she learns in college what she
> should have been taught in grammar school. There's a reason it used to be
> called "grammar" school.

Peace be with you David. When I graduated from High School I was no better
off than your daughter. I might have been worse, I don't know. I look at
the letters I wrote after high school graduation to my parents, and there
are no periods, commas, semi-colons, etc. Demonstrative phrases with no
punctuation at all! I remember the first time I came across a book with a
footnote. What a surprise it was to see a little number above a word. It
took me a while to figure out it was related to the little number at the
bottom of the page. When I came across my first endnote I was really
confused! There was a little number above the word, but nothing at the
bottom of the page.

I graduated from high school without having ever read a book from cover to
cover. I had never read poetry; I had never read a play; I had never read
a short story.

I was about 20 when I figured out I was basically stupid. A good friend
(who has since become my mentor) introduced me to Winston Churchill. I
read a book, I think titled "Blood, Sweat, Toil, and Tears," which was a
compilation of his war time speeches. His words moved me. I felt chills
run up and down my spine. I read the entire book in one night. I decided
it was time for me to grow up, and get an education.

The next day I went to the bookstore. I bought the complete works of
Shakespeare, several poetry books (even though I didn't know who was a
good poet, and who wasn't), Churchill's history of WW II, and a few books
on grammar. That started what has now become a life long love affair with

Until one week before my graduation, it was uncertain whether I would
graduate or not. I remember my mother screaming at me, saying "Ben you're
messing up your life. You don't know a damn thing. All you'll be is a
garbage man."

I've never been inclined to academic learning, but I do love to learn. I
read every chance I get. And, on occasion, I actually pay attention to
grammar and spelling!

I learned a lot of hard lessons. I learned them alone. And I'm glad I did.
I've never had to work as a garbage man, but I've spent more than enough
time cleaning toilets and stripping and waxing floors. I don't always like
my job, but all I have to do is think of where I was a few years ago and I
get a sudden feeling of gratitude!

Ben Compton
"Friends are the ornaments of life."
E-Mail: bcompton@geocities.com
Phone:  (801) 222-6178
Fax:    (801) 222-6993
Web:    http://www.e-ad.com/ben/BEN.HTM

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