From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:
Forget the War on Christmas, We’re Losing the War on Grammar
A new fifth grade teacher at Canopy Oaks Elementary is asking students to use gender-neutral pronouns in the classroom.
Math and science teacher Chloe Bressack sent the request home in a letter to parents headlined “About Mx. Bressack.”
“… my pronouns are ‘they, them, their’ instead of ‘he, his, she, hers.’ I know it takes some practice for it to feel natural,” the letter reads, “but students catch on pretty quickly.”
The letter also asks that students use “Mx.,” (pronounced ‘Mix’) when addressing the teacher rather than Mr. or Ms.
The note alarmed some parents.
I suppose we should be relieved that this teacher instructs students in math and science, and not English. Then again, we have a math teacher with some confusion on distinguishing between one and more than one.
As with the argument about whether it’s wrong to refer to Caitlyn Jenner as “he,” we have a blurring of the line between manners and propriety – the generally good rule that you should call someone by the name that person prefers – and preexisting socially-established rules for identification.
If my child’s teacher wants to be called “Mix Surname,” that’s unusual, but fine. Be respectful, kids. But the words “they, them and their” already have particular meanings in the English language, and they are used when referring to a group, more than one. This teacher is one person, and thus “they” “them” and “their” are not the appropriate pronouns.
Using a plural pronoun when referring to a singular noun is grammatically incorrect, as editors remind me on a frustratingly regular basis. You can’t just decide that in one classroom, the grammatical rules are one way, and in another classroom, they’re different. Grammar isn’t sexist, patriarchal, hetero-normative, racist, or somehow otherwise sinister; it’s just grammar.
You do have a right to ask others to call you by the name you prefer. You don’t have the right to demand schoolchildren use incorrect grammar just because you feel like it. The rules of grammar are not set by personal preferences.
The school district seems to just want everyone to calm down and go about their business:
Superintendent Rocky Hanna addressed the situation in a statement sent to the Democrat. He said he met with Canopy Oaks administrators after learning about the letter.
“According to Principal Lambert, the teacher addresses students daily by using the pronouns he, she, him and her. The teacher also uses ma’am and sir when responding to students. As a personal preference, however, the teacher simply prefers to be referred to in gender neutral terms as that of a coach,” Hanna wrote.
Fun question: Would the English teacher down the hall mark a paper incorrect for referring to Bressack as “they” in a sentence? Or would the school district insist that it is correct to refer to Bressack as “they” but not to refer to another individual teacher as “they”?