Magazine May 18, 2020, Issue

When Schools Stopped Teaching Standard English

President Barack Obama during a visit to the General Clarence Tinker K-8 School at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., September 17, 2014 (Larry Downing/Reuters)

Schools in many English-speaking countries have gradually given up teaching Standard English. One could cite various supporting instances. In England during the past decade, schools have stopped insisting that th be sounded the traditional way instead of as either a v sound or an f sound: So my muvver and I fink so are no longer corrected in the speech of British youth. (Linguists call this “th-fronting.”) In Seattle in 2010, a reviewer of The Chicago Manual of Style declared this “basic of linguistics”: “There really isn’t such a thing as poor grammar, just a variety of contexts.” Even spelling

This article appears as “Killing Grammar: Part I of a Three-Part Series” in the May 18, 2020, print edition of National Review.

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Bryan A. Garner — Mr. Garner is the author of The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation, Garner’s Modern English Usage, and The HBR Guide to Better Business Writing.

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