In a couple of years, if I’m lucky, I will disembark from the good ship I’m in my Fifties and book passage on the SS Lord, I Can’t Believe I’m in my Sixties. I try really, really hard not to be a “why, in my day” curmudgeon. For example, I’m OK with current popular music. I don’t actually listen to it, of course…everyone knows that the best popular music of all time is “classic rock” from the late 1960’s to the early 1980’s. But every generation has its own soundtrack, and every generation thinks its own music is the best. So more power to the current crop of pop artists, and to the whippersnappers who listen to them.
But I recently had a “why, in my day” moment. I helped a middle school teacher grade the essays of eighth grade students. (I’m not a teacher, but I play one on TV. Seriously, let me just say here, in a loud and clear voice, God bless teachers.) The topic was: “Should a federal law be passed to make the minimum high school dropout age 18? Defend your response.” Here’s a verbatim excerpt from one of the papers…
“I think the high-school drop out should be at 16. For example. When a kid has the situation at their homelife and can’t get to the high-school. Like if they had to work at the job being employed. The earning they make, at the job. If they stay to in high-school the kid couldnt being employed at the job….”
It went on like that for four or five more paragraphs. And here’s the thing: they were all like that. And here’s the other thing: the papers were by students in gifted classes; these were written by students considered at the top of their grades. And here’s the other, other thing: apparently, I need to relearn how to write, because (here’s where the “why, in my day” part comes in) when I was in school, we had ridiculous concepts like correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar. We had to put nouns and verbs together in a logical, coherent manner to form things called “complete sentences.” We had to put “complete sentences” that had a similar theme into things called “paragraphs.”
How silly and behind the times I am! Blame (or credit, depending on your perspective) “teaching to the test” (teachers forced to show students how to successfully complete standardized tests because of legislatively-mandated teacher and/or student achievement standards, rather than being allowed to actually teach them), any number of socio-economic issues, computer spelling-and-grammar checks, and the ubiquitous, abbreviated “language” of texting. Whatever the reasons, today’s kids apparently no longer need to follow any pointless “rules” for writing.
And to think, all these years, I’ve been abiding by those outdated rules. How liberating it would be to like, just write what I want, how I want. I can’t believe I was all, trying to make words make sense. Like, I know the kid above was all I gotta support my family and stuff and like I ain’t got time for school or nothing and I’m all yeah I know so he’s like yeah. And I’m all I don’t need no stinking “rules” to like get it and stuff. I mean OMG WTF LOL. R U ready 4 nu writing?
Like, wait just a goll-darned minute. I’m sorry; I just can’t do it. I guess I am a “why, in my day” curmudgeon, because I have the archaic idea that writing should be clear and easy to understand (not that mine is; just saying). Spelling, punctuation, and grammar rules were made for that very reason. Sure, the rules have changed over time, but they still call for putting nouns and verbs together correctly. Writing ought to have, oh, I don’t know, actual words (U know what I mean?). Call me old-fashioned (and I’m sure you have), but I think writing ought to make sense, which means that it needs to have structure, and structure—sorry, you dad-gummed kids today—requires rules. Without them, we have…like if they had to work at the job being employed.
In which case, I’m like OMG WTF, but no damn LOL. Now you kids get out of my yard.