THE MASSACRE OF THE
5 April 2002
"Me and him rided our bikes and then we hided."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
There was a young girl (maybe 5 years old) whose mother had come in for an appointment
with Dr. G. The little girl was exceptionally well behaved. One reason for her good
behavior was that the Mom had brought a kid's tape player for her. They had been to the
library and borrowed a child's taped story. A multi chapter story. The girl sat quietly on
the couch in the waiting room for nearly an hour without making a sound, just listening to
I don't know the name of the story, or who wrote it, but I listened to six chapters of
the book and by the time it came to an end, I was completely appalled.
I suppose that the idea was that the story was being told in the voice of a small child
who had not yet mastered the English language, but watching this young girl listening in
rapt attention to the many times that the narrator "hided" and the number of
times that she talked about "me and him," it made me wonder how kids are
expected to learn to speak properly.
Maybe they aren't.
Maybe this helps explain why grammatical errors are so commonplace that they have begun
creeping into local news reports, as the newscasters (and presumably the writers) are
younger and younger.
Maybe it helps explain why even many examples of the print media are riddled with
I realize this sounds like I'm an old fogey...and I guess I am.
I don't know how things are now, but when I was going to grammar school, it was
generally felt that Catholic schools gave a much more thorough foundation in English
grammar and composition.
There were the endless, oh so boring, phonics drills. B says buh buh buh....D says
duh duh duh...F says fffff ffff fffff... recited over and over and over again while
Sister rapped out the rhythm with a ruler on the edge of her desk. I can still see the
blue plasticized cards and the blue plasticized pointers we used to go through all the
sounds of the alphabet. How I hated those drills (but I sure can sound out words like
And yes, we diagrammed sentences. We learned about subjects and verbs and objects and
modifying words and phrases. (We probably also learned not to begin sentences or
paragraphs with "And" or "But", but I don't really remember that part!
(LOL) I call it my own stylistic quirk.)
We had spelling tests regularly.
We had regular trips to the school library and were encouraged to read. I was a
voracious reader. The books available were generally well written books and the assigned
books were classics. I am sure there are kids who read classics these days, but I'm
wondering how many do it willingly, and how many get their knowledge of Dickens from
movies like "Oliver!" or Poe from Vincent Price movies or Robert Lewis
Stephenson from comic books.
In truth, I don't know what was going on over at the "public school" a block
away back then, but I have always been grateful for having been given a very solid
foundation in English and an appreciation for the language.
When school was out, my friend Stephen and I rided our bikes to the public library and
me and him took out lots of books to read.
(God that was difficult to actually type!)