Education needs to educate better

Dear Editor,

Your Feb. 24 to March 2 edition included a Letter to the Editor from Mia James of Santa Rosa complaining of illiteracy in the STAR. Ironically, just a turn of the page brought one to the article entitled, “Recent study finds college freshman [sic] party less, study more,” which dramatically proved her point.

I counted 45 errors in the article, including the one in the title (The plural of “freshman” is “freshmen”; the latter word never appeared in the article, though it was appropriate at least six times).

The range of errors included: “to” instead of “too”; misplaced commas (especially serious when blurring the distinction between limiting and descriptive subordinate clauses); “less” instead of “fewer”; plural subject but singular verb, or vice-versa; and a whole bunch of badly turned phrases.

In fairness to the author of the article, some of the errors were in quotations from others, and the errors may be theirs. It hardly matters to James’ point, however.

In fairness to the quoted students, it may not be their fault that they were not properly instructed in literacy during their K-12 education, but it’s their problem. James is surely not the only potential employer who will not hire the illiterate.

Sonoma State University instructors shouldn’t have to teach basic grammar in their classes in addition to their primary subject matter. But even if we try, my experience suggests it’s too late.

Every semester I distributed a handout to my students, and discussed with them, “Common Grammatical Errors,” hoping these would be avoided on their submitted papers. But when the papers came in, there they all were, just as if I’d never addressed them. Bad habits were evidently too firmly entrenched.

Rick Luttmann is a professor emeritus of mathematics at Sonoma State University.