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What Can We Learn from A Public School President Who Says He Cannot Write a Sentence?

Detroit Public Schools (DPS) president, Otis Mathis, admits he can’t write a coherent sentence.  He further argues that he is a role model as a leader who can’t write.  He’s a math whiz (high school) and can speak cogently…but when it comes to writing, it no worky (see: Otis Mathis Can’t Write)

Now, you may hear a skeptic’s voice in all of this, but my hope is to bolster you as an educator or as a learner.  Otis Mathis says he is a role model because he shows that even if you can’t write, you can become a success (a president of a school system, no less).

Clearly there is something wrong with this picture, but what?  It is easy enough to say that it would be an even better model if he could learn to write (overcoming the obstacle), however, something is more essential here concerning the future for our children.

Here is the question that needs careful reflection:

Do we pursue our talents or do we bend the world to our flaws?

The move is afoot to bend the world to our flaws.  In fact, if you read the articles on Otis Mathis, you’ll find that there are related lawsuits to drop certain competencies for admission in to various academic programs.  It isn’t that academia is nuts, but rather that there is a values shift in play.  The underlying issue is COMPETENCE v. FAIRNESS.  Another version of this dilemma asks if you are SPECIAL or is EVERYONE THE SAME.

The current uproar about healthcare has this issue at the core as well.  On some level there is the notion that things should be equal for everyone…and on another level, we all know that only one person can win American Idol.

I remember when our daughter played soccer as a little girl there was no score-keeping by the referees, coaches, or parents (it was seen as wrong and too competitive); except, the girls on the team all kept score!

Here’s the secret: Nature wins out over Culture.  The culture says let’s make it fair for everyone.  Nature says we are better than others at something.  Culture says bring competitiveness down.  Nature says you’ll survive with your strengths.  Culture says you are a victim who needs help.  Nature says your skill will help true victims.

My personal conviction is that Otis Mathis can learn to write (& if he’ll come stay with me for a week I can show him exactly how to connect his speaking to his writing).  I have a strength here and I’d love to serve him with it.  It was indeed the reason I organized the insights I’ve discovered into The Writing Course.

If you are still helping your children to get educated, please make sure two simple things are in play:

1. They are getting a solid and broad foundation.  This hooks their brain together…yes, reading AND writing AND arithmetic.
2. Encourage them to stretch to their strengths.  When they pursue their talents they make a contribution…which means they are almost infinitely more employable.

If you are still helping others to get educated at any age…what’s the difference?

You think it takes more, but it really doesn’t.  Keep at it…everything is better learned by practice; and, everything that is learned becomes useful.  The best examples are those who play to their strengths and serve others with them.  Don’t buy the whim of culture…just learn it, or admit it isn’t a strength— no matter what ‘it’ is.  Steer clear of trying to bend the world to think you don’t have to be educated to be an educator…it will always smell funny.

Blessings,

Dr. Fred Lybrand

 

Myth: Grammar Study Makes Your Child a Better Writer

In a recent conversation about grammar and writing, I made the following point. Hope it is helpful.

Often I hear it posed that ‘grammar study is useful’— and, the reason they say it to me is that I basically challenge this educational assumption.

 
I actually agree with the point if grammar is approached as a study. If I were to ‘cheer’ for a grammar segment, then I’d put it with the analysis of written work (study it with reading). Frankly, I think about every subject one can study is useful.

 
On the other hand, my conviction is that the study of grammar as related to developing one’s writing skills is actually harmful. Here’s an example of a summary from a 1999 book referencing a definitive summary all the way back to 1963:

 
Most language arts teachers do not have many opportunities to explore the fascinating intricacies of grammar in their classrooms, but nearly all of them have to teach grammar. The most pressing questions they face, therefore, are the following: What role does grammar play in writing performance? And how does one teach grammar effectively?
One might think that these questions were answered long ago. After all, grammar has been taught to students since the days of the ancient Greeks. But reliable evaluations of the connection between studying grammar and writing performance are fairly recent. One of the more important emerged in 1963, when, summarizing existing research, Braddock, Lloyd-Jones, and Schoer stated:

In view of the widespread agreement of research studies based upon many types of students and teachers, the conclusion can be stated in strong and unqualified terms that the teaching of formal [traditional] grammar has a negligible or, because it usually displaces some instruction and practice in actual composition, even a harmful effect on the improvement of writing. (pp. 37-38)

From: The Teacher’s Grammar Book. Contributors: James D. Williams – author. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of Publication: Mahwah, NJ. Publication Year: 1999. Page Number: 45.

 
We have not improved our grammar-teaching methods…and plenty of studies since then point out the same thing. People learn to write better by writing. People learn to read better by reading. People learn to analyze a sentence or paragraph by analyzing (this is where grammar is cool). If we have instructors or tutors who can show us how to write better, read better, or analyze better…well, then all the better! Of course, in our educational approach we aren’t replacing writing with grammar study (like mass education schools often do).
 


I know what I’m saying in whacky…but that’s what they were saying about ‘homeschooling’ a couple of decades ago! To quote the Lion from The Wizard of Oz, “Imposserous.” We all get stuck in our assumptions and drag them over from old systems. At one time people where saying you can’t teach without training…but homeschoolers do (successfully, I might add)!


I’m saying your child can learn to write better by not integrating linguistics and grammar into your writing process. I’m saying that you as an adult would write much better if you’d dump grammar and write for how it will sound. I’m saying that you will write much better if you will read better material.


All of these point are the same thing (sort of) Art Robinson was saying (especially originally) when he introduce The Robinson Curriculum. In fact, his audio makes the points pretty nicely (Robinson Syntax and Grammar Audio) (@ 47:00). The comforting thing is that humans can learn no matter what we do to them…but I would say, if you want to grow writers, they’ll have a harder time when they are bogged down in the pursuit of ‘correct grammar’.


Blessings,
 
 
Fred Lybrand
 
 
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The 2 Things Needed to Parent Well (Video)

Sometimes we just simply over-complicate things.  Parenting is one of the easiest parts of our lives to do this kind of ‘complexification’ on.
Frankly, the deference to ‘experts’ is part of the problem.  We almost need a revolt to reclaim our home and our parenting.
Well, here’s as simple as it gets:

The 2 Things Needed to Parent Well

So, what do you think?  How might this be a game changer of folks you know?
I’m cheering for you,
Fred Lybrand
P.S.  If you find this to be helpful, you might like this other video too:  Are You Trying to Trick Your Kids into Learning and Obeying?
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How to Make Scheduling Really Work (Video)

Here’s a short video that explains why scheduling doesn’t work (and what to do about it).
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments (below).
Blessings,
Fred Lybrand
P.S.  If you found this to be helpful, won’t you please share at facebook and twitter to let others know? Thank you!

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