Thursday, June 09, 2011

Diagramming Sentences, Complexity vs. Simplicity

Question:  Are English teachers today still teaching sentence diagramming?  I have no earthly idea what brought this into my head this morning, but it's bugging me and so I'll write my thoughts about it.

Sentence Diagram
Maybe it was that side of my brain that didn't understand how to solve mathematical story problems that made diagramming sentences very hard for me.  I do remember, after all this time, that the subject and the verb are on a straight base line, divided by another straight line.  The subject is who or what the sentence is about, the person or thing doing the action.  The verb is the action being done. 

From that point forward is where diagramming made no sense.  Why couldn't the ever-so knowledgeable scholars have come up with a simpler way to penetrate a child's mind using words that make sense to the mind of a child.  I always figured the complexity was their sly way of perplexing our empty minds, thus assuring a permanent dividing line between teacher and student.  

What do I mean by complexity?  Well, there are objects and indirect objects.  Prepositions I understood, and once in awhile I'll use one to end a sentence with.  That's a no-no.  Then there are the modifiers.  What's a modifier?  It's a word that gives more detail about a subject, an action, or an object.  But, wait, there are the articles, too.  The articles modify the nouns.  Wait.  There's more.  The dependent/subordinate clauses...the ones that can't stand alone.  I'll stop there.

The reason I ask the question if diagramming is still a part of the English curriculum, is because today our society seems to be aimed at making all things easier for our children.  Kids are being spared and protected legally from much of the anguish we went through. 

The nuns who taught me in grade school certainly were not delicate in their teaching methods.  They kept a ruler or a rubber kitchen spatula in their desk drawer as a teaching tool for those of us who were slow to learn some of these things.  A nun's way of teaching was dictatorial, harsh, and uncaring.  All the attributes of a woman of God, don't yah know.  (oops, can that stand alone?)

I guess I'm veering off the subject of sentence structure, but the mind cannot help but fall into the trenches of the past.  It makes me absolutely ecstatic to see kids today having computer software to teach them their English and their math in ways that don't punish.  To me, this is the human progress that points us in an optimistic direction for humanity's future.  No matter the depth of the planetary problems we are facing, we have to remember that among us live children who are going to solve these problems.

Our future's
vault of knowledge
When we look into a baby's eyes, we cannot fathom what possibilities live inside the little boy or girl.  It is the baby of today who will simplify and enhance the world of learning, they will be interested in bettering it, they will work to make positive advancements for their own children.  Their skills and their visions will work to discover ways of solving the monumental problems of environment, disease, the problems of over-population, and to go exploring in dimensions that we can't imagine today.  

The rules for writing proper English sentences and for proper spelling of words both are losing their sense of importance, so it seems.  The use of acronyms is a good example.  We were in a Hallmark Store recently, and for sale on the counter were pocket-size books of texting acronyms.  This is the new dictionary.  We humans are communicating across the world today using hand-held devices.  Complex technology has introduced simplicity into our lives. Change is what keeps life going forward on that base diagram line.  Life is one long paragraph, divided into sentences that we call generations.  If we look ahead with an optimistic eye, our sentences will clearly end with exclamation points!!!  If we choose to ask ourselves why things have to change, our sentences will end with vague question marks??????? 

I prefer exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!