Technology Blamed For Bad Grammar Despite Total Lack Of Causal Evidence
from the wow dept
We were just recently reporting on yet another in a very long line of studies that showed that instant messaging and texting was actually helping kids have better writing skills. So, it was interesting to see an article published up in Canada (thanks to Marcus Carab for sending this in) that claimed a study “proving” that Twitter and texting was causing grammar and spelling problems for students. But, if you read the details of the article, they don’t say that at all. It’s entirely made up by the reporter. It’s done with a neat little rhetorical trick. The title of the article says:
Students failing because of Twitter, texting
Okay, fair enough. Let’s see the details of how Twitter and texting are leading students to fail.
The opening paragraph is:
Little or no grammar teaching, cellphone texting, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, all are being blamed for an increasingly unacceptable number of post-secondary students who can’t write properly.
First note that the reporter combines “little or no grammar teaching” with “cellphone texting, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter,” even though those are very, very different issues. Onto the next few paragraphs, where the rhetorical “switch” is pulled:
For years there’s been a flood of anecdotal complaints from professors about what they say is the wretched state of English grammar coming from some of their students.
Now there seems to be some solid evidence.
Ontario’s Waterloo University is one of the few post-secondary institutions in Canada to require the students they accept to pass an exam testing their English language skills.
Almost a third of those students are failing.
Now, if you’re not reading carefully, you might think this claimed that there was “proof” that texting or social networking sites were leading students to fail. But that’s not what’s being said at all. The only “proof” is a study showing that students aren’t doing well on a particular grammar test. It presents no evidence as to why. It also presents no evidence that suggests that it’s any worse than at any time in the past, since it doesn’t present any historical comparison at all. It just says a bunch of students are failing and blames texting and Twitter, despite all those actual studies that say the opposite.
Nowhere else in the article does it present any evidence at all that texting or Twittering has anything to do with the grammar skills of students. Instead, there are a few people who suggest the real problem was that first one listed: the lack of any grammar instruction in high schools. But, I guess that doesn’t make a very good headline or opening of an article.