At the very beginning of his article Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar, University professor and author Patrick Hartwell agrees with the conclusion offered by literary scholars Richard Braddock, Richard Lloyd-Jones, and Lowell Schoer in their 1963 journal article Research in Written Composition. They conclude that
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: the teaching of formal grammar has a negligible or, because it usually displaces some instruction and practice in composition, even a harmful effect on improvement in writing.(pg. 105)
Even so, Hartwell goes on to present the issue of grammar and its debate among other scholars. This issue he argues has always been a controversial topic in the classroom and continues to adversely affect teachers everywhere. His main argument debates that “formal grammar instruction, whether instruction in scientific grammar or instruction in “the common school grammar,” would have little to do with control over surface correctness nor with quality of writing.” (pg. 125). In essence, Hartwell is stating that the issue of grammar is a complicated one that needs more research. One specific example that he highlighted to make this point is found in his agreement with author Martha Kolln, who has conducted extensive experimental research in the studies of grammar and also “calls for more definition of the word grammar” (pg.106).
Furthermore, in the article, Hartwell uses the research results and conclusions of several scholars and writers of this debate to validate his main point. Considering the beliefs of these scholars, Hartwell presents four questions that are meant to articulate the grammar issue against those who are pro-grammar. These questions are,
Why is the grammar issue so important? Why has it been the dominant focus of composition research for the last seventy-five years?
What definitions of the word grammar are needed to articulate the grammar issue intelligibly?
What do findings in cognate disciplines suggest about the value of formal grammar instruction?
What is our theory of language, and what does it predict about the value of formal grammar instruction? (This question-“what does our theory of language predict?”-seems a much more powerful question than “what does educational research tell us?”) (pg.108).
The questions asked allow both grammarians and non-grammarians readers to choose a side in the debate. One has to agree whether they prefer the traditional style of teaching grammar or reason with other non- grammarian scholars who agree that grammar teaching in the classroom does not equal witting success. I personally, will side with other grammarians on this issue because I also agree that the traditional style of teaching grammar does improve student writing and success in school.
Hartwell provides the answers for these four questions in detail by properly defining the meaning of grammar. This is another main point that Hartwell suggests as a solution to solve this issue. In order to have a clear explanation and reason for teaching grammar, Hartwell describes the five definitions of grammar presented by 1954 scholar W. Nelson Francis. These five definitions of grammar are, Grammar 1: the set of formal patterns, Grammar 2: linguistic science, Grammar 3: linguistic etiquette, Grammar 4: school grammar and Grammar 5: stylistic grammar. Throughout the article, Hartwell goes more in-depth providing example that clearly apply these five rules of grammar as well as describing each style of grammar.
Hartwell’s debate was strong and very passionate. Overall, the article was an edifying resource that provided me with the knowledge and viewpoints of the issue of grammar. The thesis presented factual and credible sources for the argument made and his case study is well supported. Even though a majority of scholars argue that teaching grammar in the classroom does not lead to student success in writing I conclude that in the context of academic writing strict teaching of grammar should be though in every classroom and even college campuses. I side with the grammarians on this issue in hopes that students from any background will learn to write academically and use proper writing language. In conclusion, based on the results of experimental research on this debate Hartwell concludes that “Teachers should formulate theories of language and literacy and let those theories guide our teaching” (pg.127). I reason with Hartwell’s final conclusion, however in order to move forward in the attempt to solve the issue of grammar we need to answer more difficult questions. Such as should the government eradicate the requirement of standardized test in schools? Without the constraints of grammar, how will non-native learners of English write properly? What is the point of English classes if grammar skills are not being thought and enforced in the classrooms? Answering these questions in addition to Hartwell’s questions will bring us closer to solving this ongoing debate.