Maybe you COULD teach English
At Language Log, a post on Stanley Fish’s How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One gives Professor Fish a moderate thumping for his reliance on grade-school grammar terms instead of more sophisticated analysis of syntax. But the real interest develops in the comments.
There the commonplace observation that students wind up at college innocent of an understanding of grammar and syntax gives way to some suggestions.
John Lawler attached a pdf of a term paper by Melissa Demyanovich, one of his students at Michigan, that describes a proposed language arts curriculum for elementary and secondary school that is sensitive to linguistics while developing a more sophisticated understanding of writing than the old ram-them-with-grammar approach, which traditionalists love but which never worked all that well for most students. You should have a look at it.
And I liked a comment from Spell Me Jeff so much that I’d like to reproduce it here:
“There is no point in teaching the grammar of a linguistic system to children who do not use that system with a high level of sophistication. One acquires such a level of sophistication by using the language. In particular, since English-speaking folks provide grammatical instruction in the written form of the language, one should be a highly competent reader of the language before beginning any program of grammatical study.
“In other words, if a kid enjoys reading and by 5th grade has consumed 1000 books or so (from Dr. Suess to Harry Potter), grammatical instruction will mostly seem to remind him of things he already knows but did not have a vocabulary for. It might also polish up a few loose ends. But it will not, repeat will not, teach that fifth grader to use the language correctly. He (and most likely his family) have already handled that job.
“If, on the other hand, by 5th grade a kid has avoided reading anything more sophisticated than text messages and the satellite television menu, then formal grammar instruction will feel like so much child abuse. If it leaves any lasting impression at all, it is more likely to be deleterious than salutary, and stands a good chance of turning him against formal education in general.
“Actually, a 5th grader in such circumstances is still salvageable if emergency action is taken; a 9th grader less so; while a freshman in college is lost, lost, lost.
“When I say such things to legislators and so on, the usual objection is something like, ‘But they need to use correct English.’"
“To which a suitable reply might be, ‘Yes. And trees dying in the desert needto walk 500 miles to the nearest river. Sadly, you cannot teach trees this skill.’"