Grammar As a Marker of Social Class

In this clip from the musical My Fair Lady, Professor Henry Higgins asks, “Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?” Many well-meaning people oppose the teaching of grammar to children because they are afraid of reinforcing this kind of social prejudice:

Personally, I couldn’t care less whether people drop their aitches. Nor does it bother me when people say “I seen” instead of “I saw.” That sort of thing might mark one as being from a particular place or a particular social class, but it doesn’t actually impede communication. What bothers me is when people have such a poor grasp of the rules of English syntax that they can’t read anything written at above a fifth-grade level and can’t express themselves coherently in writing.Photo by manitou2121