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The War Against Grammar (CrossCurrents Series) Paperback – August 21, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0867095517 ISBN-10: 0867095512

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Product Details

  • Series: CrossCurrents Series
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Heinemann (August 21, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0867095512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0867095517
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #611,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

A Stanford Ph.D., Professor David Mulroy has taught Classics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee since 1973. He has published both scholarly and general-interest essays and three books of translations of ancient Greek and Roman poetry. His latest work is a translation of the poems of Catullus.

Customer Reviews

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Dr. Mulroy was my Greek (and some Latin) teacher and he will always be my primary mentor.
shawn welnak
Usually when I read these sorts of books, I walk away feeling dejected about the course of human civilization.
Dusk
Surprisingly, this book contains the best description of what Classical Education is that I have ever read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
Do you know what a participle is? Can you identify the eight parts of speech, and diagram a sentence? If so, and if you went to American schools, you are dating yourself; you are probably not young anymore. And quite possibly, you don't think it makes much difference. David Mulroy disagrees. In _The War Against Grammar_ (Boynton / Cook Publishers), he reports upon a hiatus he took from his usual work, translating and teaching Latin and Greek poetry, so that he could research the history of grammar. He did not do so from purely academic interest; in 1996, at a public hearing on standards for public schools, he suggested that a good goal would be for high school seniors to identify the eight parts of speech. He was surprised that he had suggested anything controversial. The very National Council of Teachers of English had pronounced that instruction in grammar did nothing but take time away from more important studies.
Mulroy makes clear that there is a need for grammar study. Opposition to grammar education coincides with decreased literacy, lower SAT scores, and increased need for college remedial writing and reading courses. His fascinating history of the subject goes way back to the basics; it isn't surprising, given his own interests, that he turns to Ancient Greece. Dionysius Thrax in the second century BCE made the first division of words into the eight parts of speech, taken up by Roman and English grammarians in their turn. Oddly, the rise of the universities meant that logic, not grammar or literature, was king, but the humanists were able to insist on a Latin grammar book for all English students in the 1540s. Raised on it were Spenser, Bacon, Marlowe, and Shakespeare; it might be oversimplification, but there is probably some sort of cause and effect here.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Debra Hamel VINE VOICE on May 1, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In pellucid prose, author David Mulroy, a classicist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, discusses the deleterious effect that a decades-long avoidance of formal instruction in grammar has had on American students: SAT scores are down; reading comprehension has declined; enrollment in most foreign languages has dropped; and students suffer in general from a "higher illiteracy." While students can, that is--some of them, at least--express themselves adequately, they are not proficient at explicating the literal meanings of grammatically complex texts. Asked to paraphrase the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence, for example, one of the author's students writes: "It doesn't matter where you came from. In the end we are all human beings. Humans are at the top of the food chain, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't respect nature. Because we have one earth, learn to preserve it."

The purpose of grammar, Mulroy explains, is twofold: "It preserves and perfects understanding of the great literature of the past, and it contributes to eloquent self-expression." He argues persuasively for a return to a concentration on formal grammatical instruction in schools, not out of some school-marmish obsession with sentence-ending prepositions or the like, but because grammar is a foundation for further understanding: "Intellectuals work with words. Questioning the value of basic grammar is like asking whether farmers should know the names of their crops and animals.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By shawn welnak on March 4, 2012
Format: Paperback
As a warning, though I read this book (in proof form), I am not going to comment on it exactly--or perhaps better, comment on it theoretically. I want to relate a brief story. Dr. Mulroy was my Greek (and some Latin) teacher and he will always be my primary mentor. When I first fell in love with Greece through my encounter with Sophocles' "Antigone", I knocked at Dr. Mulroy's office to see if he'd be interested in reading more Greek tragedy with me (I had not read the "Antigone" with him, but was guided to him). He gladly agreed to spend a summer reading with me. Well, eventually there came a point when Dr. Mulroy said it was time for me to learn the primary languages--Latin and Greek--instead of reading translations. So I followed his suggestion and enrolled on Latin. Mind you, I had no education in grammar in high school. Well, perhaps needless to say, I never worked so hard in my life, and failed out. I was told, euphemistically, that "some people just aren't good at these things"--i.e., I was too stupid. I reported this to Dr. Mulroy (unfortunately he wasn't my teacher), and he set out a plan for me of over a year's study of English grammar. He's since told me I was the first and only student to ever follow his advice upon not being able to succeed on the first run of Greek or Latin. Well, after this year-plus education in grammar, I then re-enrolled, this time in Greek. I was now told I was gifted at languages. Now, of course, neither teacher was correct: Dr. Mulroy was correct. I was lacking certain basic tools without which learning a classical language was impossible. I went on to do an MA in Greek linguistics and a PhD in Ancient Philosophy. I am now a university professor of philosophy, and largely have Dr. Mulroy to thank for this. He understood what everyone else failed to understand, and this knowledge--and my trust in him--led to my success.

Thanks Dave.
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The War Against Grammar (CrossCurrents Series)
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