I realized something about myself today. Yesterday, I took my senior class to a university library to find information about their term paper topics. Several of them had a lot of trouble finding information, mainly because they didn’t really attempt to engage themselves and didn’t persevere. Research is tough, but if you stick with it, you will find what you’re looking for. However, I think there is a reason I think it’s so easy.
Today, I was working on my grammar paper from two summers ago (I know . . . it’s ridiculous . . . you don’t have to tell me), but I’ve found some excellent information! I was sort of in awe about how much I’ve learned about research after 6 years of college. And, then I got to thinking about my inclination to research.
I vividly remember getting suddenly curious about the state of Louisiana in the 3rd grade when we were learning all the states. I asked my teacher if I could write a paper about it. She said I could, so I promptly hunted down the “L” encyclopedia in the library that day after school and copied down most of the entry about Louisiana, probably just the first paragraph after getting overwhelmed with all the columns of information. Let’s just say I didn’t know what plagiarism was.
Throughout grade school and high school, it was not uncommon to see my brothers and I sitting around on a Saturday afternoon looking at atlases or coffee table books full of wildlife.
In the 5th grade, we had to write a paper about a historical figure from America for the new writing assessments. I chose Harriet Tubman. I can’t remember if mom took me to the Salina library to find books or if our teacher brought them in, but I do remember being scared of the Underground Railroad, feeling sorry for the slaves, and thinking of Harriet Tubman as my hero.
In 6th grade, Mrs. Babcock even had us use note cards for our research paper. For this, I am sure mom took me to the Salina library to find books about Martin Luther King, Jr. I was inspired reading about his faith and the fight against racism, saddened by his assassination, and upset that people were so mean to blacks. King was my new hero.
I read a non-fiction book in high school called Ghosts of Mississippi (who reads non-fiction books in 10th grade?) about the assassination of Medgar Evers, another civil rights activist and proceeded to watch its movie. I’m beginning to understand why all the books I teach in my Sophomore English class are about injustice. I indoctrinated myself at a young age!
In high school, my big term paper was about abortion. Once again, a trip to the Salina library to find books, and I happened upon a fantastic book that tracked the life of a baby from conception to birth. It showed detailed photos from inside the womb and described what was happening to the baby every step of the way. Did you know that the reproductive cells for the baby’s baby are already in place by day 12? God is AWESOME!
Anyway, back to my original point. I’m not normal. No senior in this year’s class (or any other class I’ve taught) would have gone to a library to find information for their topic on their own volition. I did in 3rd grade! What kind of trait is this? Analytical? Or just plain nerdy? :)
For my grammar paper, I found a book by John McWhorter, a well-known linguist, called Word on the Street: Debunking the Myth of a “Pure” Standard English. He is hilarious and extremely brilliant. He’s rather ticked that these two dudes by the name of Robert Lowth and Lindley Murray tried to fit English into a Latin grammar system. They have completely different linguistic structures! Therefore, some of the grammar rules that Lowth and Murray encouraged (and have become the mantra of many a crusty old English teacher and all of the Aunt Wandas and Aunt Berthas in the world) are actually wrong. The two main ones are: ending a sentence with a preposition and split infinitives. I’ll leave you with some quotes from John McWhorter:
About split infinitives: “to impose this rule on English makes about as much sense as issuing an edict that pianos will only be played with one finger at a time in order to conform more closely to the lovely sound of the flute” (66).
About the usage of whom: “Preserving whom is rather like a whale insisting on spending an agonizing five minutes on shore once a day simply because its ancestors were terrestrial” (72).