Down with “IDK”

As a high school English teacher, and particularly one of composition, I see more writing over the course of a week than you can imagine. Stacks and stacks of paragraphs have grown into piles of five-paragraph essays. The teacher’s edition of my grammar workbook is smudged with black fingerprints from where I got carried away with my whiteboard markers. All of this serves my school’s English department, where the goal is to instruct systematically, demand perfection, and churn out good writers.

The author and quoted professors in this San Diego Union-Tribune article I found via the NCTE Inbox newsletter would probably accept graduates of my school with open arms. I have had students write “idk” (in all lowercase, of course) in response to questions. I have had them fill half a page with, “Well………um…….I don’t really know what to write about…..,” and be surprised to see my purple correcting pen slash the paper to bits. I have had students argue with me over the necessity of answering questions in complete sentences. Then again, I have also been in a 300-level college class with an English major who couldn’t punctuate dialogue. It’s moments like the latter that make me take another look at my grammar book, resign myself to plowing through it, and try to think up vaguely hip examples of elliptical clauses.

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