Apr 8, 2013
There is a lengthy tradition of associating falling standards of literacy with a decline in morality and standards of behavior. The assumption that lies behind such views is that a lack of respect for the rules of spelling, grammar, and punctuation is symptomatic of a disrespect for other codes of social and moral behavior.
In the 1980s, a move away from formal grammar teaching in schools was cited by some social commentators as the trigger for a widespread disregard for honesty and responsibility among young people. This is encapsulated in a speech by the British Conservative politician Norman Tebbit who famously argued that “if you allow standards to slip to the stage where good English is no better than bad English, where people turn up filthy at school … all those things tend to make people have no standards at all, and once you lose standards there’s no imperative to stay out of crime.”
The desire to connect poor spelling and grammar with antisocial behavior is, of course, entirely bogus and stems from a nostalgia for a mythical golden age when young people were obedient to all forms of moral, social, and orthographical authority.