Saturday, December 02, 2006

Problems in textbooks

Fortunately, most textbooks for English grammar/usage and writing are pretty straightforward and accurate. In fact, many of them seem fairly repetitive of others! Only the examples and exercises seem to change, while the same explanatory content is rolled out over and over. But sometimes there are problems.

Here's an example of a bad question in a textbook in current use somewhere in the US:

Which is a simple sentence?
1. Given the time of day, we were lucky to find a taxi.
2. Shelia used the lawnmower and Jacob drove the tractor.
3. Eventually she will.
4. Jennifer and Brian gave money to the orphanage.

Pity the unfortunate students (and their parents!) who have to deal with that one! In reality, there are three simple sentences and one compound sentence (with a comma missing!). But parents and students – and too many teachers – are very trusting when it comes to expecting errorless textbooks.

My suggestion to parents and students when facing things like this is not to answer it, but to ask the teacher the very next day about it. In this case, the student should point out the one compound sentence (#2) and ask which one of the others (all simple!) should be chosen.

If you have questions about anything, whether it's this topic or not, please post them in the comments.

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