Jane came home today with a tale from her English class. They are writing autobiographies and typing them using Microsoft Word. She had just typed this sentence before the teacher walked up: My dad takes my brothers and me to our sporting events.
We’ll ignore that I take them to as many or more of their sporting events as dad does, since it’s not important to this story. Although I did interrupt her to point out her weak facts. That just seemed to irritate her.
Continuing her story after waving me off, she said that the teacher had corrected her, “It should be ‘my dad takes my brothers and I.'”
My skin began to crawl. I’ve been working so hard to get Jane to get her me’s and I’s correct in these more complex sentences and I was envisioning it all undone by the English teacher, of all people.
“Actually,” Jane explained, “this is the way I was thinking about it. If you take ‘my brothers’ out of the sentence, you have ‘my dad takes I’ and that wouldn’t be right but ‘my dad takes me’ is so it should be ‘my dad takes my brothers and me’.”
Good girl. That’s exactly how you are supposed to verify if you are correct. Excellent!
“I have a degree,” her teacher responded. “I think I know what I’m talking about. Change it to ‘my brothers and I’.”
Jane dutifully changed it and then raised her hand. When the teacher returned, she pointed out the green squiggle under ‘I’ and then right-clicked to show that Word said it should be ‘me’.
“Well go ahead and change it back if you want to but Microsoft Word is not always right, you know.”
Jane quietly changed it back and wondered to herself why some people have so much trouble admitting when they are wrong.
A few minutes later, a boy across the room had a grammar question. Apparently this time, whatever Word was suggesting actually was wrong. The teacher called Jane out of her chair to come over and look at the boy’s paper.
“See?” she said, “Word is not always right.”
Again, Jane said, “Yes, ma’am” and returned to her seat.
At this point, I asked Jane if she’d like me to print off some resources from the internet to back her up. She got an increasingly horrified look on her face as I made my suggestion.
“I can print proof from several reliable sites,” I said. “And send them along with a note… from your mommy… explaining why you were right… No? You don’t want me to do that? Well… okay.”
I just completed my research on the Oxford Dictionary page. I think I might just print it out and stuff it in her folder anyway. Just in case the subject comes up again.
Addendum: I was proud of the way Jane handled herself today and I think she learned a valuable lesson. She stated her case yet did not argue with the teacher, which is exactly how we want her to behave. She also didn’t let the authority figure intimidate her into believing she was wrong. Learning that the teacher (or boss or coach) can be wrong is important. Understanding that you still need to treat them with respect and some deference is also important. We explained to her that if situations like this become a problem, we will fight the battle for her – as long as she remains respectful to her teachers.