Hot Potato: Food for Thought
Why Johnny Can't...
Don't Teach Spelling
1997 September 24
Spelling was one of those things that I didn't learn in school. It's almost as if I knew there would be a much easier way to learn to spell if I just waited a while. What happened, of course, is that about the time I turned 35, I got a computer with a spelling checker. I quickly discovered all those words I had been misspelling for decades. In about a month I had learned to spell.

Spelling is a singularly useless chore. In some languages it doesn't exist as an issue. If you can say a word, you can spell it. English is certainly a rich language, but that richness has its price. The richness came from all the various languages that went into making English, and unfortunately each one left a scar on English spelling.

But now the question: Why teach spelling if kids will learn it as soon as they are provided with computers that show them each misspelled word and explain what the possible correct words are (along with the meaning of each)? Spelling is the kind of learning that kids hate and that drains their enthusiasm for school. Just give it up. They'll learn to spell anyway.

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