Grammar is not racist, ableist, classist or any other —ist. Anyone can learn grammar. Everyone should learn good grammar. If you struggle with grammar, writing, or learning please do not let the virtue-signalling Rhiannon Giles’ of the world convince you that you cannot or should not learn.
This tweet, which was published by Rhiannon Giles, who writes for the New York Times among other prestigious publications, appeared on March 3, 2022, National Grammar Day. There are three things to observe here. One has to do with grammar itself. The second has to do with fun and learning. The other has to do why she is fundamentally and even dangerously wrongheaded about who needs to learn grammar and why (or why virtue signaling is harmful).
First, her grammatical mistake. She wrote, “A good day to remember that while grammar can be fun…”. What she should have written is, “though grammar can be fun.” She was not signaling the passage of time. She was intending to signal a concessive: “Though x is the case, y is also the case.” She meant to concede the first clause while simultaneously asserting a complementary truth. Did you notice what I did there? I used while correctly. It signals the passage of time. “Joey whistled while he waited for the train to arrive.” While signals the passage of time. One thing is happening at the same time something else is happening. I understand that usage changes and that the abuse of while is widespread but that makes the abuse no less incorrect. That virtually no one, even academics, seem to know the meaning of “to beg the question,” does not make the abuse of that expression correct.
Second, grammar well taught can be fun but there are things to be learned that are hard work. Learning English well, especially as a second language, is hard work. One should not think that whatever is difficult is not to be attempted.
Third, her virtue signaling scold regard “ableism” etc should be repudiated by anyone who cares about the education of young people and the social mobility of those about whom she ostensibly cares. There is nothing inherently ableist, racist, or classist about grammar. To suggest that good grammar belongs only to the able, the wealthy, or to any particular race (or that it is racist to learn or teach grammar) is nonsense and potentially damaging to the education of many young people. As a matter of fact and morals, good English does not belong to people who are able, of any particular race, class, or ability.
Her caveat is grounded in the unstated assumption that grammar is a mere convention, i.e., it is arbitrary and subject to deconstruction and therefore to insist on good grammar is the sign of privilege and potentially racist etc. This is not true. Sentences necessarily must have verbs, subjects, objects, and qualifiers. Languages vary in the way they express these relations but these relations are baked into the nature of things. Learning how to understand and express these relations well is what grammar helps us do.