In Wiley Miller's Non Sequitur for 12/14/2009, Danae resists grammar instruction:
(Click on the image for a larger version.)
I'm not sure how long it's been since Mr. Miller was in a classroom, but the idea that grammar-school students would actually have a "grammar book" to open is much more incongruous than the idea that one of the students would use cultural relativism as an argument to avoid opening it.
The thread continues in the strip for 12/15/2009:
And finally (so far), the strip for 12/17/2009:
These strips are mostly about generational conflict, snarky kids, the paradoxes of cultural relativism, and so on — "grammar" is just used as an emblem of the aspects of school that students don't like. But it's interesting that "grammar" retains this symbolic value, even though it's been many decades since it had any significant role in the curriculum.
Things were different 200 years ago, when Combe and Rowlandson made Dr. Syntax the first-ever popular cartoon character, or 50 years before that, when William Bowden wrote
… generous minds, with native freedom born,
Disdain the thraldom, and the tyrant scorn.
Or when releas'd from grammar's servile fetters,
Still learning loathe, and dread the smart of letters.
But if there's an American grammar-school classroom these days where the students have a "grammar book", I'd like to hear about it.
[Note for British readers: I gather that in the U.K.,, the term "grammar school" refers to a class of secondary schools. The history of usage in the U.S. is more complicated, but this description more or less accords with my experience, in that the primary school I attended for grades 1-6 was called a "grammar school" (though we were taught no grammar there):
Primary schools were established for children approximately five to nine years of age, corresponding with grades one through four. Intermediate or grammar schools were developed for students ten to fourteen years of age, corresponding with grades five through eight. By 1900, these two programs were united into a single, eight-year elementary school, also referred to as grammar school, which became the most prevalent type of school in the United States.
Similarly, the American Heritage Dictionary's entry for elementary school says "The first four to eight years of a child's formal education. Also called grade school, grammar school, primary school." And Encarta's entry for grammar school says "same as elementary school". The entry in the Compact Oxford English Dictionary gives a UK definition ("a state secondary school to which pupils are admitted on the basis of ability") and a US definition ("another term for ELEMENTARY SCHOOL").]
[Update — another in the series: