Another casualty of austerity

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Several people have pointed me to this article, which has circulated again recently despite being eight years old — "Underfunded Schools Forced To Cut Past Tense From Language Programs", The Onion 11/30/2007:

Faced with ongoing budget crises, underfunded schools nationwide are increasingly left with no option but to cut the past tense—a grammatical construction traditionally used to relate all actions, and states that have transpired at an earlier point in time—from their standard English and language arts programs.

A part of American school curricula for more than 200 years, the past tense was deemed by school administrators to be too expensive to keep in primary and secondary education.

"This was by no means an easy decision, but teaching our students how to conjugate verbs in a way that would allow them to describe events that have already occurred is a luxury that we can no longer afford," Phoenix-area high-school principal Sam Pennock said. "With our current budget, the past tense must unfortunately become a thing of the past.

Because after all,


  1. Ken said,

    October 24, 2015 @ 11:42 am

    They missed an opportunity. They could have tried to write the article without using the past tense.

  2. _NL said,

    October 24, 2015 @ 12:19 pm

    If the past is a foreign country, then isn't the past tense really a foreign language? Can we in good conscience really spend precious American education dollars inculcating a foreign culture in our students?

  3. Peter Schult said,

    October 24, 2015 @ 2:16 pm

    With reference to the celebrations earlier this week: "Where we're going we don't need the past tense!"

  4. Alex J said,

    October 25, 2015 @ 4:12 pm

    The past tense is for has-beens.

  5. Rodger C said,

    October 26, 2015 @ 8:47 am

    @Alex J: A perfect observation.

  6. AntC said,

    October 26, 2015 @ 3:46 pm

    _NL If the past is a foreign country … then it's ripe for the U.S. under the next President to invade it.

  7. J. W. Brewer said,

    October 27, 2015 @ 7:54 am

    Not for the first time I am led to wonder what would happen if US K-12 education simply abandoned any formal instruction in the grammar/lexicon/etc. of the English language (at least for students who are L1 Anglophones). Schools could even have a no-English-in-the-classroom policy and use Latin (or Esperanto, or Mandarin, or Navajo) as the formal medium of instruction. We would almost certainly still end up with a population of completely fluent Anglophone adults able to describe past events with syntactically well-formed sentences.

  8. Graeme said,

    October 27, 2015 @ 8:11 am

    Everything old is new again: in this case an Onion has repeated on us.

  9. Robert Coren said,

    October 27, 2015 @ 10:11 am

    So the literature program consists entirely of Damon Runyon stories?

  10. John said,

    October 29, 2015 @ 3:20 pm

    Do you realize that the source of the article was The Onion; therefore, it was purely tongue-in-cheek.

    [(myl) Um, yes.]

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