There are few American adults who couldn’t recite the “i before e” spelling rule that was drilled into our heads as kids. But if American classrooms go the way of the Brits, our own kids may look at us like we’re nuts if we recite the popular spelling adage:
“I before e except after c, and when sounds like ay, as in neighbor or weigh.”
It is a bit of a mouthful. And there are confusing exceptions, such as protein, seizure, leisure. Still, I think the British government is selling kids short by telling teachers to stop teaching the “i before e” rule.
In elementary school, I loved having rules in my head while I was writing–it gave spelling the neat precision of math. As long as you followed the right steps, you couldn’t make a mistake.
Granted, I am, even today, a huge dork (which is probably crystal clear by now); my best friend just gave me the book “Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies” for my birthday. But even less grammar-minded kids are more than capable of learning a spelling rule, and then memorizing exceptions to that rule. In a text and instant message-dominated era, the classroom should remain a bastion of strict spelling rules for kids.
Or am I’m being an old grouch?