Thursday, May 10, 2012

Properly and Correctly

Having read the excellent speech given by Michael Gove one small stumble caught my eye

When hundreds of primary schools allow children to leave not able to read, write or add up properly we know we are indulging in a form of national self-harm so profound as to be disabling.
Pedant time. While properly and correctly may be seen as synonymous they're not. "Properly" has tones of style. To do something properly means to do so as taught or as style dictates. To do something correctly means simply without mistake.

For example to multiply two numbers together such as 23 and 32 I could do so as


However Bratus Major's school appear to be teaching as follows:

 20  3
30600 90690
 2 40  6 46

I was taught the first example was the "proper" method; Bratus Major the second. However both are "correct" in that there are no mistakes within the calculation.

In terms of table etiquette for example I could correctly use a knife, but not be using the proper one as determined by the dish served. I am thus eating correctly, but not properly. In the same style I could be attempting to use the proper fork to cut off a piece of meat and thus eating properly, but not correctly.

I would prefer children to be taught to read correctly, to write correctly, and to add up correctly; I don't care overly about how they do so.