So we’re driving in the car yesterday and my oldest says from the back seat, “Daddy, what’s s-t-a-t-i-o-n-a-r-y?” So I explain what the word means, and for good measure I tell her that there’s another way to spell it, s-t-a-t-i-o-n-e-r-y, and I tell her what that means too so she’ll know the different spelling depending how she wants to use the word. Good and prudent parenting, I say, to just stick in little bits of learning wherever you can. We were on our way to the museum, might as well practice explaining things now while she’s asking something I know.

“Oh,” she says. She’s thumbing through her “workbook” of bits of educational material and games and such that she likes to do in the car (or anywhere else, for that matter). Then she says, “Daddy, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do on this page,” she says. “It says ‘writing stationery’.” “Let me see it,” says I. There it is, a blank page with ruled lines for beginning writers, and at the top in cursive script it says, “Writing Stationary.” Somewhat annoyed, I look at the book cover — probably something my wife picked up for $1 someplace. “Teacher-approved,” it boasts. “Hmmm,” I mumble.

I’m rather tempted to tell my daughter it means she can’t write on it in the car, but I take a slightly more low-key approach and just explain to her what that page is for and that they’ve spelled it wrong. I do, however, draw a couple of conclusions from the whole affair. Firstly, it seems that an education isn’t what it once was: either publishers and teachers aren’t actually proofreading or they simply don’t know better. For educational materials, the whole thing is worrisome. Secondly, and perhaps of less news to everyone but me, my daughter is probably doomed to pick up my nit-picky linguistic proclivities.

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