Courses Taught: Concert Band, Jazz Ensemble, MUS 353 – Music Methods
As DSU's band director, Mr. Dennis Hegg's classes are focused on music. But, like most aspects of life, writing is an important supplement to the major material. With regard to his classes, Mr. Hegg states, "I believe even though the focus is music, the students should use and practice good English. I insist that they be careful in papers to spell words correctly and to use proper grammar. Every paper they prepare has a percent of possible point that are based on spelling and grammar."
Despite the importance of grammar and proper use of English, Mr. Hegg has seen a decline in students' proficiency. He blames this on a number of factors. "I am not satisfied with the way English is being taught in many schools," said Mr. Hegg. "In many high schools all the teachers want to teach is literature. They fail to teach grammar and proper use of English because the students don't like it. There is nothing wrong with teaching literature, but it should be a partner with spelling and grammar, not a substitute for proper usage." Because of this lack of proper instruction, Mr. Hegg feels students are not adequately prepared in this critical area.
Technology is also a culprit in the corruption of good writing skills. "Students fail to understand that technology is not designed to replace education. It is a tool that enhances what they have learned, not a replacement for learning," said Mr. Hegg. As an example, he states that while spell checker is a helpful tool, it is not meant to replace spelling skills. "There may be many situations where spell check is not available," he said. Additionally, e-mail has bred a generation of students who think that abbreviations, lack of punctuation, phonetic spelling (UR for "You are"), no capitalization, and sentence fragments are acceptable. "I hate to receive emails that have no punctuation, misspelled words, and poor speech," said Mr. Hegg. Though technology has contributed to the decline in writing skills, Mr. Hegg points out, "The culprit is not the computer. The culprit is the user of the computer."
Mr. Hegg considers reading essential for developing writing skills. "Read everything," he states. "Some material you may read may not be great literature, but if you read enough, you will stumble across great literature and develop better writing skills. Your speech will improve. The more you read the more you will learn, even by accident."
Illustrating the importance that writing has in all disciplines, Mr. Hegg reveals a method he uses to instill good language skills in his students. "I sometimes use incorrect language in my classes to see if they are paying attention. I hope they will correct me. Then I congratulate them for noticing. It may be the most valuable lesson of the day," admitted Mr. Hegg.