Last year I was recruited to judge a middle school scholarship contest. Kids from all across Los Angeles in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades submitted three to four paragraph essays on why they deserved to go to college and how college would help them become stronger societal members who could then better the community. The contest was actually called "Save Me A Spot" and the winners would receive scholarship bonds to be used upon their high school graduation towards college tuition. The rules of said contest were very specific regarding format and structure, but the students had the option of drawing upon personal or historical examples to strength their arguments. As a young writer, the organizers of the contest thought I'd be a good judge of who could make the most compelling cases, but all I took away from the experience was that if these kids didn't learn proper grammar and syntax soon, it wouldn't matter if they had the money for college or not because they wouldn't get in!
I was always the kid who liked to think outside of the box for my writing assignments. Research papers bored me, and I even opted to turn in a feature film script as my high school English thesis instead of a standard term paper. My teachers were indulgent, though. I started creative writing classes in fourth grade, not because someone saw something artistic within me but because the whole class needed a mandatory extracurricular and the teacher just had a passion for the written word. I happened to find something I loved, and I stuck with it, paying extra close attention during English lessons and studying AP style on my own a few years later when I found the internet. When I began to write, I felt like I had found the missing link in my young life. I couldn't imagine doing anything else, and I couldn't remember what I used to occupy my time before it. I simply fell in love. And I wanted to know everything there was to know about this thing with which I fell in love.
These days, it appears kids either aren't being taught the lessons or they simply aren't connecting with them in the innate way I did. There is something to be said, though, for recognizing you might not have a passion for a subject and still understanding it is something you will need to master to exist as a productive member of society. I'm not even talking about the complexities of using a colon versus a semi-colon here, by the way. If a child is in the sixth, seventh, or eighth grade and doesn't know the proper use of "their/there/they're" or "your/you're" or the difference between a full, complete sentence and a fragment...well, we are in deep trouble. It doesn't matter if the child is in public, private, or parochial school; the fault lies within all of us-- the parents, the relatives, the friends, the neighbors, and the teachers-- to give them the tools because without them they can't better their own lives, let alone their community.
The point of rehashing all of this now is that I came across my two favorite young actors from Modern Family's Twitter accounts this past weekend. Nolan Gould, the eleven year-old who plays the dimwitted Luke Delphy proves he is much smarter than his on-screen alter ego with succinctly written posts (well, they'd have to be at only 140 characters!). In a place where even most adults have taken to ridiculous acronyms and abbrievations (how the hell is "bb" an acceptable form of the word "baby?" It's barely shorter, and everyone just looks ridiculous typing it!), Gould manages to write using full words and proper punctuation. Following him is refreshing simply for those reasons alone; it's like a little burst of intelligence in a sea of internet jibberish.
Rico Rodriguez, Columbian lothario Manny Delgado, appears to truly be the "little adult" in real life that he plays on-screen. Whether online or on a talk show, he is extremely articulate and seems very well read (is that a weird thing to say about an eleven year-old?). I feel like I could easily write to him for life advice if and when I find myself in an existential crisis and yet he easily admits in his Tweets that he goes to bed at nine p.m. because he is still just a kid, after all. He has only been on Twitter for about a day now but it's safe to say we can look forward to many messages filled with spirited joy...all properly phrased.
I can't tell if Gould and Rodriguez are testaments to having your children tutored on a set instead of attending crowded classroom schooling, or if they're just truly gifted. As appalled at I was last year when I found out the sheer volume of kids who didn't have a grasp on even the basics of writing, these two young talents have me breathing somewhat of a sigh of relief that all hope is not lost yet for the youth of Hollywood, let alone America.