This article in today's Guardian gives some food for thought about how we teach young people. Academics in France are running a "festival of errors", designed to encourage students to think for themselves and not to become too hung up on getting the "right" answer. One point made by Girolamo Ramunni, one of those involved in the enterprise, is that "Once they've accepted that getting things wrong is not the end of the world, yes, they may come up with some crazy ideas, but they will have some good ones too".
Perhaps this has some relevance to how grammar is taught in this country too. One approach might be to place more of an emphasis on encouraging problem solving approaches to language as these French academics are applying to science. Instead of a dry naming of parts, grammar learning can be about looking at possibilities, testing out hypotheses and defending those positions - argumentation, in other words - something that has often been lost in the mix as teachers have tried to address the needs of the National Curriculum.
Just to finish, in their book on teaching English using corpora, From Corpus to Classroom, O'Keefe, McCarthy and Carter talk about the difficulties inherent in helping learners move "from awareness of structures as right or wrong, to choices from along a gradient of possibilities, to an assessment of what is probable in one context rather than another". What we are setting out to do - and this article about French attempts to do something similar in a scientific context back the point up - is not only to give teachers and students confidence about their knowledge, but also to show them that living with uncertainty is part of living with our language.