Faced with ongoing budget crises, underfunded schools nationwide are increasingly left with no option but to cut the past tense — a grammatical construction traditionally used to relate all actions, and states that have transpired at an earlier point in time — from their standard English and language arts programs.
A part of American school curricula for more than 200 years, the past tense was deemed by school administrators to be too expensive to keep in primary and secondary education.
"This was by no means an easy decision, but teaching our students how to conjugate verbs in a way that would allow them to describe events that have already occurred is a luxury that we can no longer afford," Phoenix-area high-school principal Sam Pennock said. "With our current budget, the past tense must unfortunately become a thing of the past."
In the most dramatic display of the new trend yet, the Tennessee Department of Education decided Monday to remove "-ed" endings from all of the state's English classrooms, saving struggling schools an estimated $3 million each year. Officials say they plan to slowly phase out the tense by first eliminating the past perfect; once students have adjusted to the change, the past progressive, the past continuous, the past perfect progressive, and the simple past will be cut. Hundreds of school districts across the country are expected to follow suit.
"This is the end of an era," said Alicia Reynolds, a school district director in Tuscaloosa, Ala. "For some, reading and writing about things not immediately taking place was almost as much a part of school as history class and social studies.