What could be simpler than writing?


Rather a lot, apparently, because it’s not being taught in our public school system, judging from this opinion piece in the Boston Globe:

WHEN YOU teach English to college students, you quickly realize two things.

First, many seem to have received little writing instruction in high school. I initially noticed this as an undergraduate English major at Yale, where I helped peers revise their papers. I saw it again in graduate school at Tufts, where I taught freshman writing classes. And it has also struck me at Babson, where, for the past two years, I have instructed first-year students.

The second thing English teachers realize is that correcting students’ papers is tremendously time consuming. I constantly do battle with myself to spend less than 20 minutes on a paper. At meetings, instructors are often urged not to exceed 15 minutes, but I frequently end up spending double that. This can be a genuinely frustrating experience: 50 papers stacked on the coffee table, 10 in the finished pile, and an entire afternoon gone.

But I can’t help it; there’s so much to correct.

Given how badly our public schools are failing, is it any wonder that so many parents opt to home school?

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5 Responses to What could be simpler than writing?

  1. MJ says:

    I am just finishing an MLIS degree, and I share your frustration after having to complete numerous group projects with people whose writing is at about a 10th-grade level. It is bad enough that kids get out of high school without the ability to construct a grammatically correct sentence or meaningful paragraph, but they are also getting bachelor’s degrees! I also watched in horror as, semester after semester, the average grades in my classes were low A’s. Students are rewarded even at a master’s level for poor writing. I did a little research into the "why" of this and found 30 years’ of literature on grade inflation and its consequences. It is disheartening.

  2. Karla says:

    When I was in a class in college called "Advanced Writing," we did peer review of papers. I was SHOCKED at how poorly my desk neighbor wrote–and she was an English major, planning to be a teacher!! My kids are both college age and I like to think they are good writers who learned from my example, but they and most of their friends believe it doesn’t matter if you write well "because people understand you anyway"!! I think that is a belief they learned in the public school system.

  3. Thomas Hutto says:

    These are college students. I would only grade their papers until you reached a failing grade. At that point, simply return the paper with a note to read Strunk & White, or, The Elements of Style. Grammar may not be easy, but, it ain’t that hard!

  4. June says:

    I am in the middle of a three week teacher graduate seminar in which the focus is on great works of literature and writing. It would seem that the consensus among my colleagues is that there is simply not enough time in the school day to also teach writing. however, I am glad to report that the new "end of course" tests in Texas require essays!! Teachers, of any subject, should be able to spend less time teaching-to-the-test and more time on writing and critical thinking!

  5. Pingback: The State of Legal Writing | Andrew P. Connors

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