Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Crushing Collegiate Dreams

And weeping while he does it....

This isn't a new problem-- My dad has horror stories about when he taught English at a community college for a year (as a second job) and got in trouble for assigning more than one book a week.

It's also not surprising. Given how poorly even the "Good" students wrote when I taught high school, I'm not surprised that the poor students can't pass Writing 101-- especially when they've been out of school in between.

How many people really have to write coherent paragraphs in their daily lives? Most people phone rather than writing letters. Retail jobs and factory jobs don't require writing. As a Math teacher, I wrote lesson plans, but I didn't really have to write. (And I didn't-- not even for fun, because by the end of the day I was too exhausted to do anything besides eat dinner and collapse.)

If you've always been a good writer, and if you've written many thousands of pages in your life, maybe you can suffer a hiatus and come out of it adequate.

But what about the people who've ALWAYS struggled with writing? What about the people whose ability to construct a sentence stalled at second grade? The people who've never enjoyed reading, so have no example of what the written word should look like? The people who can't be helped by The Elements of Style because it's just too difficult to understand?

How can we help those people pass college when they couldn't even handle AP English?

*Note.... I wonder if Professor X's classes might do better if they reversed the order of English 101 and 102-- If they had the reading semester before the writing semester, and had the reading focus on masters of prose. It would be less high-flying, but it might give the students an example of how to write beyond stilted paragraphs in a boring textbook.

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