I don’t usually talk very much about my own educational background, but my own educational experience is actually fairly relevant to my opinions on education in general and on writing in particular.
I have a degree in English and Philosophy. As a freshman at a small state university, I was fortunate to arrive with a decent English background. My performance on the AP English exam qualified me to skip English 101 & 102, courses that were required of all incoming freshmen, except for those who had displayed competence in basic composition skills.
This is telling. English 101 & 102 were, essentially, very basic courses in composition and comprehension. I would even consider them remedial, and yet most of my friends were required to take them! And many of them had real difficulty passing these courses. They needed to be tutored.
That was nearly 20 years ago, and things haven’t improved.
My dear husband teaches Philosophy at a small Catholic university. Over the past 10 years, he has also taught at a state university and a small college seminary, and there are 2 things that he has observed in most of his undergraduate students:
- They don’t read enough (they certainly don’t read the chapters he assigns).
- They don’t write very well.
And this seems to be true, regardless of their educational background.
We’re not talking about Ivy League schools, here, but let’s face it…the vast majority of students who attend college will not be going to Ivy League schools, nor should they. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the tools and experience they need in order to express themselves in the written word, especially as so much of our communication in this technological society is written (or typed).
Now, I make no claim to being a stellar writer. Nobody is beating down my door, begging me to publish a book, or asking me for permission to use snippets of my prose as examples of excellent writing in a new style guide (it would be funny if I were selected as an example of writing atrocities, though ;0). And I’m sure that you can find places on this site where I’ve made grammatical errors or have left the style guide on the shelf.
But as a parent raising kiddos, I recognize the importance of my children becoming good writers. It’s an investment we all need to make, whether we homeschool, send our kiddos to school, or even just happen to know some kiddos down the street. Communication is part of their future, it’s part of our future, and we all have a stake in whether or not Johnny learns to read and write.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic lately, especially as I put together our curriculum for the coming year. I hope you won’t mind if I share some of my random thoughts on teaching writing over the next week or so. You may find them edifying. Or, you may just want to skip over my rambling. I don’t mind.