I have taught college writing, if you can call it that. I have also taught high school English. Some of my high school sophomores could write circles around their college counterparts.
In past generations, a young person could not graduate from high school without proving his or her ability to compose a logical essay or theme paper. Grammar and spelling certainly counted. Today, nearly anything goes.
Most of the current crop of collegiates learned to read and write with a program called “Inventive Spelling and Grammar.” In the primary grades, they practiced journaling. Correct usage did not count. They were only expected to fill pages with creative musings.
Now these students are entering colleges, and they still don’t possess elementary skills off written communication.
As a result, even the most competitive and prestigious colleges still find the need to offer basic composition courses for underclassmen.
One has to wonder: who is writing the essays for those college applications?
Most college professors base entire semester grades on a single term paper and a final exam. The final exam nearly always includes an essay question as well. How can students succeed, if they cannot write clearly?
This trend begs the question: How can students receive high school diplomas without knowing how to construct a basic five-paragraph essay? Why are we handing secondary-school sheepskins to students who cannot create a simple thesis statement and back it up with elementary support?
Even spelling and grammar have all but disappeared in our elementary and high schools. Students may employ spell-check programs, but these do not catch homonyms. A quick glance at a term paper will reveal run-ons, sentence fragments, and worse.
Perhaps this dearth of beginning writing skills is a new form of illiteracy. The basic reading/writing/arithmetic of the past has been replaced by group projects, oral reports, laissez-faire journaling, and student portfolios.
As a freelance writer, I can hardly wait till this generation graduates, if they don’t master basic writing skills.
By the way, I’m raising my rates!