As a high school English teacher, I get the chance to read the types of writing that students are handing in these days, and we also have the chance to discuss how writing is changing, whether those changes are good or bad, etc. One of the most important things to acknowledge, before we say that writing standards among teens are being destroyed by Internet communication, is that writing standards are simply changing.
Writing has always changed and evolved, and the advent of the internet and instant messaging as well as text messages, etc., has probably accelerated some of those changes. Those of us in the position to try to help students learn to write well are often caught up thinking that we ought to be teaching them how to write well according to our standards or the way we were taught. But as writing changes, so too should the standards and if we are attempting to keep up with the changes, we can’t simply say that the Internet is destroying writing or that it is simply making it more efficient, A nuanced, well thought out approach is the only effective one.
Writing has been, for as long as most of us can remember or even think about, one of the most efficient ways of communicating ideas and information quickly. It is apparent from the use of written language throughout the world that the technology of writing was embraced and that it flourished in most societies. Sadly, for those of us who appreciate the art of writing, in many ways that art is changing and may be harder for us to recognize. People crave easier to absorb messaging systems and TV, the Internet, movies, and even cell phones and text messages provide that for them. It isn’t likely that we will see another Shakespeare anytime soon. But we will likely see some other kind of genius, even if we aren’t really great at recognizing it yet.
It is true that many of my students are not really concerned about spelling everything correctly. It is true that many of my students struggle with even relatively basic rules of grammar as their exposure to them is very limited. It is true that many of them would be far more interested in texting their friends than typing a paper and that the two types of writing are very different. It is, however, also true that much of what we are asking them to do in writing a paper is foreign to them and the way they express themselves. It is true that many of them do not see an essay as a useful tool to express their thoughts and ideas and feelings.
We have not yet seen the end of good writing, and we won’t see that end anytime soon. But we do have to accept the fact that it is changing and changing rather quickly. It is important to help teens learn to use more formal writing skills and learn to differentiate between the different types of writing and when they will use certain methods. It is not important to lament the changes and wring our hands about Internet communication destroying writing standards. IMHO.