What High School Courses should be Obligatory

All Right- Let’s Just Write!

Technology is changing the world at an incredible pace. Today, people no longer have to be in the same office-or even the same hemisphere-to communicate and share information instantly. The day is close at hand where cures for diseases are found through worldwide research projects, new inventions are being worked on 24/7 by being sent from time zone to time zone, and lifelong friendships aren’t restricted by little things like what side of an ocean you’re on. Hundreds of changes like these will reshape our lives and priorities, and few things will be more powerful-or carry a person farther-than being a good writer.

When technology first started changing the way we communicate ( beginning with telephones, then computers, then cell phones), it seemed that writing was on its way out. After all, why take the time to get out a pen and write a two or three page letter when all it takes is a few buttons to talk to your sister, boyfriend or coworker, regardless of how far away they are? However, as technology becomes more and more essential to our daily life, we’re actually turning 180 degrees in the other direction. Those who claimed that email was destroying the need for good writing skills never counted on applying for colleges, working on business projects and, yes, even writing scholarship essays over the Internet.

It seems like High School students would be experts in this area. From first grade punctuation to the ninth grade five-paragraph essay, American teenagers have been taught and re-taught spelling, grammar, mechanics, and usage. But many students go through over a decade of school, memorizing sentence structure, the rules of a thesis statement, and a hundred other things, without ever learning how to actually use them.

It’s a lot like handing cooking school students whisks, flour and eggs, then proudly marching them out the door after twelve years of work without baking so much as a cupcake. The ingredients are there-they just need to know how to put them all together. And like a really tasty piece of chocolate cake, a good piece of writing does not just happen; it comes from a good writer. Good writers and chefs do not just happen; they are created through practice.

Sure, most High School English teachers try to teach the basics of writing between discussions of Hawthorne and Walden, but High Schools don’t usually require a class where writing is the main focus. In fact, most High Schools in my area will not give any graduation credit at all towards “advanced” writing courses.

Like math and science, though, the transition from the second dimension of mechanics into the third dimension of writing makes all the difference in the world. It gives you the ability to express yourself with a few strokes of a keyboard. And with technology growing so quickly, it will only become more important.
Doesn’t it seem like that deserves a little extra effort beyond “i before e”?