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Kids Don't Write As Much Today - So What?


Q. What's all the fuss about kids not knowing how to write more than a few words at a time any more? Can't they express themselves even more with all the other media they use today?


Despite the advantages of computers and other technology that make written expression far easier than the days of the inkwell, pen and paper, mimeos and white-out paint, the average word count produced in assignments by a typical high school student today is minuscule compared to yesteryear.


Consequently, students aren't getting the deep, analytical, quality thinking skills that are polished with term paper assignments any more.


That doesn't bode very well for the future of our country, if the leaders of tomorrow don't have deep thinking skills.


It's obvious that they aren't reading as much and that the books they're reading in school aren't as good, because their writing is nowhere near as good, and good readers become good writers.


It's a nationwide scandal over their spelling. Many employers say they have to remediate new hires, even college graduates, in basic communication skills, including spelling the simplest of words and phrases.


When kids do write in school, for the most part, it's brief, shallow and unchallenging. The amount of writing assignments which can be fulfilled with no research is staggering . . . while the most important writing assignments in the eyes of most of those serious about scholarship, term papers, are literally dying out.


In 2002, with a grant from the Albert Shanker Institute, The Concord Review commissioned a study of the state of the history term paper in United States high schools. According to that group's website, 95% of the teachers interviewed said term papers were important or very important, 82% never assign a 5,000-word paper, and 63% never assign a 3,000-word research paper.


Taken together with studies that show high school students spending less than three hours a week on homework, it seems most probable that the majority of high school students in this country now leave without having done a serious research paper, and perhaps without having read one nonfiction book.


But the reason isn't that today's students don't need the skills that come with serious report-writing, including:


n       how to narrow down your hypothesis


n       choose the best evidence


n       organize a lot of material


n       achieve perfection in the use of writing conventions


n       create a conclusion fully supported by the research.


The reason is that teachers say they do not have enough time to assign, coach and evaluate research papers, even though it takes a lot less time than varsity sports participation.


Quality private schools do expect their students to learn to write research papers and teachers are given small classes so that they can work on papers with students, and have the time to assess them. But that's a relatively small number across the U.S.

Homework: Read The Concord Review's study, "The State of the Term Paper," on


By Susan Darst Williams Writing 01 2008


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