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How Writing Instruction Fads

Shortchange Students


Here's an interview with a retired college composition teacher from North Carolina with some good insights as to why students can't write very well any more.


She calls a lot of what goes on in English classes "moonshine" because too many professors are more in to making a name for themselves and building prestige than actually teaching students how to write. They skimp on the basics such as writing instruction, even though that's what the students need and it's what their parents are paying for.

She says the "fad of the week" mentality pervades English instruction, and that's why tried-and-true writing skills - spelling tests, punctuation, sentence diagramming, copyediting, parts of speech exercises - all fall by the wayside.


English teachers accept substandard English as a political statement, ignoring the fact that a lack of writing skill makes a young person unemployable in many occupations.


Because so many teachers are in to "child-centered learning," they let students grade each others' papers and work in groups to produce one piece of writing, which by definition means that a lot of mistakes are getting passed by and students aren't getting anywhere near enough practice and correction.


And, attempting to seem "with it," many teachers allow shallow, barely understandable pieces of writing from students who are a lot more familiar with Google, iPod, text messenging, Facebook and Instant Messenger than they are with a paper and pencil.


The professor, Nan Miller, wrote an article called "English 101: Prologue to Literacy or Postmodern Moonshine?" published in the Carolina Journal.



By Susan Darst Williams Grammar Granny 036 2006


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