Lots of College Students Can’t Rite Very Well

Why, and How, Did We Kick “(w)riting” Out of the Three R’s?

Dustbury notes the stunning lack of writing ability of many college students, and links to this must-read commentary: We Must Overhaul College Writing.

The problem, though, starts much sooner than college, and trying to fix it there is like pushing a boulder up a hill. Not everybody goes to college, or should, for one thing. And even for those who do, there is absolutely no reason that teaching the ability to write clearly and logically should wait until one turns 19 or 20 years old. It wastes valuable time and means that you then you have to unlearn a whole lot of bad habits at a fairly late age in the educational process. What is the point of 13 years of school before college if you never learn to write until you get there?

As for the causes of this problem, there are probably a variety, but I have to think that the research by the Core Knowledge Foundation and E.D. Hirsch Jr. sheds a lot of light here.

His research shows that moving curriculums away from facts and towards “fiction and feelings” (my phrase) has caused our young people to graduate high school without learning much. So by fixing a problem that didn’t really exist, we made it worse.

Hirsch also proves that reading comprehension is not a skill you can acquire by reading, it is instead the sum of all the factual knowledge you have built up in your life, that you can then use to filter through any given text to make sense of it.

Schools, by de-emphasizing factual content and replacing it with “fiction and feelings”, deprive the student of the necessary mooring they need to not just read, but in all likelihood, to write too.

My take is that it all boils down to this: Post-Modern education theory is a massive failure. Post-Modernism de-emphasizes facts and history as repressive relics of the Dead White Male era of European conquest and imperialism. The narrative matters more than the underlying facts and history that inform it. Which is interesting, I guess, but it’s also a pile of psychobabble bullshit. As soon as you separate a narrative from the very facts and logic that moor it, that make it real and tangible, you create the possibility of, guess what, psychobabble bullshit.

And, unfortunately, Post-Modern theory is what nearly all the colleges of Education are teaching to our future teachers, and have been for 20-30 years or more. At least, this is what I’ve learned from some of the reading I’ve done on it.

At any rate, Hirsch is a fascinating and courageous guy, and I support him and his casue very strongly, because he has apparently zeroed in quite effectively on what works and what doesn’t, and why, and how we’ve gone off the rails. So I recommend checking out the website and blog and Hirsch’s books. Because anybody who is paying attention to education today knows that something very unpleasant and very big is wrong with education, and that what we’re doing in primary and secondary grades is just not working. It’s well past time that we fixed it.