I’ve begun to wonder if this typical high school English class, dividing its curriculum between standardized test preparation and the reading of canonical texts, might occupy a central place in the creation of a generation of college students who, simply put, cannot write...More at the link.
For years now, teaching composition at state universities and liberal arts colleges and community colleges as well, I’ve puzzled over these high-school graduates and their shocking deficits. I’ve sat at my desk, a stack of their two-to-three-page papers before me, and felt overwhelmed to the point of physical paralysis by all the things they don’t know how to do when it comes to written communication in the English language...
And so recently, I’ve started asking them: “What exactly did you do in high-school English class?” And whether I ask them as a group or individually, whether I ask my best students or my worst, the answers I get are less than reassuring...
Those who didn’t make it onto the honors or A.P. track hardly mention writing or reading at all. They talk about giving oral presentations and keeping reading journals evaluated with a big, meaningless check. They reveal putting on skits, reenacting some scene in a novel or play whose title they can’t recall. One student recounts a month of junior English class in which she and her classmates produced digital short film adaptations of the trial in “The Scarlet Letter.”
“Sounds fun,” I say to this student, a girl who would not know how to summarize a source or correct a sentence fragment if her life depended on it.
22 April 2014
Reconsidering high school English classes
From an op-ed piece at Salon: