With a few exceptions, our schools are bad at teaching writing. Students are not asked to do much of it, mostly because reading and correcting their work takes so much time. Instruction methods are often academic and lifeless.
English teachers rarely assign nonfiction reading and are even less apt to require nonfiction writing. Almost no high school students, except those in private or International Baccalaureate schools, are required to do major research papers.
Worthy attempts at reform haven’t gotten far. Writing instruction is killing our children’s natural desire to express themselves. Compare their school assignments to their e-mails, and you will see what I mean.
The only way to fix this is to tear up what we are doing and start over.
Leading this movement is Paula Stacey, an editor and educator who has taught every level of writing instruction. Her Sept. 21 Education Week piece exposed the torture that is Composition 101. “We have the entire English department at a local high school,” Stacey wrote, “embracing a schoolwide essay format that calls for exactly three central paragraphs containing exactly eight sentences: topic sentence, detail sentence, commentary sentence, another detail sentence, another commentary sentence, a final detail sentence, a final commentary sentence, and a concluding sentence.