Inside Education: Is the value of writing in schools deteriorating?

In high school, most students focus on the art of socializing and do not see the value of reading and writing. This inevitably handicaps them academically once they reach the undergraduate level.

In every class that I have taken, some form of writing has been involved. Whether it was biology, history, or economics, I always had to write some type of assignment or essay. The students who are able to write thoughtful and critical essays are the ones who will excel.

Teaching English has evolved negatively due to the increasingly high demands on high school teachers. Students do not want to write because the teachers do not make them. Kim Brooks, an accomplished fiction writer, commented on the burden of teaching English composition:

 At this particular school, every English teacher teaches five sections of English, and each section has approximately 25 students — a dream load compared to what teachers at, say, a Chicago public face. But that still means a three-page formal essay assignment would translate into 375 pages of student prose to be read, critiqued and evaluated.

When a teacher is only making roughly $30,000 a year, the incentives for assigning essay assignments is incredibly low.  The truly great teachers find a way to educate young people by emphasizing the importance of writing as an extracurricular activity. The select few are able to inspire and evoke the passion for writing, no matter the circumstances.

The future of writing lies in the critical thinking aspect of the writing process. Students need to be exposed to the value of thinking through a problem, collaborating with other people, and rewriting until the essay is perfected. This type of process needs to be encouraged by the connectivity of the Internet.

I do believe with the help of the Internet and eBooks, writing will come out of the funk that it is in. There has never been a time before in history that humans have been more self-expressive in the form of writing. With Facebook and Twitter, people across the world are now connecting more than ever. The short status updates are a form of writing and involve significant thinking. This is a small step that could lead the education system to develop the needed technology to improve the entire learning process.

The significance of writing may not be respected as much as it should, but I believe that we should be optimistic about the future of education. The great students will find a way to write and think in a way that will help them once they go off to college. Teachers need to motivate and encourage the fundamentals of writing to the students who will need the skills the most.