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High schools and their education of proper writing techniques.
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Posted 10/7/10 , edited 10/7/10
Remember what high school essays were like? (If you are still in high school, you know it quite vividly. If you're not yet old enough, prepare for the worst.) Many teachers, whether they specialize in history or English, required students to write essays while attempting to teach them proper "techniques" in writing. As a senior in college, I decided to look back onto what my high school teachers taught me. Upon reflection, I realized how incompetent they were in properly teaching techniques and strategies in writing.

I'll list some of the problems that high school teachers did which seemed illogical to me:

1. Majority of high school students have not properly written an essay before beginning high school: Let's face it. Throughout Middle School, students only learned about grammar and vocabulary which are the building blocks of proper writing techniques. They did not learn about writing essays or even properly writing a thesis.

The problem: High school teachers expect too much from students in essays. Since high school students just began writing essays, it wouldn't make much sense to expect students to write an "A" level essay. The average high school essay I read and proofread on my tutoring job seem to range in F to C. Very few high school students are capable of writing A level essays, or even B level essays.

Teachers grade essays in high school as if it should be an A level essay leading to low scores. This has a severe negative impact on blooming writers since the biggest problem with writers is not technique development, but discouragement. I will not deny that grades are an important factor in High School, but penalizing students for something they just started learning is absurd. A student who sees "F" on his paper is not thinking, "Oh wow, I have a major writing problem. I should tackle each problem as quickly as I can." Instead, the student is generally thinking, "Oh shit, an F!?? My grade for this class is screwed. My overall GPA is screwed meaning I can't properly enter good college. I'm so doomed. etc".

The Solution: Essay grades should no longer be objective, but more subjective. To clarify, high school teachers should begin grading students based on their level of improvement over a purely objective "Is this an A level essay". Not only would this help students maintain a reasonable grade, but it would motivate students to aim towards improvement over simply aiming for an "A level" essay. The former is significantly different since it motivates students to identify their mistakes and directly fix it in contrast to looking for shortcuts and "tricks" in improving their writing.

2. High school teachers try to teach "tricks" in writing good essays. They label out "Do's" and "Don'ts".: It seems like nearly every one of my English teachers in high school gave me certain tricks and tips for writing a good essay. However... all of this is bullshit.

The Problem:There are no "shortcuts", "tricks", or other nonsense in essay writing. There are only good grammar/vocabulary and bad grammar/vocabulary. Teachers try to convince students otherwise.

Essays are mediums of communication. There are no "tricks" in proper communication. (Well there are, but at this point it is no longer "good communication", but manipulative rhetoric.) Good communication is good because it is clear and concise. By teaching students that "this" and "that" make your essay better, teachers are attempting to make writing into some kind of math formula. There are no shortcuts or tricks in writing; improving writing is a long and tedious task. Sooner the students accept this, the more likely they are to succeed.

The Solution: Have students accept that proper writing is an important tool in the professional field and it can only be developed through many years of effort.


3. High school English classes make students read stupid books/novels: They're not proper essay writing or communication examples. They are NOVELS. Big difference.

The Problem: Students reading novels or books will not make them better essay writers. Sure, they might improve in vocabulary and grammar, but the structure of a novel differs significantly to the structure of an essay.

The Solution: Get rid of required book/novel reading. Instead have students read scholar essays instead. Not only do they teach students how to properly make an argument, they also learn vocabulary/grammar from an excellent example source.

---------------------------


These are the 3 main problems I see with high school essay writing. What are your thoughts and opinions? Please share.

A little background about my writing career.

Throughout High School, my writings were graded in mostly C- to B- range with a few in B+ range. With the help of very effective university professors/TAs, my essay writing is now in a B+ to A range.
Posted 10/7/10
I think your 3rd point can be modified with post-modernism, as in learning how to apply individual interpretation and introspection on literatures. It can help individuals on how to develop critical and analytical literacy skills through modern medias.
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Posted 10/7/10
Essay writing is something I can do quite well in school,.I agree that novels/plays that you are forced to read do not help in any way(although reading a lot certainly does),neither do 'tricks'.Personally I always find that the poncier the essay sound,with plenty of description,the higher the mark.Although this is probably different for other areas.
Posted 10/7/10
I suck citing resources.
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Posted 10/8/10
It's been too long... say when WAS the Peloponnesian war? I barely remember high school essays and besides the people teaching today were probably my classmates or even kids of my classmates (my seniors at least). So I was probably taught differently.
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Posted 10/8/10

papagolfwhiskey wrote:

It's been too long... say when WAS the Peloponnesian war? I barely remember high school essays and besides the people teaching today were probably my classmates or even kids of my classmates (my seniors at least). So I was probably taught differently.


Fair point. Then how was the education you received in high school different from your university education on writing?



Posted 10/10/10
With the way things are taught it is no wonder over 40% of high school graduates in America are considered functionally illiterate.
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Posted 10/10/10

makix wrote:

Remember what high school essays were like? (If you are still in high school, you know it quite vividly. If you're not yet old enough, prepare for the worst.) Many teachers, whether they specialize in history or English, required students to write essays while attempting to teach them proper "techniques" in writing. As a senior in college, I decided to look back onto what my high school teachers taught me. Upon reflection, I realized how incompetent they were in properly teaching techniques and strategies in writing.

I'll list some of the problems that high school teachers did which seemed illogical to me:

1. Majority of high school students have not properly written an essay before beginning high school: Let's face it. Throughout Middle School, students only learned about grammar and vocabulary which are the building blocks of proper writing techniques. They did not learn about writing essays or even properly writing a thesis.

The problem: High school teachers expect too much from students in essays. Since high school students just began writing essays, it wouldn't make much sense to expect students to write an "A" level essay. The average high school essay I read and proofread on my tutoring job seem to range in F to C. Very few high school students are capable of writing A level essays, or even B level essays.

Teachers grade essays in high school as if it should be an A level essay leading to low scores. This has a severe negative impact on blooming writers since the biggest problem with writers is not technique development, but discouragement. I will not deny that grades are an important factor in High School, but penalizing students for something they just started learning is absurd. A student who sees "F" on his paper is not thinking, "Oh wow, I have a major writing problem. I should tackle each problem as quickly as I can." Instead, the student is generally thinking, "Oh shit, an F!?? My grade for this class is screwed. My overall GPA is screwed meaning I can't properly enter good college. I'm so doomed. etc".

The Solution: Essay grades should no longer be objective, but more subjective. To clarify, high school teachers should begin grading students based on their level of improvement over a purely objective "Is this an A level essay". Not only would this help students maintain a reasonable grade, but it would motivate students to aim towards improvement over simply aiming for an "A level" essay. The former is significantly different since it motivates students to identify their mistakes and directly fix it in contrast to looking for shortcuts and "tricks" in improving their writing.

2. High school teachers try to teach "tricks" in writing good essays. They label out "Do's" and "Don'ts".: It seems like nearly every one of my English teachers in high school gave me certain tricks and tips for writing a good essay. However... all of this is bullshit.

The Problem:There are no "shortcuts", "tricks", or other nonsense in essay writing. There are only good grammar/vocabulary and bad grammar/vocabulary. Teachers try to convince students otherwise.

Essays are mediums of communication. There are no "tricks" in proper communication. (Well there are, but at this point it is no longer "good communication", but manipulative rhetoric.) Good communication is good because it is clear and concise. By teaching students that "this" and "that" make your essay better, teachers are attempting to make writing into some kind of math formula. There are no shortcuts or tricks in writing; improving writing is a long and tedious task. Sooner the students accept this, the more likely they are to succeed.

The Solution: Have students accept that proper writing is an important tool in the professional field and it can only be developed through many years of effort.


3. High school English classes make students read stupid books/novels: They're not proper essay writing or communication examples. They are NOVELS. Big difference.

The Problem: Students reading novels or books will not make them better essay writers. Sure, they might improve in vocabulary and grammar, but the structure of a novel differs significantly to the structure of an essay.

The Solution: Get rid of required book/novel reading. Instead have students read scholar essays instead. Not only do they teach students how to properly make an argument, they also learn vocabulary/grammar from an excellent example source.

---------------------------


These are the 3 main problems I see with high school essay writing. What are your thoughts and opinions? Please share.

A little background about my writing career.

Throughout High School, my writings were graded in mostly C- to B- range with a few in B+ range. With the help of very effective university professors/TAs, my essay writing is now in a B+ to A range.


What is an essay but an argument and points to back it up- if the student could do so in a coherent manner, why should we complain? Adherence to accepted formulas will only stiffle the student's creativity and thoughts.

Also, I have to disagree with your position on reading novels and book reading requirement. A Novel is like an essay in many ways- it has an argument (or several) about society or the human condition, and it tries to prove them though fictional action. It also provide a base by which an essay can be built upon it.
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Posted 10/10/10

jandarujora wrote:

With the way things are taught it is no wonder over 40% of high school graduates in America are considered functionally illiterate.


Where do you get your bullshit? Over 90 % of Americans are literate, if 40% of high school graduates are illiterate, wouldn't that number be higher?
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Posted 10/13/10

makix wrote:


papagolfwhiskey wrote:

It's been too long... say when WAS the Peloponnesian war? I barely remember high school essays and besides the people teaching today were probably my classmates or even kids of my classmates (my seniors at least). So I was probably taught differently.


Fair point. Then how was the education you received in high school different from your university education on writing?



In high school they taught us. (and hopefully we learned because...)

In University they graded us, and flunked us without mercy if we did not measure up. the programs I attended were NEVER graded on a curve.

In college it was like university with lower standards and gentler grading. At least for written work. On the other Hand, while university nurses could write essays as to why proper bed making was an important part of a clients health or reference all the accepted nursing theorists and their nursing practice models.... It was the college nurses who actually made beds and took blood pressure readings as part of their classes. And college was ruthless about hands on failures that could have an effect in the real world.


Posted 10/14/10 , edited 10/14/10

longfenglim wrote:


jandarujora wrote:

With the way things are taught it is no wonder over 40% of high school graduates in America are considered functionally illiterate.


Where do you get your bullshit? Over 90 % of Americans are literate, if 40% of high school graduates are illiterate, wouldn't that number be higher?


I apologize, it was only 20% as stated here. This was from a couple or so years ago so who knows it might be a little higher now.
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Posted 10/17/10

jandarujora wrote:


longfenglim wrote:


jandarujora wrote:

With the way things are taught it is no wonder over 40% of high school graduates in America are considered functionally illiterate.


Where do you get your bullshit? Over 90 % of Americans are literate, if 40% of high school graduates are illiterate, wouldn't that number be higher?


I apologize, it was only 20% as stated here. This was from a couple or so years ago so who knows it might be a little higher now.


Bladerdash! You have cited a site of ill-repute! If you cited an official government report, or a report made by a group of good standing, then I will believe you. If over 90% of Americans are literate, and 20% of graduates of High School are illiterate, then, those 20% must be contained within the 10% of illiterate Americans, not all Americans attend school, like the mountains folks, therefore it is completely idiotic to think that.
Posted 10/29/10

longfenglim wrote:


jandarujora wrote:


longfenglim wrote:


jandarujora wrote:

With the way things are taught it is no wonder over 40% of high school graduates in America are considered functionally illiterate.


Where do you get your bullshit? Over 90 % of Americans are literate, if 40% of high school graduates are illiterate, wouldn't that number be higher?


I apologize, it was only 20% as stated here. This was from a couple or so years ago so who knows it might be a little higher now.


Bladerdash! You have cited a site of ill-repute! If you cited an official government report, or a report made by a group of good standing, then I will believe you. If over 90% of Americans are literate, and 20% of graduates of High School are illiterate, then, those 20% must be contained within the 10% of illiterate Americans, not all Americans attend school, like the mountains folks, therefore it is completely idiotic to think that.


You're just another person who thinks literacy is simply knowing how to read and write, but you don't even know what functional literacy means. It's a skill that's declining and must be assessed.
Posted 10/29/10

jandarujora wrote:


You're just another person who thinks literacy is simply knowing how to read and write, but you don't even know what functional literacy means. It's a skill that's declining and must be assessed.
Spelling error? You have a majority of men who can't critically analyze their own emotional state accurately, due to a lack of variety in vocabularies describing their oppressed emotions since childhood. Yet all you can care about is spelling error in the age of spell-check?

The Emotional Brain

If we look at emotions from purely a physiological standpoint, they turn out to be some of the most fundamental parts of our brain. Researchers have determined that our emotions are controlled in the brain stem, which regulates our involuntary functions and the middle area of our brain, which controls our basic drives, such as eating, and sleeping. Emotions come from and are related to some of the most primitive and primary areas of our brains.

According to Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., in his book, Emotional IQ, our emotions are designed to "motivate" or move us forward in life. Each emotion has a particular purpose in our personal evolution. Anger serves to give us the energy and strength necessary to change a situation, fear allows us to focus on the threat at-hand and evaluate a course of action, happiness increases energy and decreases inhibitions to achieve goals, love creates satisfaction and a state of rest or contentment, surprise allows us to take in more information about an unexpected event, disgust expresses a need to avoid an undesirable event or food, and sadness slows us down to adjust to a major disappointment and find solace in familiar people and places.

Dr. Goleman goes on to acknowledge that while males and females have the same emotional capacity, they are taught very different lessons about how to handle their emotions. Parents tend to discuss emotions more with daughters than sons. In studies of parents telling their children stories, girls are told stories more heavily laden with emotional words and situations than are boys. Mothers display a wider range of emotions when playing with their daughters than when they are playing with their sons. And even when parents talk to their children about emotions, they use more emotional descriptions with girls than with boys.(citation)
Also, while you're criticizing about how others downplayed literacy to just reading and writing, you OTOH made the exact same error of yourself focusing on the same thing; improve spelling with phonics, aka "functional literacy", is just about writing and reading! Congratulation, you just successfully turned human beings into uncritical type-monkeys, who can't even think for themselves because they can't argue well.[/sarcasm]

If you still don't see the importance of constructing a well critiqued human emotional sphere using critical literacy skill, then consider the following: first, it is known that psychopaths are emotionally "color blind":

Alexithymia and Lack of Emotional Intelligence

In 1991, Canadian psychologist Robert Hare released a study indicating that psychopaths may have different brains from the rest of us. While psychopaths remain intellectually aware of society's rules, they lack emotional intelligence. The profile of a psychopath includes impulsivity, lofty goals without the discipline or focus to achieve them, a propensity for boredom, no close personal attachments and of course, a lack of empathy. When Hare monitored psychopaths' brain waves while they examined certain words, including those that bring up a host of emotions for most people, he found that there was no activity in the parts of the brain involved in emotion. Hare described these psychopaths as "emotionally color-blind" to Maclean's magazine in 1996.

Hare's work seems to indicate that psychopaths have abnormal brain functions in areas related to processing emotion and language -- meaning that there's a neurological rationale for some heinous crimes, as opposed to some environmental factor such as child abuse. If these psychopaths were to be tested for IQ, they would likely show up as normal, but it's in a lack of emotional intelligence that we see the disturbances in brain health.

If a person is on the low end of the emotional intelligence spectrum, he or she may have a condition known as alexithymia. Alexithymia is the inability to understand or express emotion. Because of what scientists know about emotions in the brain, they theorize that alexithymia may either relate to a malfunctioning in the right hemisphere or an overactive left hemisphere (leaving the right hemisphere unable to compensate). It's also possible that the corpus callosum, the part of the brain that governs communication between the right and left sides of the brain, is damaged to the point of blocking the messages regarding emotion.(citation)
Second, consider the other side of the extreme, or unhealthy men who were socialized by their society to become emotionally repressed:

Over the past decade or so the effects of emotional expression on health, and the differences between men and women in this regard, have become more widely understood. An increasing body of research shows the importance of emotional expression on emotional well-being and, while the exact mechanism between emotional expression and health is not entirely clear, the link appears to exist. Men are traditionally thought of as being less emotional than women but the evidence points more towards a situation where men tend to show emotions that are bad for them and the people around them. Here is a quick overview of some of the research findings about men, their emotional expressions and their health.

Compared to Women:

# there is substantial evidence to show that men have more difficulty in expressing their emotions and exert greater controls over the expression of emotions.
# men spend more time ruminating over negative emotions.
# men share their emotions with far fewer.
# men express emotions with less intensity.
# men use less emotional language and fewer 'emotion' words.
# behavior seems less affected by expressions of emotion.
# men are more likely to under-report negative feelings.
# men are more willing to express emotions likely to be viewed as demonstrating power or control. For example, pride, anger and jealousy.

The Differences Explained

Most theorists agree that biological differences between men and women cannot explain differences in emotional expression. In terms of the supposed lack of emotion in men a more plausible explanation is the number and extent of social experiences men encounter from childhood that inhibit emotional expression. It has been pointed out that men and women live in different worlds when it comes to emotional expression. From early childhood most boys are exposed to fewer emotion-oriented conversations and are not encouraged to express emotions verbally. Yet, for example, the expression of rage if personal possessions or status is threatened, is seen not only as typically male, but in some situations encouraged and admired. The point is that men appear to experience exactly the same emotions as women but their expression is often and typically very different.(citation)
Thirdly, how human brain development still requires constant stimulation through healthy socialization process:

Play activities are essential to healthy development for children and adolescents. Research shows that 75% of brain development occurs after birth. The activities engaged in by children both stimulate and influence the pattern of the connections made between the nerve cells. This process influences the development of fine and gross motor skills, language, socialization, personal awareness, emotional well-being, creativity, problem solving and learning ability.(citation)
Forthly, how language itself is a socialization process within the cultural sphere:

"Language socialization is a concept the editors take to mean both socialization through language and socialization to use language. In the perspective taken in this volume, children and other novices in society acquire tacit knowledge of principles of social order and systems of belief (ethnotheories) through exposure to and participation in language-mediated interaction. We take for granted the noncontroversial and obvious sense of this statement, that the development of intelligence and knowledge is facilitated (to an extent) by children's communication with others. Instead we pursue the nontrivial dimensions of this statement. Our approach is to examine closely the verbal interactions of infants and small children with others (older children, adults) for their sociocultural structure. Our perspective is that sociocultural information is generally encoded in the organization of conversational discourse and that discourse with children is no exception. Many formal and functional features of discourse carry sociocultural information, including phonological and morphosyntactic constructions, the lexicon, speech-act types, conversational sequencing, genres, interruptions, overlaps, gaps, and turn length. In other words, part of the meaning of grammatical and conversational structures is sociocultural. These structures are socially organized and hence carry information concerning social order (as has been demonstrated by Labov 1966, 1973). They are also culturally organized and as such expressive of local conceptions and theories about the world. Language use is then a major if not the major tool for conveying sociocultural knowledge and a powerful medium of socialization. In this sense, we invoke Sapir (Mandelbaum 1949) and Whorf (1941) and suggest that children acquire a world view as they acquire a language." (Ochs, 1986, pp. 2-3)(citation)
Finally, the synthesis of how human emotions are the social glue in forming human interdependency:

Though emotions can cloud both intuitive and logical reasoning, logical reasoning does not suffer from emotional interference as much as intuitive reasoning. This is true because logic is a form of reasoning that can be shared. The social dynamic of logic creates a stabilizing foundation for it. No matter how mad we get, no matter how much we may not want it to be true, one plus one equals two. Even if we choose to act against logic, the ability to be self-aware of this choice is present. --

Intuitive reasoning, on the other hand, being rather spontaneous by nature, does not lend itself well to the process of dissection and community scrutiny. Consequently, whether a person has let go of the emotional baggage that can cloud intuitive reasoning is not always easy to discern. But we should expect that women would have a keener sense of intuition. The freedom that women enjoy for the expression of emotion helps to ensure that pent-up emotions do not distort intuition.

Now let's put it all together. Men tend to be more logical. Logic is a good thing. It's a socializable form of reasoning that is especially helpful in the performance of provider/protector roles. Women tend to be more intuitive. Intuition is a good thing. It is especially helpful for raising children; during the tender years good explanations are not nearly so important as good interactions. Logic and intuition each have their own sphere of application and complement each other very nicely.

Men tend to be better at repressing emotions. Emotional repression is a good thing, sometimes. It's good for getting really tough jobs done. But it is an obstacle to intimacy. Emotional repression must be balanced with emotional expression. In order for this balance to occur, two things need to happen. First, there must be a man who is willing to be intimate in this way. Second, there needs to be a woman who provides a safe space for the expression of emotion. This means that the expression of the full complement of human emotions is not perceived or treated as weakness. (This is harder than it sounds.)

Women tend to be better at expressing emotions. Emotional expression is a good thing, sometimes. Emotional expression helps us stay in touch with ourselves; emotions provide valuable self-knowledge. But emotions cloud reasoning. So, emotional expression must be balanced with emotional repression. In order for this balance to occur, two things need to happen. First, there must be a woman who is willing to turn emotions off when decisions need to be made. Second a couple needs to appreciate and respect the role and limitations of intuitive reasoning.

Intuitive reasoning is, of course, not the sole province of women any more than logical reasoning is the sole province of men. Men and women should strive to develop both of these abilities. And naturally, the expression of emotions and the creation of a safe space for the expression of emotions are things for both men and women to work on. The development of a noble character requires that we learn to respectfully express and receive emotions.

Distinguishing between logic, intuition, and emotion helps us understand why the opposite sex really is the complementary sex. There is much that men and women have to learn from each other. The health and happiness of our lives and the lives of our children depend on appreciating what comes naturally to the complementary sex.
(citation)
And yet you're here arguing on how to win a spelling-bee contest? Just exactly where are your priorities in relation to the big picture here?
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Posted 10/30/10 , edited 11/1/10

jandarujora wrote:


longfenglim wrote:


jandarujora wrote:


longfenglim wrote:


jandarujora wrote:

With the way things are taught it is no wonder over 40% of high school graduates in America are considered functionally illiterate.


Where do you get your bullshit? Over 90 % of Americans are literate, if 40% of high school graduates are illiterate, wouldn't that number be higher?


I apologize, it was only 20% as stated here. This was from a couple or so years ago so who knows it might be a little higher now.


Bladerdash! You have cited a site of ill-repute! If you cited an official government report, or a report made by a group of good standing, then I will believe you. If over 90% of Americans are literate, and 20% of graduates of High School are illiterate, then, those 20% must be contained within the 10% of illiterate Americans, not all Americans attend school, like the mountains folks, therefore it is completely idiotic to think that.


You're just another person who thinks literacy is simply knowing how to read and write, but you don't even know what functional literacy means. It's a skill that's declining and must be assessed.


Because that is what literacy is, the ability to read and write.

Functional literacy is the ability to read and write at a level needed to be a functioning member of society.

Now, don't feel silly- accusing me of being another person who think that illiteracy is what it is, the inability to read and write, hence the prefix il- infront of the word 'literacy'.

And, if you did your research, functional illiteracy is around that number in all civilised nation, not excluding Great Britain. Does this excuse us, no, but does it fit to your Anti-American world views? Not at all.
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