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High schools and their education of proper writing techniques.
360 cr points
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27 / F / Los Angeles
Posted 11/2/10 , edited 11/2/10
I think that high schools have yet to have a major overhaul. The whole approach to curriculum must be changed. There might have been a time where what is being taught was enough to get by in life but the education standards obviously are not anymore.

That's why some people would say students must go to college because college degrees are becoming mandatory to get even minimum wage jobs (at least where I am from - I live in Los Angeles, CA). A degree is the new high school diploma and that's why your being taught in college all the stuff you wish your teachers had taught you better in high school.

29209 cr points
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Seattle Wa.
Posted 11/2/10 , edited 11/2/10
Lol, if you don't like essay writing good luck.
While I agree with the primary poster that many of the required books issues in high school might seem improper for building a strong writing base, you need to understand you read them to see what good writing skills can do not necessarily to show you how to write. Essays are a beast all on their own, and each one will react differently depending on the professor you happen to be writing for. So basically there are as many different ways to write an essay as there are professors you will take in high school or college. But warning, don't dismiss them as pointless, there are several jobs that require good writing skill upon entry, not to mention I recently applied for a scholarship that required a 7 page essay. I am by no means a great writer and forums are not a place to shine since there is no merit in it but I thought maybe another real world example might help someone try a bit harder next time they have to write an essay.
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51 / F / Toronto
Posted 11/3/10 , edited 11/3/10
The most important thing to take away from High School is how to learn. How to question, How to deconstruct an argument. How to research how to know a source document from a secondary document. how to know which books you need to read first in order to understand higher level books. And how to argue (With Essays as written argument).

With those tools you can conquer any other knowledge based task set before you.
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29 / F / Detroit, MI
Posted 11/10/10 , edited 11/10/10
Uh, what? You gotta be trolling.

For your first issue: what kind of schools are you going to? My middle schools taught the building blocks of writing essays. And before you say that things have changed, I've also taught in schools (public schools btw) where they're doing this every day. Maybe you should have paid better attention.

As for your second point, yes there are tons of tricks and tips to writing essays. I graduated from college with a degree in English by practically learning the shortcuts so well I could write A level papers in my sleep.

As for the 3rd: not proper essay writing material? And you want them to read SCHOLARLY ESSAYS? You must be trolling, there is no way you can actually think that students will get through the first paragraph without falling asleep. Not to mention, they need to read the stories in order to know what the articles are about. Being able to decipher the symbols, themes, motifs and what the author was trying to say are perfect for writing essays.
Posted 11/13/10 , edited 11/13/10
hoos too sei whot propur wraiteeng iz?
4328 cr points
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23 / F / HK
Posted 5/26/12 , edited 5/27/12
try senior IB.
If we get questions asking us for a short answer, we write paragraphs.
If we get a asking "paragraph form" we write 1000 word essays. I know quality over quantity... but we're all nerds in the program.
I'm not saying we write a lot, but I guess what I'm trying to say is, that not all high schools have bad writing techniques.
Posted 5/27/12 , edited 5/28/12
They'll tell you what they were told is right, but Queen's English is the only right English. All others are dialects.
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Posted 7/27/12 , edited 7/28/12

makix wrote:

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.

You seem like a really good writer...
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29 / M
Posted 7/29/12 , edited 7/29/12

longfenglim wrote:

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.

^I'm assuming we don't want students being so creative in the way they present information in an essay that the writing won't be immediately accessible to a reader who picks up the essay. To prevent over-creativity, there are guidelines. As a creative writing major, I can assure you that creative writing (fiction, nonfiction, poetry) is nothing like writing an essay. I can also assure you that having too much freedom in your writing can be very daunting, since it can make it hard to begin writing at all. It takes a disciplined and skilled writer to create a good piece from scratch. In creative writing, you are focusing on a 'feel' for the words just as much as the definition of a word (in poetry, at least). A synonym for a certain word might fail completely at what it is trying to accomplish even though the definitions are identical, reducing the power of of your prose. Diction and rhythm are essential parts of creative writing. It's a lot harder to write a good creative piece than it is to write a coherent and well-reasoned essay, probably because the creative process is not that straightforward. Essays are more lenient because the only purpose of an essay is to present information. Writing an essay about a topic I understand is very easy and very 'HURR-DURR.' You merely present your view and lay out the facts that support it while following the accepted format. In fact, doing the reading and research requires more effort than writing the actual paper. It's nothing compared to writing a good short story or a decent poem.

Just follow the format and make sure you understand what you are writing about. A certain amount of 'gear-switching' is required when switching writing styles. It gets tiring. I've had quarters in which I took poetry, non-fiction, and fiction workshops while also taking an English course required for graduation. They are not the same and no creative writing course should ever be combined with a regular English course. An English class is supposed to help a student prepare the necessary tools for good writing and proper speech. It's all about the rules when learning to use English. Grammar, diction, punctuation, structure...very 'dead' stuff. Very simple stuff. Creating something should come only after learning to properly use the tools. Using 'creativity' as a guise for tolerating bad writing greatly harms students in the long run. I've seen plenty of it in my creative writing workshops, especially my poetry workshops. Similarly, if the information is presented in a cryptic way that makes it hard to access, the essay will have been pointless to write.

The current guidelines that I follow when writing essays aren't too constricting, anyway, and I still have room to use flowery language in an attempt to BS some points that I'm not clear on (usually due to my bad habit of skimming through material that doesn't pique my interest). It nearly always works. Most of my essays have: Intro with thesis > 3 body paragraphs, each focusing on one aspect of the thesis > conclusion that restates everything above. I do not use first-person language when writing an essay. That's pretty much it, and most of my essays get As. Students must learn to analyze and comprehend what they are reading. It's more about the content than the format. Format is easy. Comprehension is harder. Adding creativity into the equation will make it more difficult for both the instructor and the student himself to tell whether he understands the reading material or not.

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