Given my not-awful score on the Verbal section of the SAT, you might have thought I was a passable writer in those days. I was not. And, says Peg Tyre in The Atlantic, things have only gotten worse since then:
According to the Nation’s Report Card, in 2007, the latest year for which this data is available, only 1 percent of all 12th-graders nationwide could write a sophisticated, well-organized essay. Other research has shown that 70 to 75 percent of students in grades four through 12 write poorly. Over the past 30 years, as knowledge-based work has come to dominate the economy, American high schools have raised achievement rates in mathematics by providing more-extensive and higher-level instruction. But high schools are still graduating large numbers of students whose writing skills better equip them to work on farms or in factories than in offices; for decades, achievement rates in writing have remained low.
Fortunately for me, IBM’s various control languages aren’t particularly nuanced, and they pay the bills around here. Still, I was well into my forties before I got to the point where I wasn’t thoroughly embarrassed with my command of written English. Not that anyone is threatening to turn me into a farmhand or a factory worker, exactly, but c’est la vie.