Quote of the week

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.







6 comments

  1. Dan »

    21 September 2012 · 12:41 pm

    “We’re so surprised!” said no college English professor, ever.

  2. McGehee »

    21 September 2012 · 2:00 pm

    My alma mater required (still may) all undergraduates to write an essay to be scored 1-6 points by two judges.

    I don’t remember anymore what topic I was given — or what choices I was allowed to choose from, if that’s how it happened — but I do remember earning a perfect 12 on the final product.

    Of course, this was after my professor in Political Thought asked me to make copies of my first paper for his class so the other students could see how it’s done. So I think I had a suspicion my essay would pass muster…

  3. Charles Pergiel »

    21 September 2012 · 4:27 pm

    Peg’s quoting those numbers like it’s a bad thing. When are we going to over the idea that everyone needs to know everything? If people are satisfied with not knowing, hey, more power to me. I recommend expelling anyone who misbehaves in school, and rounding up the dropouts and shipping them off to the farm to pull weeds.

  4. Charles Pergiel »

    21 September 2012 · 4:28 pm

    Some days I enjoy being a troll.

  5. Teresa »

    21 September 2012 · 6:30 pm

    If you’ve ever listened to teachers speak to television reporters, this should not surprise you at all. It’s difficult to teach students to write proper essays when one has a difficult time speaking the language properly.

    Of course I’m not exactly sure I could produce a “sophisticated, well-­organized essay” myself. Which means I shouldn’t criticize too heavily.

  6. fillyjonk »

    22 September 2012 · 9:53 am

    What Dan said is also true of this biology professor.

    What gets me is when I use what I think is a perfectly valid and reasonable word in an exam question, and I get three people to ask me to define it for them.

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