For those of us in the communications business, it’s been common to proclaim a general decline in the art and practice of writing. How many times have we all seen a resume with numerous misspellings, an email with pointless ramblings and poor grammar, or a presentation with mind-numbing detail and no articulated insights?
The fault, I feared, is in our current educational system, turning out reams of students with little ability to write, let alone think.
Well, a recent personal experience has changed my view and given me hope. I’ve begun volunteering weekly at a writing clinic at a local public high school. Like other volunteers in the program, I’ve undergone training to understand the new criteria upon which high school students are now trained for writing, a product of the state-wide assessment tests adopted almost everywhere.
While emphasis is highly focused on development and construction of a thesis statement (somewhat rigidly, in my opinion), the rules for good word choice, grammar and spelling thankfully have not changed in this age of texting and emoticons. Kids still get points docked for misspelling and poor sentence structure, and are pushed to actually evolve their own point of view while considering the authors’ content, tone and style.
The real revelation comes from the actual sit-down with the individual students who wander into the clinic. Typically fourteen years old, and representing a wide cross-section of Chicago’s ethnic diversity, they are bright, conscientious, and eager to get the benefit of the volunteers’ time. I’ve helped with a wide range of essay subjects, too: From “The Canterbury Tales” to “Why I Joined Junior ROTC,” each session has been eye-opening and gratifying, as well as elevating my hopes for a new generation of writers!