Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Do Modern Students Needs Traditional Writing Skills?

In an article entitled “How to Teach Kids to Write Effectively,” Penelope Trunk suggests that learning traditional writing skills is a waste of time for the modern student. In fact, she goes so far as to intimate that old fashioned skills such as 5 paragraph papers, stories, and letter writing are counter productive to a student’s future success in the work place.

According to the article, the modern student should instead be taught “work place writing”  - aka video making, email etiquette and instant messaging. Ms. Trunk maintains that any other writing skills will hurt ones chances of obtaining a job at all. Teachers should focus on typing, informational video making, and social media style communication.

Both the teacher in me as well a the parent within find it hard to stomach this short sighted view of writing as a life skill. I cannot imagine a world in which good writing constitutes a well constructed 100 character tweet. I refuse to believe that education geared toward impressing a future boss is any kind of education at all. After all, education should be a path toward becoming a well rounded individual who can communicate well and think critically. A proper and thorough education prepares a student for life long learning in any curriculum or field of his choice. If one follows Ms. Trunk’s logic of education, the modern student should also forgo reading the classics of literature giants such as Faulkner and Dickens. Why bother honing comprehension skills if only to read Facebook and emails?  Why read at all if the future of communication lies in video messaging? With this grim outlook of our future generation, I worry about their ability to contribute in the world marketplace and provide global  leadership.

Through learning traditional writing forms such as the 5 paragraph paper and journalism, students learn punctuation, sentence structure, and clarity of thought and organization. In a nutshell, students become proficient communicators which carries over into their speech and confidence.  Even in a job which requires little formal writing, communication will be key—and written and verbal communication go hand in hand.

I cringe at the thought of a world in which writing is so devalued that people cannot correctly place commas or construct a complete sentence. Whether it be taking cursive writing out of schools or rendering traditional writing skills defunct, today’s society needs to stake its claim on the value of a traditional curriculum. Otherwise, the “modern student” will likely be come synonymous with an incompetent one.

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