Reading, Writing, and Rational Arguments

IUSB Vision brings to light an interesting and worrisome trend in education today: Students are so used to writing what they feel that they aren’t able to construct arguments based on facts.

The English Professor:

By the time that the students got to the research unit in my class, their stark underpreparedness for the task had already begun rearing its ugly head.  As the article states, there is way too much emphasis in writing curricula across the U.S. on “self-expression” and creative writing.  Students had not been trained to use facts to develop an idea.  They had been fed garbage throughout their entire academic careers – the garbage that whatever they write down is OK and that their ideas matter.  Students were aghast when I suggested that their ideas didn’t matter unless they had hard, concrete facts to back them up.  Students had also not learned how to tie in facts to their statements – they would simply make a statement and list random facts that may or may not have supported it.  So, while trying to teach the students how to use MLA format, create a proper Works Cited page, include in-text citations, and find information relating to their topics, I also had to teach basic expository writing skills that they should have learned many years ago.  This proved impossible to do in the small time frame I had to do it. I was basically playing catch-up for years of writing training while at the same time teaching a complicated skill set that was brand new to practically all of the students in my class.

Teacher training is also grossly to blame.  I attended a prestigious educational school (which did prepare me adequately on many levels), but I found many of my education classes to be highly lacking.  My “Teaching Writing” course focused very little (if at all) at actual methodologies for teaching the various types of writing.  Instead, it focused on “creating a community of writers” and “not focusing on the grammar or style – helping students to find their unique voices” and “allowing students to choose meaningful topics that will showcase their personal experiences”… you get the point.  It would not be a gross inaccuracy to say that I learned absolutely nothing in my English education courses that would allow me to properly train students on this quite important skill.

Well I have news for this English teacher; this problem has gone on for so long that it is not just students who are struggling with this.

Gee, maybe this explains why so many young people are leftists, and why so many leftists argue based upon feeling rather than fact and logic.

I have engaged in hundreds of political/economic discussions with students and professors in my years at IUSB and the English teacher is spot on. If you look at the arguments in the comments section of this web site up to the year 2009 it is also obvious that students cannot tie facts into their arguments. To them XXX statement they make is so because they say so and in their mind they have just proved the article writer wrong without even attempting to address a host of verifiable facts in said article.

Yup, sounds about right.

During my last year on campus no less than four professors pulled me into their office and asked me if it was difficult to pass their class or do the assigned papers. In most of these classes the assignments ranged from not challenging to moderately challenging. These professors are baffled that so many kids fail out and cannot do assignments that are relatively easy. While for sure it is a case that some students just would not do the work, it was becoming clear that recent local high school graduates just couldn’t.

For those of us who graduated high school before the late 80′s what I just said is difficult to imagine, but it is a stark reality. This reality became even more stark for me when a young lady I have known almost since birth who is now in her early 20′s started attending classes at IUSB. She is failing out of W-131 because the concepts she is being asked to tackle and the assignments given are over her head. They are over her head not because said young lady is stupid, on the contrary she has comedian level rhetorical wit and is obviously intelligent, she is simply ignorant and unprepared due to a high school diploma that isn’t worth the paper it is written on.

I can’t help but worry that some of this is intentional, but my paranoia isn’t the issue here — it’s the fact that students are not equipped to construct and defend logical, factual arguments, and that makes for rather poor results in whatever field they choose to end up in, not to mention the potential impact of social and political policy.

Read the whole thing.

And a follow up-article is given here. Read it, too.

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