Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Well no wonder! 

College students can't write, Joanne Jacobs notes, because they never learned in high school.

A few weeks before Rachel Vosika graduated this year from Pacific High School in San Bernardino, she worked on the biggest research paper she'd ever been assigned - a three-page biography of Virginia Woolf. She needed at least four sources, all of which could be from the Internet.

The effects of this trend show up in college classes. Fewer than half of students turn in papers relatively free of language errors, according to a 2002 survey of professors at California's public colleges and universities.

Joanne links to Dan Weintraub, who says that while teachers complain that they can't do this because of things like the social science standards, that's not true. They don't do it because nobody makes them, when making them wouldn't be hard:

If you look at the WW II standard, you can imagine a unit that would include some outside reading and conclude with a term paper requiring students to cover several of the points detailed in the standards. Students would have to show the very qualities teachers say they want to teach: understanding, not just memorization, critical thinking, analysis.

Am I dreaming? Of course, given where students are today. But 11th grade students were once capable of doing this kind of work. And they could be, again.