THE DECLINE OF ENGLISH SKILLS

This subject – the lack of English skills among children, even college students, in the United States – is a little off-course for an essentially political blog.  But worthwhile enough, I think, to make note of.

Excerpted from George Leef’s commentary at nationalreview.com:

One of the amazing things about our education system is that large numbers of students no longer learn basic things, so we often hear complaints that college grads can’t do simple math, can’t understand easy documents, and can’t write clearly. 

Writing professor John Maguire…explains that they are not taught well in their earlier years, largely due to the malign influence of educationist theories that have emanated from the ed schools (in particular, Teachers College at Columbia). They don’t learn sentence grammar. Nevertheless, students graduate from high school under the impression that they are good writers since they’ve been given high grades…through…rigid insistence that expressiveness is all that matters, and the skills in the basics of capitalization and periods don’t matter.”

It used to be that teachers in grade school drilled writing basics into students and high school teachers refined their abilities. Now, thanks to “progressive” education theories, it’s year after year of banalities, with never a red mark to be seen.

And what happens in college? Students must go through a writing course where the professor (usually a harried adjunct) is supposed to “brush up” their long-neglected grammar. That’s too little, too late, but college officials pretend that one course is adequate. After freshman year, students usually encounter no further serious attention to their writing. 

Is this true?  If so, how long has it been going on?

I’d like to draw from some personal experience to answer those questions.

When our younger son was in college, he was unsure of what major to take.  He asked the advice of a school counselor, and was told he should consider English.

When I was his age (how’s that for a cliché?) anyone who took english as a major was either going to grad school, teaching or journalism; end of story.

But, the counselor advised, these days there are so few people coming out of school with any serious ability to write coherently that it would open the doors to areas like advertising, public relations, etc. – business that, in the past, would have scorned an English major.

He majored in English, and – I don’t like to talk about our family here, but trust me when I tell you that he has an extremely responsible position at a company germane to the counselor’s advice.

That was 20 years ago.  And it has only gotten worse since.

Some years ago, a business I owned with two partners needed someone to manage a telephone interviewing room.  One of my partners and I flew to the city our business was in and spent the day interviewing potential managers.  By the end of the days I was nearly in tears (that’s not meant to be dramatic, I really was) – because, one after the other, we had college grads waving degrees at us who barely demonstrated effective communications skills verbally, let alone in writing.

And – again – it has only gotten worse since.

We are busy patting ourselves on the back and telling ourselves how enightened and progressive we are…as the rest of the world surpasses us in basic skills, and continues to put more and more distance between us.

This has to stop.  But I can assure you that neither of the Democrat candidates for President is going to do a thing to reverse it.

The best thing I can say about the Republican candidates is they might – might – try.  But I have no confidence they will.

We are in big trouble.  Trouble of our own making.  Someone had better start thinking about it…and doing something about it….ASAP.

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