I remember thinking my children weren’t getting the quality of education they needed in high school. Later, the same thoughts went through my head when my grandchildren took that step. Five years ago, when I decided to enter college, I saw an article that said about 75% of college freshmen had to take remedial courses – graduating seniors lacked the knowledge needed to even enroll in college math or English 101.
Last week, another article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette said things have not improved. Two-thirds of Arkansas students who took state exams in english/language arts and three-fourths of those who took math tests require remediation. Ayy-yi-yi!
When I was in school, education was based on repetition. Learn something one year, then re-learn it the first half of the next year, then review everything up to that point, then something new at the end and repeat it all the next year. Yeah, it got boring. In ninth grade, my teacher dragged out grammar texts for grades 10,11,and 12. We studied all of them at the same time… exactly the same things,in each book. I had nowhere to go but forward - then had the same things for the next three years.
Here’s a novel idea. Teach us something correctly the first time. We’re not dumb. Make sure we’ve learned it before we go to the next grade. Then teach us something more the next year. If we did this, think what we could learn in the first twelve years!
From a writer’s standpoint, here’s what’s worrisome. When I first began to pursue this hobby, I ran across advice that said, “Write to an eighth grade level.” What is that, exactly?
I know eighth graders who are reading at college level (which, apparently is changing…) and others still stumbling through run, Spot,run. So I decided at the beginning – if I understand what I am writing, then surely there’s an audience out there that will also get it.
What language skills does the average adult reader possess, and are they better or worse than 10-20-30 years ago? Do you make a conscious decision to write for a certain reading skill? For those of you who decide to aim at a certain market, is there a danger that your audience is changing? Even if you write for children, that’s like tossing a dart at a chart and deciding that’s what you are aiming at after it hits.
And what about entry-level writers? Oh,my – that’s another issue isn’t it? I’d like to think that those that pursue writing are the cream of the crop regarding language skills, but perhaps not. What if we are destined to have novels that are written in text-ese…with all those LOL’s, ROFL’s, and IMHO’s. Is our language going down the tubes?
Even now, we read old novels and marvel at the stilted formality of the language and talk about how it has evolved. Will others, 50 years from now, be saying the same thing about OUR work? If this gets increasingly worse, as seems to be the case, is great literature going to be discarded as too difficult to comprehend?
Anybody else got opinions on this?