This week my kids are on spring vacation from school. One of my sons, who had done poorly on the writing essay portion of
the SATs, along with two of his buddies, will be taking a class I am teaching on how to write an essay for the test.
The SAT does not ask you to be creative; instead it asks you to follow a format. It wants to see if you can follow rules. When asked for an essay, you had better provide one using 5 paragraphs with the following format:
· Example 1
· Example 2
Or you will fail.
“Can I use “I”?” one of the kids asked.
Nope, the graders don’t care what you think. They only want to see that the structure has been followed - is your thesis sentence in the right place, do you have 5 facts in each example paragraph, and have you acknowledged the other point of view?
“I’m not teaching you how to be a good writer,” I started the class with, “I want you to understand that I am simply teaching you how to write for a specific test.”
“What about personal opinion?”
“What voice should I use?”
Only authoritative and never chummy, do not have a friendly discussion with your reader. Assume that you are in a court of law and you need to convince the jurors of your position.
One boy in the class told me that he was told by his English teacher that if he couldn’t come up with a reference for the test essay to make one up, but to be sure to make it “looks like it’s real.”
This is what writing has come down to. And while I understand the need for some sort of metrics, it makes me sick that our kids, the future of tomorrow, are being taught to write like this.
This is a formula - follow it. Breaking from the mold will result in failure.
If you can’t make it, then fake it, as long as you can conform to the standards.
While we are rapidly heading into a world where group allegiance to the whole will be demanded from kids who are taught to numbingly follow the rules, in my world of art and creativity, we are silently weeping.