Saturday, June 09, 2012

A reader at iSteve comments on Are the English better at English?:

California schools are making a big push for reading and writing. I know my children's elementary school requires 20 minutes of reading a night, starting in kindergarten. Children have a Reading Counts (Scholastic Books program where children take a computer test on books they've read) point goal they have to meet each grade period and point totals are posted for the class. It becomes a competition within the class. My children had to start writing structured paragraphs in first grade. They do a lot more writing than I ever did as a child.
I have noticed this in the classroom as well. 5th and 6th graders are learning to write essays, a skill I didn't learn until 7th or 8th grade. Another example of accelerating the curriculum in order to make up (prevent) failure at the upper grades? I learned that my so-called "college writing" skills I picked up in HS were not really adequate for the college-level, as the course in rhetoric plus two years at Christendom showed me.

When students do not know how to write sentences well or good grammar, should they be learning how to compose essays? Along with grammar, essay composition requires some knowledge of argumentation and rhetoric. Backing up opinion is just the start to learning how to reason well. Do 5th and 6th graders have enough experience to write details or observations for a persuasive essay? The imposition of the order of learning must be age-appropriate or what is being imparted will be wasted. But contemporary mass education, being pressured to produce results and remedy poor performances by high school students, has no time for this.

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