which focused on whether or not we were convinced slavery was a profitable or not-profitable institution during the antebellum period. It seems simple enough right? So why then did so many talk instead about everything but that? Many of the essay answers were about the morality of slavery and anything else the writer could think of--anything that is, except profitability. I read a few and was bored by the rest. Did anyone put as much time and effort into their essay as I did? Some do, but sadly most do not.
Several students wrote their essays about their personal beliefs regarding the morality of slavery but never once touched on the actual question which had NOTHING to do with morality!!! The question was purely one of economics.
Besides the whole issue of these students not being able to actually write on topic, there is the more pressing issue of lack of grammar skills and the inability to write in the simple format of the five paragraph essay which one learns in freshman comp. If you can't master that, you shouldn't move on to the higher level writing courses.
Dr. Derek Bok, professor Emeritus and former President of Harvard wrote a book titled "Our Underachieving Colleges" and he touched on this very issue. You should read it, it is very interesting.
I've worked in higher education a long time now and while I have seen some phenomenal college level writing, most of what I have seen or heard at the undergraduate level is appalling. When a student in heavy writing courses in the areas of history, philosophy or even religion turn in papers which couldn't pass muster in 10th grade english, I often wonder about the grades they earned early on in their English comp courses. If a student turns in shabby writing at the upper division levels, and earned poor grades in their comp courses, they never should have even made it that far without some remediation to help them. And if they turn in shabby writing at the upper division and they earned high grades in their comp courses, then something just isn't right--like maybe grade inflation. An "A" used to mean superior and excellent. But when everyone in the class receives the A even the ones who didn't put in the effort, the A isn't an A anymore is it?
Yeah so I'm only slightly anal-retentive about this subject. I'm not obsessive about it but it's something that bothers me. I feel very strongly about education and I feel that we should expect more of ourselves and not just settle for what is merely "ok".
I'll admit that like mom, I am a natural born speller and the written word comes easy for me once I get going. Fortunately my writing only improves with age. My academic writing and my editorial stuff I submit to the newspapers is serious for me. When I write an academic paper or letter to the editor or something in which I want to be taken seriously by the audience, I focus and am careful in my writing because I believe what I submit is a direct reflection of who I am and I want to be proud of it and I want to earn respect by putting forth my best effort.
The funny thing is while I enjoy writing and am good at the use of vocabulary and written placement of my thoughts, the spoken word doesn't come as easily to me. Oh I can talk, but I can't speak the way I write. I wish I could, but I can't. Why fight it? Go with what you know and do best. For me, it's writing. Ask my folks, they'll tell you that I've been fascinated by words since I began reading at age three, I read everything I could get my hands on and still do!
I feel that most undergraduate students can do better, and those guiding them have to expect more from them and lead by example. It begins at home and extends to the professor in their courses. We (yes, WE) have to do a better job. I say that as a student, as one who works in higher education and as one who would someday like dabble a bit in teaching history at the high school level.
I expect more of myself because I know I can always do better and I suppose I assume others should expect that of themselves too. Some do, some don't. This isn't about being perfect, that is impossible, no--this is about being proud of yourself and the knowledge that you have put forth the very best that you've got.
If you don't have the desire to do that, then don't waste your time in college.