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You Write Therefore You Think
Pace Réné Descartes. Good writing was in the news the other day when the Times ran a story on an academic journal, William H. Fitzhugh’s Concord Review, that publishes outstanding research papers by high school seniors. The back story described the generally poor standard of writing by students and professionals:
“I can’t count all the lawyers who say their firms have organized remedial classes for all the associates who can’t write,” Mr. Fitzhugh said.
The culprit? Students do too little writing in school:
Mr. Fitzhugh persuaded the Albert Shanker Institute, a research group associated with the teachers’ union that Mr. Shanker led, to finance a nationwide survey of public school history teachers in 2002.
About 95 percent of them said assigning long research papers was important, but 8 out of 10 said they never did because they had too little time to read and grade them.
In September, President Kim commented on the importance of writing:
In his Convocation address, Kim encouraged the Class of 2014 to make the study of the humanities a priority.
“Don’t make my mistake of not engaging in [the study of the humanities] until after you graduate,” he said.
In addition, Kim also stressed the importance of competent and persuasive writing.
“The ability to write clearly, effectively and creatively may very well be the most important skill you will be taught in your time here,” Kim said. “For you to succeed in your world-changing mission, you must leave Dartmouth with the ability to think clearly, imaginatively and critically and then render your thoughts in the written word.”
To date, President Kim has not followed up these thoughts with data on how well the College teaches students to write, nor with suggestions for improving the teaching writing at Dartmouth — a pressing need according to every faculty member with whom I have spoken over the past two decades. I wish that he would do so. Using a speech to raise an important topic, and then not following through with action about it, leads one to wonder what President Kim sees as the purpose of a speech. As we reviewed on Wednesday, the declaration that a subject is important is only the very first step in the exercise of leadership.
Note: Good writing does not come naturally. As the wonderful NYT sports columnist, Red Smith, once opined, “Writing is easy — all you have to do is open your veins and bleed.”
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
August 23, 2009
Fare Thee Well, Tom Crady
And now Dean Tom Crady has precipitously announced his departure from the College after only 20 months on the job. How to read this? By way of background, prior to coming to Dartmouth, Crady had…
May 31, 2009
Kangaroo Court, Indeed
In an interview with The Dartmouth, alumni-elected trustee T.J. Rodgers ‘70 explained his reasons for declining to participate in future evaluations of trustees up for “re-election,” namely the “kangaroo court” nature of such discussion in…