Letter to the Editor: Reading deserves a chance
I would like to thank you for publishing “Education system should focus on writing.” It is a good and well-researched article that indeed addresses a serious problem in education. However, I have some critiques to the argument.
In his article, Jorden Smith, senior staff columnist and president of the College Republicans, argues that writing has been neglected over reading. He cites that one can find a lot of “after-school reading programs,” but none for writing.
Despite all the reading initiatives and reading classics, Smith also points out that, according to “The Nation’s Report Card: Writing 2011,” apparently “only about a quarter of students are at a proficient level in writing.”
Smith fails to address actual specifics in some of his claims. For example, he claims we “still read and study classics from centuries past because they’re still relevant.” But do we? I argue that in high school we do not read classics and, if we do, we do not read nearly enough.
For the entire first semester of high school, we spent all our time in English I taking mock TAKS tests, pre-SAT tests and read absolutely nothing.
During English II, our syllabus said we would read “The Iliad” and Dante’s “Inferno,” yet when we got to these texts we skipped reading “The Iliad” entirely and only read small sections of “Inferno.”
In English III, we spent a lot of the time doing mock AP tests instead of read books. The number of works we read in high school per year averaged to about two to three.
While Smith recognizes that many people cannot write well, he also fails to specify how much we write in high school.
When I was in English III, we wrote two short essays and one short research essay. In English I and II, most writing assignments were short and not given regularly. It wasn’t until I took Composition I and II, as well as my English literature classes here at UH, that I actually wrote essays, read books and improved my writing.
Smith makes good points about writing and reading, but he fails to address possible solutions for solving the writing problem. Based on my experiences taking English literature courses here at UH, I would like to offer some possible solutions.
For all four years of high school, students should read five to 10 books a semester of various lengths and genres. Texts should include mythological texts, historical texts, academic works, fiction, drama, poetry, film and other media. Periods should include all four core civilizations, which are Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. Students should also read major medieval works like “Beowulf,” “Poetic Edda” and works from the Enlightenment to now.
Students should then write a combination of five short essays, the moderate essays and one research analytical paper a semester. Students should also have a strong understanding of grammar, syntax, diction and style.
I think Smith raises a very important issue. I like how he addresses the irony of we as a nation focus so much attention on reading and not enough on writing. My only wish was that he gave more specific examples. Other than that, I praise him for addressing a very important issue that often gets pushed aside by other crazy and silly issues in politics today. He has my thanks.
Travis Kane is an English literature senior and a regular contributor to Cooglife magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]