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Education system should focus on writing


There has been too much emphasis on reading in the U.S. It’s time we shift our focus and treat writing with just as much importance as reading. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Today’s job market is — to put it lightly — extremely competitive. Employers are looking for employees who have any edge that will help their businesses prosper in this economy.

While there has been such an emphasis on reading in our country, we need to realize that we are doing a disservice to our youth by leaving out writing. Reading skills are important to the future of most children, but the ability to properly relay a message can also be crucial when seeking and maintaining a job.

Although a résumé may show a new employee with enough experience to skip an entry-level position, employers are slowly finding out that a lot of people entering the workforce can’t write.

Forgotten skill

In 2011, Garry Cosnett, head of global equity communication at the asset management firm T. Rowe Price, said that the most intelligent students in elite business schools across the U.S. can’t write at the level expected of them.

“These are people who all did the very best at the best schools, probably since preschool,” Cosnett said. “But they really have not developed their writing skills to the degree that they would have to to succeed in this organization.”

Some blame this phenomenon on the Internet, cellphones and new communication technologies. But that doesn’t fully explain the writing drought that the U.S. is facing. This issue runs deeper than that: It runs on the proposition of how our society has prioritized teaching English.

If you were to Google “reading initiative,” you would find initiatives for after-school reading programs in many states that are endorsed by smiling celebrities and the foundations of political leaders. All of that to get kids to read — a good cause that no one can argue with.

In that same vein, search “writing initiative” and you’ll receive results from various universities, all patting themselves on the back for trying to get students (mainly freshmen) to write in designated classes.

The question then becomes, “Why do we put so much stock in getting children to read, but not really think about the next logical step that is to write?”

In Sept. of 2012, the Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics put out a landmark report titled “The Nation’s Report Card: Writing 2011.” This report is not wholly surprising — according to the NCES, only about a quarter of students are at a proficient level in writing.

That’s a disturbing statistic for humanity seeing as modern civilization is built on the back of writing.

The pen is mightier

It’s an odd situation we’ve seemingly put ourselves in — to focus exclusively on one of the two essential ways to communicate in the modern world. We so easily forget that the written word is incomparable to any other kind of communication. We still read and study classics from centuries past because they’re still relevant.

Society focuses so much attention on reading it forgets the relationship it has with writing: you read to write better and vice versa.

It’s time society gets back to valuing the written word and stops focusing solely on reading in classrooms and after-school programs. Writing is extremely valuable because it takes us to imaginative worlds and helps us at work every day.

Let’s stop teaching writing as though it’s a set formula like math, but rather as a way to express life in new and visionary ways.

We are all indebted to those who came before us, those who learned how to effectively write down their ideas that have shaped today’s world. Let’s continue that tradition and teach the kids of America to write again.

Opinion columnist Jorden Smith is a political science junior and president of the College Republicans. He can be reached at [email protected].

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