Thursday, May 5, 2011


Hilarious Bookbinder writes:
I don't believe the real problem is grammar, spelling and punctuation, but something more along the lines of how to put together a convincing argument. The average student hasn't learned anything more complex than a five-paragraph essay. The ability to identify and employ the appropriate variations on that form is important for introductory-level work. Most freshmen are not up to the task (there was a kid in my own freshman English composition class who produced a seven-page paper of five paragraphs. reasonably smart guy, but clearly didn't 'get it').

Advanced work requires the sort of things I mentioned in the post--having read the work and thought about it and being able to say something that demonstrates a beyond-surface grasp of the material. That constitutes a reasonable standard for an 'A' paper, but you would be shocked by how many students cannot sustain that effort over five or ten pages. I'm not sure I would have believed it myself until I started grading.

Oh, well, in that case, count FLG among those with "little skill in English composition."


Anonymous said...

In Lake Wobegone, all of the children are above average. Here in America, though, half are below. dave.s.

Withywindle said...

For a traditional definition: we don't teach grammar properly, and then expect students to be able to deal with rhetoric.

arethusa said...

It's not just grammar and rhetoric, though those are important. As HB observes, it's also the ability to think critically, and to be able to recognize and formulate a good argument based on verifiable evidence or logical principles.

I would rather have the last element than the first two, and I will say that sometimes I give students higher grades than others would if they display sufficient quality of mind.

Alpheus said...

Arethusa: I think Withy meant rhetoric in the Aristotelian sense, which does include critical thinking, development of arguments, etc.

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