Rigorous Standards

This morning someone sent me an excerpt from a document from one of the “Big Three” consulting companies. I was appalled! The sentence was almost incomprehensible in its (unnecessary) complexity. Management had read and approved it, despite the existence of a grammatical error. My correspondent was correct in pointing out the error, so I can only hope that someone made the change.

I have been teaching English grammar and writing skills for several decades now, from elementary level through college, and I have witnessed a substantial decline in the ability of “native speakers” to manipulate the language. As the owner of a learning center, I work with students from at least a dozen school districts, and I’ve noticed a distinct absence of rigor in English classes.  Few students report having regular assignments in composition; still fewer have sustained training in grammar.

I did manage to glance at the “Common Core Standards” for reading and writing provided by the Connecticut Department of Education.  According to this document, students are expected to demonstrate that they are “writing clearly with sufficient command of standard English.” How do they assimilate this information? The few minutes spent on “Daily Oral Language” are clearly insufficient for most students to understand concepts.  In fact, more than 90% of the students to whom I provide an initial assessment for entry into my writing program are unable to identify the eight parts of speech! These are diligent, motivated students, so I can only assume that they have never been exposed to the information.  How can someone convey complex ideas if he cannot readily form concise, direct, coherent sentences?  Sloppy writing conveys sloppy thinking! Rigor needs to return to language arts classrooms!

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