Sunday, December 23, 2007


Our babysitter left a copy of a school paper on Ben's computer. Marc and I were curious when we saw it so of course we read it. To say that we were horrified by the standard of the work was putting it mildly. This is a final paper for a 400 level course in communication.

I'm not even going to start my rant on university courses that call themselves "communication" courses. WTF is a communication course and what is it doing at university?

This paper was written by an illiterate who strung pompous sounding buzz words together in the hopes of sounding important. If a twelve year old handed a paper like this to me, I would fail it.

On Friday I asked our sitter about the paper. Imagine my surprise when I discovered she received a 72% for it. My already low opinion of Old Dominion University dropped even further. Then I discovered that she had not written it. This paper was a group effort and that a graduate student had written it.

This is so wrong on so many levels.

The first being: How can you submit a paper you haven't written without proofing it? Surely collaborative efforts need to be vetted by the entire group?

The second: I fail to see how anyone learns from a group effort. My sitter was open about the fact that she had very little to do with this project. Each team within the group worked on a small section of the paper and someone from the group put it all together. It appeared to me that no one paid much attention to the work of the rest of the group. Where's the learning in this?

The third: Her parents are paying for her to receive an education. This is no education.

The fourth: This was for a communication class, surely the goal of this class is to teach the students to communicate. If they can't write in understandable English, surely they should fail the class?

In my former life, I was a marketing director. One of the first things I had to do with new recruits was to fix their writing. I banned all buzz words and "academic" writing. I also had to teach them how to structure proposals and marketing plans from the beginning. I found the worst offenders were the recruits who held marketing or communications degrees. I finally stopped hiring graduates with those degrees and instead hired graduates with good Liberal Arts educations. These were the graduates who knew how to communicate, research and learn. I found it easy to teach them the technical aspects of the job.

One of my foremost goals for Ben and Shira is to ensure that that they write well. Right now, in first grade we are doing the following to ensure that this happens:
- they are immersed in good literature. By reading and hearing immense amounts of good literature they are forming the templates that will enable them to be good writers.
- every day they copy a few lines of a poem or a quote from a classic.
- they memorize good poetry
- we're doing a rigorous grammar program
- we're focussing on enlarging their vocabulary by learning new words daily and learning Greek and Latin roots

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