Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Writing Skills Are Just as Important as Technical Training

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Writing Skills Are Just as Important as Technical Training

Article excerpt

So many challenges in life can be met by effective communication.

Imagine, for instance, how history might have been different if Winston Churchill's well-chosen words had not been heard in Britain during those critical days of World War II, or if Upton Sinclair, author of "The Jungle," had not brought to light unhealthy conditions in American meat-packing plants that led to passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.

Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was the best-selling book of the 19th century and helped Americans understand slavery as they had not before. Words, well put together, can be a powerful force for good or evil. Those who learn to use them well -- in speaking and writing -- can greatly influence the actions of their listeners and their readers.

Thus it becomes important that schoolchildren of today, those who will be citizens of the world tomorrow, learn to communicate effectively and to do so on a variety of platforms.

When schooling was less complicated, when the body of knowledge, especially on the scientific front, was much smaller than it is today, the mechanics of writing played a major role in classrooms across the land. Current realities are different. Today, the demands placed on teachers by an unrelenting public that expects student achievement to be reflected in test scores make for a challenging task, to say the least.

Taking all that into account, it should not have been a surprise that many Florida students did poorly on the writing portion of the state standardized test. Reports indicate that the low scores were due largely to bad mechanics, misspellings, misuse of punctuation and the like. Testing officials have indicated the ideas expressed in the writing exercises appeared to be less problematic than the structural issues, and educators have asserted that the changes to the test were not communicated in time for them to adjust the instruction.

This situation brings up some troublesome questions. Should educators feel their first priority is teaching to the test? If their pay is going to be linked to student performance on these tests, it is not surprising they would see it that way. Secondly, has it become too difficult to teach students proper grammar, sentence structure and spelling while at the same time emphasizing the importance of putting thoughts together in a cogent manner?

Some have pointed to the Internet, to email and social media as reasons that young people are not comfortable with the standard rules of good writing, using instead the abbreviated, truncated language of electronic messages. …

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