[T]hey don’t appear to spend a lot of time in high school teaching kids how to write. I think it’s great that they’re reading Herman Hesse and Chinua Achebe and the great Garcia Marquez in their “English” class, even if those are works in translation, but what kids really need is a major dose of Strunk & White, and so on. They need to learn how to put one word in front of the next and know when a sentence needs to come to an end. They need to be saturated in the classic American literary voices, from Hawthorne to Fitzgerald to Morrison/Updike/Delillo et al. And why not some non-fiction? McPhee. Tom Wolfe. Dillard. Sedaris.
Writing for them is a very self-oriented process, as if it is a reply to the admonition, “Show us how smart you are.”
This is acceptable for a student in grade school, but as a student matures, writing needs to become more about communication and less about expression per se. (This is true even if the purpose of writing is still for students to show us how smart they are.) Communication is oriented toward the needs of the audience, particularly the audience’s need to be persuaded of something in order to change its mind.
Katie is learning in public policy grad school to write concise memos.
I worry that students do too much writing in journals, essentially expressing themselves to themselves, and spend too little time learning to communicate to other people.