Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bad Writer, Bad Writing

I had two choices:
  1. Continue to avoid writing a new post because I technically don't have a new scene to share this week.
  2. Admit my failure and post anyway, favoring consistency over humiliation (and cowardice).
I am now hiding behind door #2. 

It's not that I haven't been writing at all, but what little time I have spent writing I've sunk into the short, for which I'm supposed to be turning in the first draft this coming week.

Wow, what a sentence. I can actually feel myself getting worse at putting words together. It's becoming a neurosis. You are witnessing a slow, excruciating collapse of a once-creative mind. What's it like, from your perpective? This is what it's like for me: sinking into a pit of loose, soft sand. I'm panicking, of course, but what can I do? It seems like the more I struggle, the deeper I sink, and plus there's all this sand, which, even if I get out, is going to be all up in everywhere ok I think this analogy is breaking down.

And now here's some venting:

I frequently (and unfairly) blame my failure to stake out more time to write on my job as a TA. Specifically, of late, grading papers. Like I said, it's unfair, because if I was more dedicated, I'd get my &#!+ together and quit whining. I'd have plenty of time if I'd stop wasting so much of it.

But that's not what I want to vent about. I want to say that the level to which we, as a nation, have allowed our standard, public education to sink is unforgivable. I don't blame the freshmen coming into a prestigious college for their utter inability to write coherently (I'm one to talk)--I blame the system that so recently regurgitated their ill-served brains. The sad fact is this: public high schools are failing utterly to teach the vast majority of their students to write at even the modest levels of competency. 

This is the pen I use to grade. I know, right?
Is writing really that important? 

Have you ever heard Lewis Black scream the word "YES" in an explosively incredulous rage? Well, that's my answer. 

Not only is an inability to write clearly and effectively an indication of a poor education, and a terrible handicap in the professional world, it is also, alas, directly related to stunted critical thinking. Writing is thinking, and vice versa. The two are inseparable. Learning to write well facilitates much better thinking. Without the one, the other stagnates. 

And so most of us are coming out of high school barely functional. It's not an age thing, it's a systemic failure thing. If our eighteen-year-olds are well-meaning idiots, it's not because they haven't seen two decades, it's because they have seen one decade of "no child left behind." 

I'm going to stop now, or I never will. 

This blog is supposed to be a place to talk about being a film student/maker/person. So I've typed out my passionate plea for better writing with fear and fury, and now I want to ask you, am I overstating it? Am I alone in my anguish? Are there other perspectives outside of mine? I tend to assume there aren't, which, I recognize, is a problem. Help me fix it.


  1. I totally agree with you. Unfortunately, I don't think there is an affordable "public" solution to this. Our country is too big, has too many people and too little money to afford the care required to adequately educate the vast number of young people now born in the US.
    Literacy must be taught in the home. In fact, MOST things, to be taught well at all, must be taught in the home.

  2. The simple fact is, if you can't read and write decently so much is not only closed off, but in fact, invisible to you--you can't clearly organize your thoughts or understand the words of those who do, which is WHY, I want to teach!

  3. This from a friend who TEACHES:

    Okay, I tried to post to Jordan's blog, but it wouldn't let me. (Blogger is always a little persnickety for me.) So, here is what I wrote, if you would kindly pass it on for me.

    While I agree that there are problems in the public school setting, and many teachers have lowered the level of expectation for writing (and everything else), I believe there are many factors that have created this abyss of poor writing. This problem is EVERYWHERE, not just in young people graduating from high school. I saw it years ago from people who hold masters degrees. You see it in journalism all the time, even in published works. People just don't seem to care enough to check their work at all. Whatever happened to proofreading, let alone actual thinking? We live in a world that is fast-paced, full of 15 second spots, texts, tweets, and slogans. Far too many try to write in this fashion. Everything is done very quickly in this world of instant messaging--very little is really well thought out.

    It seems to me that the mechanics and conventions of writing have been shoved off to the side for the sake of getting ideas on paper. While there is some merit to this idea, the fact is you can't really write complete thoughts without decent grammar and punctuation. (At least not in a manner that's intelligible to others) If you don't know how to use dependent clauses, appositives, and other rules of writing, you severely limit the ways you have to say things.

    The reality is, few people think much for themselves any more because it's all done for them already. Children aren't very creative in their play, they just want the latest game for their wii, ds, i-pod, etc. People just watch the movie, instead of read the book. They let someone else create the characters for them, rather than "seeing" it for themselves.

    While this problem is not impossible to fix, the likelihood of vast improvement is not terribly high. Everyone needs to take a step back from our addiction to electronics and busyness, and actually read--a book; have in depth conversations with friends, coworkers, family, children; take time to ponder our opinions about issues of the day; etc.

    Okay, there's my two cents worth--off the top of my head. (So, not really thought out, revised, etc.) :)


  4. From a woman named Marion:

    ...this old English teacher thinks the main problem with illiterate youngsters originates with their addiction to t.v., particularly from their early years. Kids have spent more time, by 12th grade, watching television than they have spent in school.

    English is a complicated language--the language in which you can express yourself in more ways than in any other language--so the more exposure to words and ideas, the more absorption. Kids should read, read, read, and read some more. This would make them faster readers, better acquainted with the world, better spellers, and better students of the structure of language.


Follow by Email