In a world of tweets, snapchat, instagram, facebook feeds, email, text messaging, and buzzfeed, why does it matter if we write well? Even for those who believe we should, “why” may not be a question on which we reflect. But as changes occur at Fortis Academy, the question will most likely be asked. Perhaps parents will become exasperated as children wail in protest of additional writing assignments and higher standards. The answer, while multi-faceted, is simple and one we should all know, understand, and be able to provide.
Why? Because writing well matters. The standard? Excellence.
Writing well is a means of training the mind. By forcing the writer to think about what he or she wishes to communicate, the brain is required to organize thoughts, choose what is relevant, prioritize, organize, and eloquently convey information, ideas, or feelings. In fact, there is nothing more central to the core of a classical education than communication including the ability to craft concise arguments and thoughtful elegant prose.
Additionally, possessing the ability to write well is essential in judging what content we choose to consume. If reading the latest Huffington Post article is presumed to be sufficient for cultural engagement, then perhaps writing instruction seems senseless. But for those who understand that the ability to recognize quality writing possessing value is an essential component of becoming a well-educated thinking adult, the upcoming changes at Fortis will be welcome and the rising standards will be celebrated.
Language is the basis for every academic and career pursuit your children will undertake. One must be able to read and understand to acquire new knowledge and skills. If a student cannot communicate what he has learned, then he cannot advance academically nor can he later acquire a meaningful job. In other words, communication is at the core and center of academic and career success.
Reality: colleges and universities prefer students who write well. While some colleges may be dropping the SAT essay requirement under the duress of political correctness, application essays are still required and scholarship applications almost universally have essay requirements. Writing ability is a consideration for acceptance as students are expected to already know how to write upon admission. (Outside of remedial classes – one unfortunate result of current educational standards – basic writing classes are not offered.) Whether writing papers, lab reports, or emails to a professor, effective communication is an integral part of student success in post secondary education.
Additionally, in every vocation, every job and frankly, every day of life, writing is utilized. Few areas of the workplace are untouched by grammar in some way as communication with coworkers, management, and clients or customers occurs. Look at any employment description and one of the single most common and important required skills is “written communication.” The ability to write clearly and effectively in any field is a requirement for success and that means paying attention to grammar, spelling, and punctuation while making good word choices with a consistent style. Both hiring and performance evaluations are based on impressions, and employers understand that writing reflects the skill and care that will be taken with all tasks – not just writing itself. So while quality writing can accelerate success, the opposite is also true. Looseness with language can cause communication errors and create bad impressions, therefore sloppy writers tend to have more stagnant, less successful careers. Whether they’re actually less skilled and talented than their peers or whether they are merely perceived as being so because of their carelessness, poor writers suffer fewer promotions and lower positions in their companies.
As classical educators, we must refute the modern educational notion that writing cannot be judged – that a grammatically incorrect memoir with deficient punctuation is an acceptable example of writing quality and ability. Writing is neither formless nor mystical; completion grades are not enough. There are standards for good writing and the truth is simple: when these standards are not followed, bad writing is produced. Our students must not only be taught the tools of writing; adherence to the standard of writing well must become the norm. And that means practice – lots and lots of practice.
A classical education offers the ability to slow down, to take the time to write well researched, carefully spelled, attention-to-detail essays and papers that patiently communicate an intended message. A well-written paper is thorough and both precise and correct in the data it cites and the claims it makes. Through both writing more and deliberately, our students will learn to slow down, think carefully, write respectfully, and conclude intelligently. What is learned becomes a habit – an integral part of learned ability that doesn’t disappear at the end of the day, semester, or school year, but something that will remain and serve the students well throughout their lives.
With language skills and a broadly read mind, our students will not only be of benefit to themselves going forward, but they will also be able to reach out and communicate both with those who agree with them, and more importantly, with those who do not. They will retain the ability and rise above the unfortunate current norm of 144 character expression. The fact that each of you have enrolled your children in Fortis Academy is in itself a method of communication that says writing well matters and you understand that truth. You desire the best for your children and Fortis is striving to help you provide that quality education.
For those who were present at the teacher and/or parent training in August, you may remember a particular quote I read. While the quote expressed an important idea, it was the exquisite use of language coupled with grammatical correctness that made me laugh out loud with pleasure when reading the forty-seven word sentence. I found such enjoyment in the language I just had to share it with you!
Let’s teach our children to not only appreciate and enjoy the beauty of the written word, but also to be the authors of beauty, truth, and goodness themselves. May they, too, be an integral part of the Great Conversation.