Grammar in College?

Subject: Grammar in College?
From: Alexander/Swift <wk05609 -at- WORLDLINK -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 11 Feb 1995 18:51:55 -0500


>This makes me angry. College teachers/professors shouldn't have to waste
>time teaching grammar; grammar should be thoroughly taught in elementary
>school. Certainly it's a major failing of our public schools that so many
>students are allowed to graduate without being able to write a coherent
>sentence. It's a travesty.

I went to two of the "top 10" high schools in the US and still managed to
learn a bit about grammar in college (and more in graduate school). Luckily
one school focussed on mechanics, while another emphasized
creativity/thinking. With the combination, I managed to come out a good

Nevertheless, as a college writing teacher and writing center tutor, I have
yet to meet a student who has "perfect" writing skills. In fact, some of the
supposedly best students rely too much on the thesaurus and too little on the
clear transmission of information to the reader.

My favorite line from when I was a student in an advanced freshman writing
class at NYU is, "I didn't understand it, but I thought it was really good."
My response (more politely uttered at the time): "I did, and it wasn't."

Let's face it, college canQand shouldQteach even the best writers to develop
into better writers: for instance, none of my students in the past three
years has known how to properly use a semi-colon (this includes graduate
students). Learning how to use one enabled the students to write *and* think
at a more complex level. Many high school English teachers seem intent on
only teaching the boring five paragraph essay and discouraging non-
traditional thinkers from enjoying writing. I've even had students who never
had to write a single paper in high school. A college prof who ignores
his/her responsibility towards such as student should be fired; that's why
colleges have writing tests all students must pass before they graduate and
why campus writing centers are springing up all over.

One's writing improves over time and the brief span of high school is not
enough time to develop into a finished writer.

At any rate, I'd rather have a student (and employee) with good ideas and bad
grammar than a one with perfect grammar and boring ideas. One can always
improve the first. Perhaps those in the second group are the ones who become
those non-writing editors?

Just my .02 from the realm of college writing.

Kirsten Alexander
Faculty Internet Trainer/WWW Developer/Technical & Creative Writer & Editor
The American University
Washington, DC
wk05609 -at- worldlink -dot- com

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