Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Ivory Tower Continues to Crumble

Eileen F. Toplansky

This semester I am teaching developmental reading at a local community college. This means that most of the students are reading at sixth-grade reading level. Their writing skills are, at best, very basic. Below is a sample of an unedited paragraph (replete with errors) that a student was asked to write after having been taught the meanings of autocratic, demolish, debilitating, hyperthermophile, perpetrators, and plaque. You will note that while the student incorporated the words into her paper, she does not really understand the meaning or the nuances of the words.

In the Atlantic Ocean there are tons of Hyperthermophiles hidden in the ocean. These plants often are by the waters or in it. Some sea creatures around this area are debilitating because of the warm temperatures. The plants have to be in cold waters where it's below zero to stay alive. They will demolish into the ocean once they are gone. These pants will go into the colder parts of the ocean if they can make it. The marine biologist can be autocratic when picking these plants. They are just so rare in the U.S. that they don't want these Hyperthermophiles to go instinct.

A colleague of mine who teaches at a four-year university for the Transition to School program (euphemism for developmental students who have been accepted to this school) asked her students to write a response paper to Kurt Vonnegut's "How to Write with Style." The following unedited portion is the submission.

In "How to Write with Style," Kurt Vonnegut, argues that to improve a writers writing is to make sure that the audience is being keep in mind. Vonnegut thinks that the author should not write like a reporter because just saying facts can become boring. Vonnegut states how it's possible to do so by referencing William Shakespeare and James Joyce's simple writing style. That by staying in an almost childlike way of writing and being simple can keep the intended audience's attention.

The irony of this last sentence would be humorous if it did not highlight the caliber of student who is now studying at an alleged school of higher learning -- and who will eventually graduate...To Read More.....

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