"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

By my friend, Bernie Keller, a gifted teacher of English!

    In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I have corrected and/or edited thousands of essays and research papers, as well as a number of dissertations, in addition to having written a number of essays of my own, and not one of the aforementioned writings employs the current writing style espoused by the common core supporters. In addition, the current method, which asserts that the writer must provide a rebuttal in the introduction or at the beginning of the essay, makes no sense because you don’t rebut anything until there’s been some point that contrasts the point you are making.

The idea that an essay must contain a “rebuttal” makes no sense to me. First of all, if you were to look up the elements of an essay, you would not find a rebuttal listed as one of its elements, nor would you find it in a definition of the word essay. In fact, rebuttals are elements found in debates and in reference to speeches, (e.g. The State of the Union Address by the President).

In fact, if common core supporters are correct as it pertains to the value and importance of current essay writing techniques, that would argue that the style and methods and techniques of essayist such as Thomas Pain, Voltaire, Emerson, Thoreau and Martin Luther King, Jr., just to name a few, were not methods and techniques worthy of the esteem, reverence and acclaim that generations have bestowed upon them.

In point of fact, the purpose of an essay is to advance a point or idea and then provide reasons- proof, facts-that show your reader your point has substance, (even if your reader is not persuaded by your point). For me, the most important job of any essay is not to persuade the reader, but to clearly identify the point you want to make and then to defend it with proof- facts, reasons and logic.

The ability to cogently make a point and strongly defend it is the most important skill students need to develop and hone in order to become better thinkers, better speakers and better writers. In fact, ensuring their ability to this would make the act of writing the persuasive or argumentative essay much easier. The problem is today’s “experts” are conflating the ability to clearly advance your point with being persuasive. You don’t learn the crossover dribble before you learn to dribble, you don’t learn division before you learn multiplication, you don’t learn to run before you can walk, and you don’t learn to persuade others before you have learned to clearly advance and support your own point!

My essays have been read, discussed and published. With the occasional exception in which I intentionally juxtapose a contrasting point against my point in order to underscore or emphasize the absurdity of the contrasting point, my essays identify the point I want the reader to “walk away with” and provide the reasons I am advancing this particular point.
I teach people, “If you can talk, you can write.” This means if you can organize your ideas enough to clearly express yourself in speech, you can clearly express yourself in the written form as well. Any successful speaker or writer must be able to clearly identify his/her point and support that point with reasons that show that point has value or substance. After all, if you are thinking “I hate milk”, how would you express that in speech or in writing? Wouldn’t you say and write, “I hate milk”?

The current method of teaching writing makes writing far more difficult than it has to be. Essay writing didn’t start today or with the methods and techniques of the current experts. Essay writing has existed for centuries and produced essays that made cogent, logical, intellectual and edifying points, long before the supporters and experts themselves or today’s essay writing methods ever existed. This point asserts that, like many of the current educational theories and methods, the decision to obliterate what has existed and been successful before as meaningless and without value, is at best misguided or just flat out wrong.

Successfully writing an essay is not some inscrutable algorithm. It does not require some exacting, intricate calculus. Successful writing is the sum total of a clear understanding of the point you want to make, and the ability to provide the reasons, facts, or proof to support that point.

It’s really just that simple. Really.

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