'Crayola curriculum' takes over

Talk to teachers, review messages posted on e-mail groups and browse professional journals, and you’ll find high school assignments that are long on fun and remarkably short on actual writing.

For example, someone who teaches an honors class for high school freshmen posts a short-story project that allows students 13 options, only a handful of which involve actual writing. Among the choices students are offered: create a map to illustrate the story’s setting, make a game to show the story’s theme, put together a collage from magazine photographs, or assemble a scrapbook or photograph album for the character.

Teaching Arthurian literature? Have your students design a coat of arms. Need an alternative to a book report? Have students draw the design for a book jacket.

While such activities may be more entertaining for students, and less work for the teachers in terms of grading the projects, kids are often showing up at college unable to write. —Donna Harrington-Lueker‘Crayola curriculum’ takes over (USA Today)

This essay is from 2002. I tracked it down from a comment on JoanneJacobs.com.

In one of my classes, when I teach Margaret Edson’s play Wit, I read from a copy of The Runaway Bunny, a children’s book which is mentioned in the play. It’s the last week of the class, and many of the students are just starting to get the hang of studying literature at the college level; so they seem happy and nostalgic for a time when teachers did most of the work for them. But I don’t do this in place of asking them to do serious work. And since many of our English majors are double-majoring in education, it helps us talk about the playwright’s full-time job as a kindergarten teacher, and the play’s implicit anti-intellectualism.

Of course, high school teachers simply don’t have the time to get students to write and revise college-length papers. So naturally, I don’t expect all college freshmen to arrive on campus already competent in college-level work. But I’d really prefer that more arrive on campus ready to do such things as read and follow assignment instructions, and read a syllabus on their own.

Best response to this whole thing, from a commenter: “I’m so angry at this crap I feel like making a poster.”