These are Deresiewicz’s “Excellent Sheep.” We can presume that their educations have been rigorous as they’ve climbed to the top of the meritocratic heap.
If these young professionals can’t write well, who can? And if they’re not writing well, why not?
My belief is that the experience of these elite students is similar to my very accomplished, but not quite elite students, that they see writing for school not as an occasion to communicate ideas, but instead to perform a kind of intelligence that we associate with being (or appearing to be) a good “student.”
I believe that in many cases, these young professionals have never encountered a genuine and meaningful rhetorical situation in an academic or professional context. They are highly skilled at a particular kind of academic writing performance that they have been doing from a very early age, but they are largely unpracticed at that what their employers expect them to do, clearly communicate ideas to specific audiences.
My students’ chief struggle tends to be rooted in years of schooling where what they have to say doesn’t really matter, and the primary focus is on “how” you say things.
This need is driven by an overblown assessment culture, fueled by well-intentioned instructors who want to arm students with techniques that will allow them to write in ways that will score well on assessments, particularly standardized assessments, including AP exams. — John Warner, Just Visiting
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