Thursday, February 3, 2011

Why can't undergrads write?

According to this column from the Chronicle of Higher Ed, it's because the demands of tenure require their profs to devote more time to writing articles rather than grading student papers.  In addition, students enter college with such weak research and writing skills that the prospect of writing more than 20 pages in a semester is so daunting that students avoid those courses like the plague.

One of the distressing findings of Academically Adrift [here too] is that fully one-half of the seniors in the study stated that the number of courses they had taken that assigned 20 or more pages of writing [that's 20 pages total for the semester, not a 20 page paper] was but five or fewer. The Chronicle found an even lower rate of 20-plus pages in its survey of education and business majors at institutions in the state of Texas (as reported here).

The column goes on to note that the poor writing skills of undergrads is one of the chief complaints of employers.  Where have we heard that before?  Ah, yes, that also happens to be one of the big complaints expressed by law firms about law grads (and by judges about lawyers).

Because the root of this problem - the lack of class time spent teaching students the skill of writing -  can be traced back to high school, it's a tough problem for law school teachers to fix by themselves, though we try.

You can read the rest of the CHE column here.  The reader comments are worth a gander too.


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