So after a rousing game of squash yesterday, I was changing in the locker room, now far quieter than usual with so few students on campus, and my squash partner asked, "So do students write worse than they did 10 years ago? 20 years ago?"
A couple of other people jumped in the conversation, and they all seemed to unequivocally agree that students wrote worse than ever before. Those darned illiterate BRU students.
They're wrong. At least mostly. They cite all kinds of anecdotal evidence about the terrible writing sins their students commit, and how it seems to go downhill. There are many culprits: the internet, and No Child Left Behind chief among them. (The internet is a scapegoat, but NCLB might not be wrong).
But this is just an illusion: There have always been poor writers in college, a kid who couldn't tell a subject from a predicate. It's just that we didn't see them, either because we were doing work that demonstrated the (generally) proper use of Standard Written English, or because we didn't go to a Big State College in a Poor State. So no, friend, many of your students don't write as well as you did 20 years ago, or your peers at University of Chicago or Johns Hopkins. But students here 20 years ago couldn't write to save their lives either. You just weren't one of them.
I was so worked up about this conversation that I was halfway home before I realized...I was going to the old house...oops.