Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Legal writing isn't what it should be: #1

Our primary and secondary education system doesn't adequately emphasize writing education.

I won’t back up what I’m about to say with research. But I assert there is as consensus among those in higher education that our primary and secondary education system does not adequately emphasize writing skills.

Sometimes this is because the particular choice of study uses a curriculum that does not require expository writing. I have some science and engineering students who arrive at law school telling me they never wrote a paper in college.

Sometimes this is because the type of writing required in high school and college is what I call “self-expression writing.” In other words, the writing focuses on the writer, not the reader. Whether you have clearly and effectively conveyed information to the reader is of secondary importance to whether you have expressed yourself the way you want to.

Sometimes this is because writing education is labor-intensive, resource-intensive, and not very glamorous. It’s expensive and no fun to teach writing. This reality affects the way English and writing are taught: I’ve had many English teachers confirm that in a college English department, those who teach literature tend to be tenured and have higher status, and those who teach composition tend to be untenured and have lower status.

These three causes mean that the two main things students need to improve their writing—training and practice—are inadequate.

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