Guest View: Effective writing skills are essential in the 21st century - Free Lance News : Schools

Guest View: Effective writing skills are essential in the 21st century

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Posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 10:01 am

The ability to communicate in writing is undoubtedly the most important skill a student will ever learn. However, an absence of challenging reading materials and writing assignments in high school, students’ increased use of texting and other forms of electronic communication and teenagers’ general apathy have contributed to the national drop in skill use and aptitude according to R. Ferguson, CEO of ACT.

For this reason, about half of academic high school students do not meet the basic requirements for writing in college. In college every class usually has a writing component – even math and science classes. Class writing assignments usually require about 20 pages per class per semester. Because of this lack of basic writing skills, many college entrants are unable to pass the English Placement Test at California State Universities or the University of California Analytical Writing Placement Test. Failure to pass these tests results in students being placed in remedial (“bonehead”) English classes, which do not count towards graduation, but take class time and probably prevent those students from graduating in four years.

Almost all scholarships also require submission of written materials such as applications or essays as a part of the procedure.

And the ability to write effectively is even more important when students finish college and go to work. A 2006 study showed that, “the ability to communicate topped the list of recruiting companies’ desired traits” (NACE). Moreover, as Wisconsin Business Alumni explains, most employers assess potential employees' writing skills, and they tend to hire the candidates who can write well. Employees with good writing skills also keep their jobs more easily and earn promotions more often. The message is clear.

What high school seniors should be doing in the writing area is to start doing college-level writing now! Unfortunately, it’s up to the students to do this for themselves. If they chose to do so, a good text would be the now-obsolete Thomson-Peterson “SAT II Success Writing.”

An excellent short guide to college-level writing is available on the Internet by at The entire guide can be downloaded in PDF format from that site.

Gene Lucas is a retiree from Silicon valley who has a master of science degree in instructional technology from California State University, Chico. After retirement he worked for four and a half years as an Regional Occupational Program Career Technician at two Lassen County High Schools. His main area of interested is in post-high school education, which he believes is essential to success in the 21st century. Lucas hopes to provide a series of articles on post-high school education. If someone has any questions, they should feel free to contact Gene at (831) 636-6716 for free of charge advice.

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