Being Taught the Wrong Things Makes Us Ignorant Writers

There are things to which we are subjected in our education that receive no valid reasoning, no proper explanation other than “because I said so.” Throughout elementary, middle and high school, all of these pointless rules given to us becomes a gimmick, a sham, a deceitful list of regrettably mind-numbing rules. There are always rules that make one want to punch their teacher in the face because the rules are borderline retarded (no offense–it’s a word, just as “stupid” is). Below are just a few of these rules we so adamantly despise.

  1. “Never use ‘I’ in your essay.” “Why?” “No reason, other than because I said so.”

2. “Write five paragraphs persuading the audience to agree with you.” “How do we do that?” “Give three main points and support those points with three facts each. Doesn’t matter what they are–they can even be false. It’s not like I’m actually gonna read them.”

3. “Never use numbers in your essay… except for dates in time and large numbers.” “So that means eighty percent of the time, right?”

4. “Don’t use contractions, it’s unprofessional and you’ll get points off.” “It’s a short story riddled with dialogue, not an application into the Pentagon…”

5. “Always have a grabber sentence.” This one has no response phrase, because I can explain it now: a grabber sentence for high school English students is always awkward and just doesn’t fit with the essay. Forget the grabber if it sounds like a pedophile inviting kids into his candy van…

6. “Make proper use of gerunds, infinitives, possessive nouns, ‘their-they’re-there’, ‘your-you’re’… “So, write as if a machine were to read my paper?” “Exactly.”

I feel we are taught these things because it is in the education system’s intent to develop in students a solid understanding of grammar, spelling, and the like. However, these methods are so outdated and rarely used by everyday lifestyles that the five-paragraph essays and lack of emphasis on material have become an exercise in futility.

Contrary to this, though, there is one rule that should be followed, such as the proper use of spelling and grammatical tools. In fact, that is one rule I find to be golden in every piece of writing, even in text messaging and Twitter updates. Another less-essential-yet-still-important rule I tend to follow is that of “not showing my cards in the beginning.” This means that I would not outline what I would be writing, as it would take away from the interest of the essay itself and might be enough for a reader to state “I have no need of reading this.”

(At the time of writing this I have spilled Coca Cola on myself. Wonderful.)

Writing Timeline: The Disabled and the Developed (Papers, Not Children)

Throughout my life I have never written many papers or done intense writing assignments. The best I have ever done outside of college life was on my ACT writing portion. This is not to say I have never written papers before–I have, lest I would not have such a crisp writing style.

It was primarily during my freshman year of high school when I began writing better than I had previously, as middle school English courses were bland. I had enrolled in a Latin study course in high school, and took four years of it. This sparked my interest in grammar, vocabulary and derivatives, the three major studies I honed for our regional and state competitions. It was during my time in Latin that I decided to write like all my writing had weight and meaning.

In my freshman year, my English course was harder than I expected, yet I wrote supposedly amazing essays. There were some bad ones–summaries for chapters of books, short stories, poems, and others–but mostly good. One particular piece involved a scenario as an introduction, of a man who was texting and driving and ended up in a three-car pile-up on the interstate and receiving amputation of both his legs and his right forearm. This began my detailed, almost painfully grammatically-sound writing style.

I enrolled in an online English course during my sophomore year, in which I was required to write multiple analyses and essays for many different subjects. The most common critical remarks I received on virtually every assignment was that I had great material, yet I did not answer the provided questions or address the given situations or subjects properly (the assignment prompts were, in reality, vague and never straight-forward–or I am one of few who has difficulty comprehending assignment instructions).

During my junior year I had a very interesting teacher. She was kind and ditsy, and the class was interesting–we still wrote the generic five-paragraph essays, but the teacher was lenient and detailed and actually loved her job as a high-school English teacher. The most memorable of writing assignments was one that was never graded: we were instructed to analyze a photograph that was the cover of a short story. At this moment I indulged myself to write how wanted to write, and, while reading some of the pages turned in for reading she complimented mine by asking everyone else where their great writing has been hidden away (my classmates had written well, she meant no insult). This instance began the paradigm shift of writing styles from one that not a soul would jump up happily to write to one that engaged the reader by way of intriguing structure and, occasionally, utilizing the “stream of consciousness” method.

All of this lead up to the pinnacle of my writing career: an analysis of the funding of my own high school. This crucial essay was the decisive factor of whether or not I would achieve a highly-successful score of thirty (out of thirty-six) on my ACT exam. I had much fun with this essay: I started off with a sort of staple of an introduction, jumping right into the issue at hand. I explained the biased funding of the football team over the rest of the school organizations, which needed multiple fundraising activities just to function. I felt that to be my most proud work, as it involved a topic for which I have a severe passion.

I hope to further evolve the skills I hold in writing, as it has been a relationship which I could only describe by the famous line of a poem by Catullus: “Odi et amo”–“I hate and I love.”

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