For College Students?
Final Word Count 1283
Be Required for College Students?
In view of the poor results obtained in many freshman composition classes, the inevitable question arises as to the usefulness of such courses. College students see these courses as irrelevant to their immediate ends of gaining a college degree in the least possible time. They yearn to jump into their major courses which they perceive as more relevant to that coveted degree which will be a ticket to a high-paying job. Composition college instructors see with disappointment the continual decrease in quality writing from their students. Not only today’s college students seem unable to write coherent papers, but they tend to be deficient in reading and lack a sense of involvement with their writing assignments (Dubson, 2006). Furthermore, composition instructors are painfully aware of the lack of time to give individual attention to their students in order to bring about significant improvements in their writing. While it becomes impossible to deny these truths, college composition courses should still remain an integral part of the academic curriculum albeit important modification to reflect the country’s new social and economic realities. Rather than blaming students, instructors or administrators for the poor results obtained from college composition courses, it is more useful to understand the complex web of events that have brought the academic community to the current state of affairs in order to come up with alternative ways to make college composition courses more relevant and helpful.
One of the most important major changes instructors have noticed in college composition classes is a shift in the student population: many of today’s first year college students are people who a few decades ago would have attended vocational schools, but such schools have practically disappeared (Turner n. d.). Furthermore, the open admission policies of many community colleges, while contributing to the democratization of education beginning in the 1960s, have allowed many students who up until a few years earlier, had not had a chance to be admitted to college. These developments have opened the college doors to many students who lack the reading and writing skills necessary to succeed in the college classroom (Pekins 2006).
In addition to the changes in the characteristics of the student population enrolled in composition classes, it is also important to consider these students’ academic background. Many of these students come to college having read few or no books at all. For many years Pekins (2006) has surveyed his composition students on their reading practices and consistently finds that they do not read regularly at all; most students report reading one or two books during their high school years. Pekin asserts that his observations on students’ reading habits are confirmed by many of his colleagues across the country. The addiction to television viewing and video game playing has exacerbated the problem. To this lack of reading experience one must add deficiencies in high school language instruction. While in many cases it is difficult to blame the students or the teachers, it is clear that the high school activities leave little room for significant writing improvement.. Mosley (2006), an experienced high school teacher asserts that teachers have overcrowded classrooms and have little time for grading. Therefore, she adds that teachers must resort to formulaic writing to make grading easy and to help students write a coherent assignment. In this context students master the efficient but shallow five-paragraph essay. She adds that teachers must cover the curriculum approved by their school boards, which includes grammar, vocabulary and reading instruction. They must also prepare students for standardized tests. To add to this busy schedule, teachers must take into account daily interruptions such as assemblies and pep rallies. All of these activities take time away from writing instruction.
After exploring students’ background upon entering college, it is easy to see why a large majority of these students need remedial instruction in reading and writing in order to undertake the academic work required in regular college courses (Dubson, 2006; Pekins 2006).
In the traditional composition courses, students were expected to write analytically about texts on psychology, sociology, literature and other academic fields that they would encounter in their subsequent studies. Detecting these deficiencies not only in writing, but in reading and analytical skills, colleges responded by creating remedial composition courses, but since many of these courses are overcrowded, it becomes difficult for instructors to give students the individual attention they would require to attain significant improvement in their writing. Thus even if students manage to pass these courses, many of them remain unequipped to succeed in regular college classes.
In addition to the lack of reading and writing skills, college professors have detected feelings of alienation and indifference on the part of students toward their college education and toward their writing assignments in particular. Pekins (2006) notes that his students do not identify with the traditional values of a college education, that is, they are not interested in acquiring knowledge in a variety of fields such as philosophy, fine arts, history, and the development of critical thinking skills. Many students choose to attend college because it is the only route to their financial goals. The fact that many students see a college education as a means to an end is reflected in their indifference toward their writing assignments. Dubson (2006) points out that students either toss away their corrected essays or fail to collect their work once it has been graded. They rarely look at the corrections made by the instructors, failing to profit from the feedback received.
Colleges and universities face daunting challenges in the teaching of freshman composition. The problem needs to be understood in the broad context of declining education standards in the United States. It serves no purpose blaming students, faculty or administrators. Students would be harmed even more if the college composition requirement were abolished. Even when it is a complex task, it is imperative to make modifications to the teaching of freshman composition. Many ideas have been proposed such as defining assessment standards to define what constitutes good college level writing, or grouping students by writing ability. The discussion of these proposals, however, is beyond the scope of this essay. Nevertheless, Turner (n. d.) is correct when he points out that almost everyone can benefit from learning principles of writing that are common to most forms of written communication, such as clarity and conciseness, but not all students need to write analytical essays because many students do not have the need or the aptitude for this type of writing. Adopting these minimum standards would certainly reflect the social and economic realities alluded to at the beginning of this essay. For many students it is far more practical to be able to compose a clear business letter, a marketing report or an informative e-mail message, for academic writing has little relevance in their everyday lives.
Dubson, Michael (2006).Whose Paper Is This Anyway? Why Most Students Don’t Embrace the Writing They Do for their Writing Classes. In Patrick Sullivan and Howard Tinberg (Eds). What is “College Level”Writing? (pp. 92-109). Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English.
Mosley, Mustenkova Milka (2006). The Truth About High School English. In Patrick Sullivan and Howard Tinberg (Eds). What is “College Level”Writing? (pp. 58-68). Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English.
Pekins, John (2006). A Community College Professor Reflects on First Year Composition. In Patrick Sullivan and Howard Tinberg (Eds). What is “College Level”Writing? (pp. 231-242). Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English.
Turner, Richard “The Case Against English Comp (As We Know It).” ( n. d.) Retrieved from