To write or not to write – that is the question

Posted on April 18, 2011

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Earlier today as I was collecting a caffeine refill, I overheard what appeared to be a more senior student. He was complaining about the fact that as a computer science student, he was still expected to write essays. This was, to him, unfair and a waste of time.

What really concerned me though was the fact that he was saying this to a member of the academic staff – who was agreeing with him!

Now hold on a moment. I have worked with a lot of graduates over the years including IT graduates. Ever so many of them were frankly hopeless at expressing themselves, especially in writing. But the IT graduate does need to be able to write. They have specifications to work out with clients, reports to file and technical documentation to author. How good is any of that going to be if the IT graduate cannot write well? In my experience, IT people have been worse than average in this respect, which probably explains some of the messed up specifications and documentation that I have come across over the years.

Our education system in Australia has been letting people down for decades in this whole area. The ‘authorities’ decided long ago that things like grammar were no longer needed in the English curriculum. In my case, it was replaced with things like studying ’cause and effect’ (useful but not exactly teaching me how to avoid dangling participles or even what the perishers are) and a rather fanciful description of the ‘typical Australian’ (a complete load of bollocks and thorough waste of time).

The complaint from students about not needing to do essays etc due to their specific field of study not requiring it, is hardly a new one. And it is still just as invalid an argument now as it ever was. But what hope do these students have when even their teaching staff seem to think that their students do not need to be able to write well?

Not happy, Jan.

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