Tuesday, February 17, 2015
I Shouldn’t Be Surprised By Now, And Yet…
I’m happy to work with local employers to help people who need jobs gain the skills they need to do work that needs doing, especially when the industry is growing locally. That’s just a huge win all around. But I’m also happy to hear, again, that some skills never go out of style.
But I can't compensate for K-12 instructors who never bothered to teach any grammar, nor the composition instructors who were satisfied with vague statements of feelings. Some students write very well, and I have great respect for them and their former teachers. But so many of the students can't put together a coherent paragraph, much less a whole thesis! (And I'm at a school that only takes the top 12%—it must be much worse at the 2nd tier colleges.)
If it's important to business people, they need to be willing to pay for it, and to impress upon the system that they don't just need to fund STEM system stuff (yes, STEM stuff is also important, of course).
And my view on the "they should have learned this earlier" argument is that they didn't learn it. So I can complain about their earlier experiences, or I can invest the time to teach them. I find the second more productive.
What is that that one needs to write? "Money and a room of one's own". Two very specific kinds of slack in your life. Sufficient money can't make up for a lifestyle that is a frenetic flurry. Very few people outside of tenured professors are compensated well in both money and time to sit back and think carefully. It does happen in academia, but that is precisely what makes academia special.
The problem is usually what LJL describes. It is a tough sell, because they simply do not believe us. (Heck, some of them think we need a teacher's version of the text like their teachers had in HS.) Many don't even believe an engineering professor with work experience, explaining why they write reports and make presentations in every class, let alone a comp professor.
IMO, the solution isn't money, as Bardiac describes, but time. Time to talk to a class or two. What gets their attention is when the person who actually wants to hire them says "yes" when asked if s/he really meant it when saying you won't get promoted if you can't write well.