25 August, 2005


Today I will venture into a few areas that I see as related:

  1. Appreciation for and learning of good writing has declined over the past 100 years in America
  2. Time marches ever forward (ignoring, for the moment, those realities in which it does not)
  3. The Liberal Arts education


I repeatedly hear those in my grandparents' generation complaining that, "kids these days can't read or write." There are certainly many possible reasons for this being true, including

  • a) Linguistics - grammars and vocabularies are ever-shifting, so generation Y will sound nothing like the Depression-era folks' speech, and thus each will think the other doesn't speak the language correctly.
  • b) The Failure of No Child Left Behind (and the American education system in general) - in my opinion, the situation of reading and writing in America was going downhill well before President Bush took office, but this policy, while well-intentioned, was poorly implemented. It certainly isn't helping. Fully Federalizing education has failed spectacularly for the last 40 years, so I'm all fore giving the states and local communities more power, but they need more money, too.
  • c) There's more stuff to learn - seriously. Kids 100 years ago didn't have to master the internet and learn the history of the Iraq war. Admittedly, there is material that they learned that has gone by the wayside, but for the most part, we just keep increasing the amount of stuff kids have to learn by the time they're 18. This is a direct by-product of #2, above.

This essay is not the place to debate the first or second reason for the change (I say decline, but 1a above argues against that) in the reading and writing of American students. I am interested in the effects of 1c.


That means stuff accumulates over time. There's never less of it than there was.


The theory of a Liberal Arts education is that it produces a well-rounded academic. This is a wonderful goal. I make my living writing computer code, but I wouldn't want my life or learning limited to that; I would go insane. Well-roundedness has another benefit: more connections. Invention, creativity, problem solving - all the stuff where the gears in your head are really chugging - are basically the synthesizing of ideas. The more fields with which you have experience, the more connections and styles of thought you have. Some argue, "why should I have to take 4 semesters of psychology if I know I want to go into Gothic Architecture?" This is a good point; taken to the extreme, the idea of "more classes is better" would mean never graduating. So we need to find a balance.

But even if we find a good balance today, won't it have to shift with time? There will be more classes necessary to learn all about Gothic Architecture since eventually there will be the Neo-Gothicists and the Post-Neo-Gothicists, and ... There will also be new fields not yet imagined - fields about which "any intelligent person" ought to know at least a little. So if all fields tend to expand in volume at about the same rate, the ratios won't shift, but we'll all end up spending longer in school.

Let's hope those working to lengthening life expectancy maintain their focus.

1 comment:

someone write my essay said...

Although appreciation for and learning of good writing has declined in America that we observed over the past 100 years. But now the situations are rapidly change. And we have to appreciate the learning of good writing. Thanks for share.