Editorial Deathmatch"Writing Across the Curriculum"Wednesday, February 04, 2004 By Aneesh K. Venkat & Brian Rock
Don't Write Off "Writing Across the Curriculum" By Aneesh K. Venkat Over the past few weeks, York County School Division students have been writing a few sentences in each class as a part of the writing across the curriculum initiative. The main drive of this initiative has been to bring students up to certain standards in writing, with the goal of leaving no child behind. The new initiative has drawn much criticism from both the student body and instructors as being a useless waste of time. Though upon cursory glance it may appear that writing across the curriculum (more affectionately known as WAC) is not the solution to the failings of the public school system, it does provide a means of launching an enormous campaign to bring failing students up to standards. Each and every student in this nation has the right to a quality education and WAC is just one method of ensuring that the government fulfills its obligations to the youth of this county. For most students, writing five sentences about the war in Iraq does not pose a big problem. These students believe that they are wasting their time, energy, and killing a few trees. But what they are actually doing is fulfilling the missions of the public school system. The public school system does not encourage large disparity in the academic talents of its students. Its function is simple: to educate the masses. The public school system exists in order to make the youths of this nation reach a certain standard. The students must achieve this standard in order to become the well-informed voter in our great democratic process. The public school system is strapped for funding by constant cuts in the realm of education, but it still strives to fulfill its obligation in bringing each and every student to a certain accepted standard. The WAC is a literal manifestation of this standard, and has been implemented in order for the public schooling system of this county to meet its objective. Maybe it could have been utilized differently. Maybe WAC should entail more than just five simple sentences. But the message is plain and simple. WAC is here to identify the at risk population in the area, identify their problems, and later on find solutions for them. Contrary to popular misconception, WAC is not intended to be the savior of the schools nor are they intended to make the students better people. If writing five sentences could cause that much change, the American people would most likely make politicians do some WAC as well. The WAC is intended as an indicator and as a stepping stone for large-scale programs meant to attack problem areas and help those whom the public schooling system has previously failed. Public schools cannot cater to the gifted and academically accelerated student because they do not need the attention that academically challenged students need. And to those who continue to whine and complain about having to lift their hands to write five sentences, well, GIVE ME A BREAK! Writing Across the Curriculum: A Lesson in Futility By Brian Rock It’s a good thing that we added two minutes to each school day so that we could waste it away on pointless assignments. In normal York High School fashion, another policy has been implemented in response to dwindling SOL scores. The new policy dubbed “Writing Across the Curriculum,” WAC (not to be confused with “whack,” a slang word used to describe something that is crazy or nonsensical) is intended to help raise SOL English and Writing scores. However, it fails to benefit students because of the way in which it is set up and only succeeds in wasting class time. First of all, the most qualified people to assess and correct writing samples are English teachers. Apparently the bad writing epidemic has grown to the point where the English department can no longer handle it alone. Instead, all teachers (including teachers of math, science, foreign language and technology) must assign writing tasks to their students and grade them according to the students’ vocabulary, style, and grammar. While more practice is probably the best answer for poor writing, the current system fails to benefit the student. Not only are these assignments not graded by English teachers, the student never receives the writing sample back. So, even if a student is writing incorrectly he never learns of his mistakes. Instead, he simply submits his short paragraph to the teacher and never sees it again. Moreover, there is no motivation to produce a well-written sample, since little explanation has been given to why we have this policy in the first place. The most obvious setback of this new policy is the amount of class time it wastes. While movies, field trips, and other monotony-breaking endeavors are frowned upon because of the demanding SOL schedule, these small hassles sap time from class every month and ultimately do nothing for the student. I’m not saying that a field trip and a 20-minute exercise are comparable as to how much time is spent on each, but only that the attitude of the school is somewhat hypocritical when it comes to time management. I don’t expect that teachers enjoy having another set of class work assignments to grade, especially when they have no relation to that teacher’s subject matter. Understandably, teachers are inclined to meet their monthly quota with their smaller classes to expedite the grading process. This sometimes leads to the same classes fulfilling the requirement repeatedly. Also, some teachers mistakenly send their students’ samples to other teachers to grade, adding to the frustration and confusion of the situation. In a time where teachers constantly combat student apathy and disinterest, new and innovative techniques should be implemented to improve skills. Something as simple as a contest could at least instill some motivation for writing. Instead, the only thing that WAC contributes to the classroom is the number of groans heard from students and teachers alike.