Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Are we creating a generation of literary robots?

I taught a Young Writers Workshop at a public high school last week and was totally unimpressed by the lack of creativity and basic writing skills demonstrated by the 11th grade students in attendance.

Now, this is certainly not true about every group I teach, but sadly, many of these kids could not express themselves using basic grammar and punctuation skills. I could barely read many of their stories. Original thoughts? Very few. A good example was the writing exercise where they were asked to freshen up stale cliches by creating a 2010 metaphor, for goldies as "Marching to the beat of a different drummer" or "Love at first sight." Only two of the 40 students came up with something remotely clever; something that wasn't just a thinly veiled regurgitation of the example. I felt like I was addressing a group of masked robots.

It was a little depressing.

Then today my niece, a freshman in a community college English class, showed me her timed writing pop quiz: an essay she wrote on the spot during class. How refreshing!

Now I understand Andie is an aspiring writer (a chip off the ole auntie block), and an intelligent little buggar at that, but I couldn't help but beam at her cohesive writerly skills and the depth of her insight on the assigned topic, "The difference between love and infatuation." Here's an excerpt:

"Far too often , the emotionally-driven society of the United States confuses the fleeting passion of infatuation with the steadfastness of unconditional love. Individuals in this culture proclaim their undying love for pizza and, in the next breath, tell the world how devoted they are to their significant other.

If two people love each other, it is logical that infatuation will turn to love; however, couples often make rash decisions and marry before the thrill of infatuation has died. For a while, they live in bliss together, believing that life after marriage is a real-life fairytale. They soon realize that married life, in essence, is not that different from single life.

Consequently, there is a sense of disappointment at the lack of perfection, which is often followed by regret or boredom. In addition, people often discover that the person they married is not the glorified, idealized image they once thought them to be. The climbing divorce rate may be a result of this disappointment, which is rooted in unrealistic expectations.

In contrast, actual love is not a fleeting emotion, but a deeper, more meaningful connection between two people. It is founded on certainty rather than impulse and is not likely to fade when problems arise. Those who are in love generally have a more realistic view of marriage as opposed to those who are blinded by emotion."

Whoa! Can you see why I'm a proud aunt?