Are teachers a race of people born yesterday? Considering that they are shaping the minds of the next generation of movers and shakers, one would certainly hope not.

Imagine this scene; a grown woman you pay private education fees to employ, after assuring you that she has years of teaching experience, has just conducted a workshop for parents on teaching writing. She now  begins leading a group of students in a writing lesson as a demonstration.

The task given the children was to write about a lolly they were handed in a paper patty. She then enthusiastically encourages the children to write anything. Anything at all, as long as you get something down on the paper. Actively encouraging the children to complain, moan, whine, to write anything that describes how you feel about the writing task, she then commends every single child for a “fantastic job”, “great writing”.

Does anyone see a problem here? Even if I lay aside for a moment my thoughts on praising children merely for existing, what is this activity teaching them about expressing themselves? That it is such a delight, such a marvelous wonder to hear what they think, that they can be obnoxious and disrespectful with impunity? What worth is there in hearing a child whine because they didn’t get served first, didn’t get the colour they wanted, weren’t allowed a second lolly? Can this honestly be called “creative writing”? Has education deteriorated to the extent that this kind of activity would be applauded? My mind boggles.

There is a line of reasoning, popular for the last few years, that goes along the lines of:

“anything that gets a child reading is a good thing. Doesn’t matter what the material is, as long as they are reading.”

Do you know anyone who reads trashy romance books? Do you think it improves their mind? Broadens their vocabulary? Will help them do better if they decide to go on to further study? Reading mind candy will not help you become a better student, and in the same way, writing rubbish (and being praised for it) will certainly not result in you magically becoming an articulate, persuasive communicator.

Creative writing appears to have an importance placed on it during the middle primary years that is hard to justify. Some children would rather eat glass than make up a story. Does it actually matter? While being able to communicate effectively is a vital life skill, making up stories is not, and neither is it the only path to gaining a command of language.

In years past, narration and copy work were integral tools of education. Learning expression and structure from master writers, and training your mind to order facts, are indispensable skills with advantages to students over lapping other disciplines.

Can one explain this to an educator who has a been licensed to teach? Is there any greater arrogance than assuming that today’s unproven methods are without equal?

Here’s a little quote from a teacher of another time and place….

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come, with those that shall come after.