The first year of college has become grade 12½ writes Rick Diguette in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Once he taught college English at the local community college. He’s still teaching composition, but it’s no longer “college” English.
Every semester many students in my freshman English classes submit work that is inadequate in almost every respect. Their sentences are thickets of misplaced modifiers, vague pronoun references, conflicting tenses, and subjects and verbs that don’t agree―when they remember, that is, that sentences need subjects. If that were not bad enough, the only mark of punctuation they seem capable of using with any consistency is the period.
I often remind them that even the keenest of insights will never receive due credit if it isn’t expressed in accordance with the rules of grammar and usage. Spelling words correctly, as well as distinguishing words that sound the same but are not, is also a big plus. “Weather” and “whether” are not interchangeable, for example, but even after I point this out some students continue to make the mistake. And while I’m on the subject, the same goes for “whether” and “rather.”
A state law called Complete College Georgia now links college funding to student performance, writes Diguette. Georgia Perimeter College faculty have developed testable “Core Concepts” students are expected to master in freshman English.
Early in the semester we must first assess their ability to identify a complete sentence ― that is, one with a subject and a verb. After that, somewhere around week five, we find out if they can identify a topic sentence ― the thing that controls the content of a paragraph. Then it’s on to using supporting details by week eight and creating thesis statements by week eleven.
It’s a low bar, he admits.
Is this grade 12 1/2? These were elementary and middle-school skills when I was in school, admittedly in the Neanderthal era. I remember learning “weather” and “whether” in fourth grade. I guess we didn’t learn to create thesis statements supported by details until ninth grade.