I read a facinating musing on the blog Academic Splat! about the use of essays in teaching. The entry focuses on the use of essays in college classes (which makes sense, since Camicao is a college professor), but I think the concern stands for grade school, middle school and high school just as much, if not more. How many of us were taught to write the dreaded 5-paragraph essay, or worse, the 20-minute essay? Did you feel like you got much out of it other than a hatred for essay questions? I mean, even when the question was interesting (especially in college classes – which usually asked more interesting questions) being required to write a certain type of essay (determined either by actual guidelines or previous experience with what the professor/teacher wants) often made me lose all interest in the question itself.

I’m wierd and would sometimes write something different from a traditional essay because I liked the question so much and felt it deserved better than my horribly edited form essays, but that usually backfired in a poor grade or a confused professor. And it drove my grade school and high school teachers absolutely batty. I remember my favorite English teacher in grade school calling me in after a twenty-minute essay exercise because I had loved the question and so written something that (while still mostly an essay) bore no resemblence to the form asked for. I was livid. I loved that essay (now I don’t remember what it was about, just that I thought it was great and she was hung up on the stupid form). It makes me wonder what the purpose of teaching form is. I see that it is vitally important for papers intended for publication and such (and have gotten much better at traditional essays over the years), but how many people really ever intend to publish essays about anything? I do, but again, I’m a freak.

I don’t know. This is more of me being frustrated with the state and specifics of the education system. I feel that I have valid points, but I may just be crazy. I do realize that what I would design for an education system would never be accepted. I guess that’s ok. I can at least use my ideas to try and come up with ways to change the system that *might* be acceptable someday. That’s how change happens, right?

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