Today and throughout February, I am posting brief excerpts from my upcoming memoir, “Coming Full Circle — From Jim Crow to Journalism.”
As a professor, many students I encountered were not good writers — not just journalistic writing but writing period. They had not benefited from the elementary and junior high school lessons we had on diagraming sentences, writing and orally presenting book reports, discussions that forced us to develop critical thinking skills or reading out loud in class.
The millennial generation seems to have gotten out of high school with poor reading and comprehension skills. And worst of all, they don’t seem to even care. Many of them don’t take notes in class lectures, they don’t read their textbooks — sometimes they don’t even buy the books — and they don’t care about missing homework or project deadlines.
Students who use the excuse of not having money to buy books must think we just stepped off a spaceship from Mars. I saw the wardrobes of $150 sneakers, the elaborate manicures and the expensive hairstyles they seem to pay for and change like the weather. The one or two times I encountered students who truly, I mean truly convinced me they could not afford to buy one of their textbooks, I bought their books myself and let them use it on loan for the semester. If some of the students I encountered would put as much effort into being better students as they put into finding ways to avoid excelling, they would probably be on track to becoming millionaires — and offer me a job someday.
I hate seeing our young people not understand that learning how to write well, how to read obsessively and how to speak critically and with authority are the first steps toward success. I hate hearing students who are majoring in math or science say they don’t need to be well-read. Everybody needs to read, everybody needs to write well.
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