“Academic writing is formulaic“, according to one SAT tutor who has written a number of books on the topic. It would seem to follow that creative writing should not be an important focus of high school curriculum. Students should master the “formula” before they spend too much time on poetry, journaling, or similar exercises in creative writing.
… one of the things I try to get kids away from in terms of their academic writing is the idea that everything they write has to be wildly new and creative. Academic writing is formulaic. It just is. Clarity trumps pretty much everything. You can be creative when you’ve mastered all the rules, but until they, you need to pay attention to what people with more experience do and learn from them. (I think part of the problem is all the hysteria over plagiarism: of COURSE kids shouldn’t be stealing other people’s work, but they also need models! How else are they supposed to learn to write?) When they try to be creative, they write jumbled sentences and the like — it’s just a disaster.
When it comes to writing, most students need to learn the rules before they can break the rules.
Students are not being taught academic writing in high school.
In his “third column on the teaching of writing in colleges and universities“, Stanley Fish addressed a question from readers.
Isn’t the mastery of forms something that should be taught in high school or earlier?
His response, based on years of experience as a college professor:
By all the evidence, high schools and middle schools are not teaching writing skills in an effective way, if they are teaching them at all….
High schools should try something different.
I think K-12 schools would see greater success if they used something like the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’, a methodical and efficient approach to writing instruction. I would love to see a separate composition course in high school, employing a basic method like that of Kerrigan, and involving plenty of practice writing. I suspect a course like this would work well as an online option.
It worked at New Dorp High School in New York City, where it was found”that returning to fundamentals like explicit grammar instruction and formulaic writing has succeeded in turning around the dismal performance of high poverty students”.