Enough already!

I’m finding myself increasingly frustrated with the ignorance of the students at my 2-year college. And please understand, I’m not specifically picking on my college, because I’ve been doing some research and find that as far back as 1998 Tagg, et al. were prefacing their article “The Decline of the Knowledge Factory” (The World & I, June 1998) with this: “At a time when high schools cannot persuasively claim to produce even literate graduates, we focus our hopes for the educated person on colleges and universities.” (emphasis mine). And yes, I know that this is not a properly formatted MLA citation, but who cares? I’ve given you all the information you need to find that article if you choose to do so.

Students come to me with sample papers given to them by their professors. Presumably, the professors are giving these out so that the students will read them and understand what a good, quality paper looks like. See how are the arguments formulated? See how the author supports his thesis? See that the author, in fact, has a thesis? No, they don’t see this. They see that their margins are supposed to be 1″ and that they are somehow expected to put their name and page numbers at the top of each page, and that their professor has required them to cite two sources, so they are going to write their papers and then throw in a couple of quotes for good measure.

What if instead of focusing on the minute differences between APA and MLA citation styles, why don’t we teach our students how to think? How to argue effectively? How to communicate their ideas effectively and convincingly to others? Is this too much to ask? Because that is what they will need when they go out into the world of grown-ups. No one is going to care if they italicized or underlined a title, but people will care whether or not they can get their point across. That’s what we need to be teaching them.


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