Southern Man

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Writing, Then and Now

Southern Man has been going through boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff from The Barn and sorting and keeping and trashing various goods he's had since childhood.

Yes, Southern Man is a pack rat. It's genetic. Dad's solution was to tear down his storage barn and build a bigger one. Southern Man's second barn is still a work in progress.

Southern Man has also spent many hours the past few days grading end-of-semester essays and term papers. By coincidence, in those aforementioned boxes he found a bundle of writing from high school, which he re-read with a combination of admiration and horror.

Southern Man does not hold himself up as a particularly good writer. This blog is, more than anything, writing practice. He certainly wasn't a good writer in high school. But at least in his papers words were spelled correctly and proper nouns appropriately capitalized. His paragraphs had topic sentences, his references were properly cited using the style guide of the day, and "its" and "it's" were used correctly. In short, Southern Man's high-school writing is far superior than the drivel he gets from his net-surfing spell-check-enabled college seniors today.

Why is this? Southern Man recalls a number of junior-high (that's what they called "middle school" back then) and high-school teachers who were harsh taskmasters when it came to writing. There was little concern about the fragile egos of the precious little children back then; assignments were carefully read, brutally evaluated, and returned bleeding with red ink. Southern Man can still name all of the parts of speech and diagram sentences today; his high-school age children can not. Do they even teach those skills anymore? Some of the papers Southern Man found was an assignment to diagram all of Jabberwocky and selected portions of Ulysses. His children would die if subjected to an assignment like that. Southern Man's teens took classes in "keyboarding," which he gathers was mostly surfing the net and fooling around with different fonts in Microsoft Word. Southern Man took a hard-core touch-typing class from a whip-cracking bitch who got him up to sixty error-free words per minute as a high-school junior. Southern Man had the added benefit of a doctoral advisor who was an excellent writer and allowed few errors to escape his eye.

So Southern Man is playing English teacher today, passing on at least a few of the harsh lessons he learned so long ago to his own students. He suspects that they won't appreciate it.


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