To be literate in the 21st century takes more than satisfying the literal definition of being able to read and write. By modern, first-world standards if you aren’t literate you might as well find a cave and start painting pictures on walls. If just being able to read and write no longer qualifies you as literate what does? A word coined in 2005 “transliteracy” does justice to modern literacy, defined as the ability to read and understand concepts across a multitude of platforms: speech, writing, mass media and social media. The focus of literacy in 21st century America should be on critical thinking not on comprehension, we as a race are past the point of looking for context clues and are ready to delve deeper by asking questions and forming opinions.
As far as writing is concerned, the high-school taught five paragraph structure is clearly wrong. In the olden days, one could get away with structuring every single paper the exact same way with boring introductions, bland thesis statements and regurgitated facts spread across two pages.Good writing has no such guidelines. Transliteracy calls for us to break free from those boundaries into a more effective form of communication. A well written piece should contain proper grammar and be easy to read but the countless ways to do so are all equally valid. A 140-character tweet can be “good” writing in the same manner a fifty page thesis can so long as they convey the author’s intentions clearly and efficiently. I am not a “good” writer. I do not have grasp on grammar, I cannot convey my thoughts efficiently and I tend to ramble. Thus I do not think myself qualified to have grammar quirks as I often commit the most atrocious grammatical crimes imaginable. Yet it still is possibly one of the most important things to master in order to be a “good” writer.
It may be obvious that I agree with Mr. Jenkins about the problems with high-school writing rubrics. If however it was not obvious, let me make myself clear. I think the typical five to seven sentence paragraphs, five paragraph papers are horrible. In addition, the third-person standard is outrageous. But aside from the confounded rules they arbitrarily force onto students, I believe high-school does an okay job at preparing students for what is to come. The emphasis put on grammar is sufficient and the ability to write to a standard are necessary for students to be able to address a wide variety of topics. Sometimes the three topic persuasive paper is needed to construct a basis for further conversation, such as writing speeches. Having clear goals set out early in a speech allows you to guide their attention and develop a clear pace that is easy to follow. So while high-school writing may be lacking in diversity it does serve a purpose and instead of scrapping it altogether it would probably be best to improve it.