According to Annie Holmquist in This 1897 Text Gives 3 Clues Why Today’s Students

Can’t Write the Nation’s Report Card announced that only 27% of American 8th and

12th graders attained proficiency in writing.

Why are American students such

terrible writers?

According to a text by Dr. Edwin Lewis entitled A First Book in Writing English,

American schools, students, and even adults regularly violate three principles,

which Lewis deemed essential to the writing process.

1. They Don’t Read High Quality Literature

Schools often fail to present their students with literature selections, which

demonstrate good examples of vocabulary, sentence structure, and other

components of high-quality writing. A thorough and challenging reading program,

however, is one of Lewis’ keys to successful writing.

“One of the quickest ways of learning to know good English, is oral reading. For him

who would write the language it is therefore a great economy to learn to read it. It is

an invaluable habit to read aloud every day some piece of prose with the finest

feeling the reader can lend to it. In no other way can one so easily learn to notice and

to remember new words. In no other way can one catch the infinitely varied rhythm

of prose, and acquire a sense of how a good sentence rises gradually from the

beginning and then descends in a cadence. This rise and fall of the sentence is not

merely a matter of voice; it is a matter of thought as well. …

If the student reads aloud from writers whose work was natural, unforced, original,

he will gradually come to see his own ideas more clearly, feel his own feelings more


2. They Skim

The Internet has trained us – adults and children alike – to become text skimmers.

But such a practice diminishes thought and understanding, two facets essential to

good writing.

“To gain new words and new ideas, the student must compel himself to read slowly.

Impatient to hurry on and learn how the tale or poem ends, many a youth is

accustomed to read so rapidly as to miss the best part of what the author is trying to

say. Thoughts cannot be read so rapidly as words. To get at the thoughts and really

to retain the valuable expressions, the student must scrutinize and ponder as he

reads. Each word must be thoroughly understood; its exact value in the given

sentence must be grasped.”

3. They Don’t Memorize

The memorization of facts is not encouraged in an age where creativity and feelings

are encouraged. But is the de-emphasis on memorization actually depriving children

of valuable writing material?

“To the habit of memorizing, many a person is indebted not merely for high

thoughts that cheer hours of solitude and that stimulate his own thinking, but for

command of words. The degree to which the language of modern writers is derived

from a few great authors is startling. Shakespeare’s phrases are a part of the tissue

of every man’s speech to day. Such writers as Charles Lamb bear Shakespeare’s

mark on every page. The language of the King James Version of the Bible is echoed in

modern English prose and poetry. It formed styles so unlike as those of Bunyan,

Ruskin, and Abraham Lincoln. Most teachers would declare that a habit of learning

Scripture by heart is of incalculable value to a student’s English.”


At Arma Dei Academy the utilization of the classical pedagogy ensures students will

become proficient in writing which includes the following three principles:

1) Our students read rich classical literature beginning in Kindergarten.

2) Technology takes a back seat at Arma Dei Academy. Students read from

3) Memorization and recitation is one of the most important elements in the

books both aloud and to themselves.

classical pedagogy with our students spending a good portion of their

time memorizing facts about math, grammar, character qualities, and

much more in grades kindergarten through fourth grade.

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