Why I Hate the Standard Essay…

Writing a paper or an essay in high school English and English 101 and 102 in college seems like it’s sucking the creativity right out of the students. “Write an introduction, three body paragraphs that defend your argument, and a conclusion to reinforce your point.” I’m sorry…are we all suddenly robots? Where is the creativity in this form of writing?! By teaching everyone to write the same way, what service are we really providing the students that come in to the classroom? All the great writers of novels and poetry didn’t become great because they wrote the exact same way as everyone else. They became great because they tried new and adventurous things with their writing.

I was just reading these silly little confessions that are anonymous where former teachers explain why they decided to quit teaching. In about 99% of the confessions, the people said that they quit teaching because of the “politics” of teaching. So, the students don’t like the standard essay, the teachers don’t like being told how to run their classrooms….so why isn’t there a change? Now don’t get me wrong, I know it’s not as easy as a magic snap of the fingers and then suddenly everything will be fine, but I wanted a chance to open up some eyes and thoughts to this subject.

Back to the typical “standard” essay. I was in my advanced composition class and we had a huge discussion about this type of writing. She showed us an essay that was written by a student that probably would have gotten rave reviews on the ACT or SAT. It was an essay that had a problem, then action to fix the problem, then a reflection on how that problem and scenario changed their life. BORING! Like come on…can’t we get something creative in there? What about some narrative or some dialogue between you and that girl that you had a problem with at work. What feelings were you experiencing? What was the setting? Teachers even go so far to say that you cannot use the word “I” in a research paper, and this still holds true in college classes. My question is WHY? Why can’t I use an I? How does putting my personal reflection or experience into the paper deem it “unprofessional?” Shouldn’t that establish more credibility?

I recently wrote an argumentative paper on why everyone should go to the courthouse to get married. I started with experience at the courthouse. I explained the whole scene. My thesis of “getting a courthouse wedding is cheaper and more meaningful than the big white wedding” wasn’t even until, like, the third page. So I guess my rant stems from the fact that I think this idea of having a “standard” essay that builds a road map to what/how kids are writing completely squishes all senses of creativity. Then we go and wonder why kids in high school and college hate writing…maybe we need to reevaluate here…

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