This year I published two review essays at my favorite arts and culture outlet, the Los Angeles Review of Books. The first, which came out in April, considers a harrowing journalistic account of what ISIS does to civilian women in Iraq and Syria. The more recent piece, “Students Want to Write Well; We Don’t Let Them,” appeared a couple of weeks ago. I’m proud of both; here’s a taste of the latter:
There is a crisis in how we teach young people, and for Warner this is especially salient in American writing classes. But it’s not the crisis you hear policymakers in Washington or your statehouse talk about, nor is it the sort of narrative that attracts New York Times columnists. The problem is not smartphone addiction, or oversensitive campus activists, or a lack of rigor on the part of professors who only care about their research, or unscrupulous teachers unions protecting bad apples, or millennials getting too many participation trophies, or helicopter parents, or whatever else bothers pundits at The Atlantic this week. It has, instead, a lot more to do with how we have tried to industrialize and centralize education since the Reagan era while simultaneously withdrawing the resources that allow teachers to create environments where students can thrive. A bad thing happened when the standardized test met the austerity budget coming down the road.