So our youngest daughter is a ninth grader. First year of high school. She has a language arts class. Seems like a typical LA class, not much changed from the classes I vaguely remember taking back in the day. She comes home with an assignment to write three poems.
I know that as a parent I am hopelessly biased, but nonetheless her poems were wonderfully shockingly good. Heartfelt and well written, they were a view into the world of a young teenager.
Anyway, life goes on and a few days later we're talking again about something school related and she says, "...Dad that's all school is - is memorizing. We sit there all day. At night I memorize [x] and the next day we take a test...." Again, not all that far from what I remember of my days in the class room. By and large rote memorization and then regurgitation of said facts is what many think of as education.
I have a point and I'm getting to it I promise...
The 3/1/2015 Sunday paper comes along and "Pearls Before Swine" by Stephen Pastis, has Willy and two characters talking about studying for a history test. All three question the worth of history. The column ends with the mouse character whipping out his smart phone and googling the answers to the history questions that Willy asks. Ridiculously easy with a few seconds on a phone keyboard. The point driven home being one of the worth of traditional education, when in so many cases in these times, all you have to do is whip out a device and do an online search for the answer. Many would say that traditionally storing facts away in a young cranium is now of questionable value, as simplistically illustrated in this comic. That I really like by the way.
For me this is a valid point. Should the bulk of education still consist of fact recitation and regurgitation, followed by forgetting said facts and likely never using them again? If not, what should education become? A HUGE questions to which NO absolute answers have emerged, only a few smaller relative answers.
Now my point......
Man, woman and child should write because the act of writing, simplistically and with much being left unsaid, is analysis and raw creative effort. Writing is not a fact you memorize and spit up on a test. Writing poetry is delving into your brain and creating something original and unseen. Some NOT memorized. In clichéd consultant speak you are "adding value". I think you are. I think my daughter did. She did it amazingly well and in a way that shows the power a young brain has when it leans into something and really wants to create in lieu of memorize.
To me that makes writing, one of humanity's first great creations and possibly our most used commodity, something that is special and worth the effort. You can't memorize, you have to sit there and work your brain until words come out on paper or screen. For me, in a time where so much education is still fact-based memorization of ever-lessening value, writing endures as a skill well worth developing in brains regardless of age or place.