…is not as terrifying, detrimental, or pressing as the slow death of writing in schools. Yeah, yeah Scott Turow is a traitorous sock puppet for the very industries that take advantage of artists—both budding and longstanding—on a daily basis. Who cares? Our concerns as an artistic community and the current debate on the state of publishing will have all been for naught if we don’t address the real problems threatening the future of this creative industry: The Public School System.
My mom is a teacher in a low income school. We’re all aware of the problems facing public schools, especially ones in low income neighborhoods: lack of resources, restrictive curriculum, etc. The list goes on. Our students are trailing behind other developed countries on standardized tests. They’re dropping out at alarming rates. They just don’t give a shit and as a nation sometimes it feels a little like we don’t either.
But the other day I became aware of something truly heartbreaking to me as both a reader and a writer. Kids are struggling. With reading. With writing. And not just with the language or the context. These kids are struggling with the formation of ideas. They’re reading something and regurgitating it word for word with no hint of questioning, no hint of wonder. They’re absorbing the story on the surface level because that’s all the subsequent multiple choice questions ask of them. But when it comes to digging deeper and considering things like meaning—the most important aspect of language—they’re lost.
For me, writing ignited an opinion. It was a way to not only express myself but to discover myself. Reading made me ask questions and through those questions I found out the answers to who I really was at a fundamental level. And in what other disciplines can we be rewarded for our vulnerability? I used to revel in writing essays and response papers because it was license to share my thoughts and to have them acknowledged by others. Writing was about discovering my individuality. It was about finding my voice.
But what about all of the children out there who don’t even realize what it means to have an opinion; to have that opinion heard? If we don’t demand that schools place an emphasis on writing as a means of creative expression, there will be no slow death of the American author. It will be one cosmic flash resulting in an incurable blindness to all things magic.
Because if you don’t know the sound of your own voice there is only one thing you can ever be—lost.