In the Globe and Mail, Clive Thomas argues that all the time kids spend on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs may be making them better writers and thinkers. Thomas cites the work of Andrea Lunsford, an English professor at Stanford, who recently compared freshman composition papers from 1917, 1930, 1986, and 2006 and found that, while the average rate of errors hasn’t changed much since 1917, students today write longer, more intellectually complex papers:
In 1917, a freshman paper was on average only 162 words long and the majority were simple “personal narratives.” By 1986, the length of papers more than doubled, averaging 422 words. By 2006, they were more than six times longer, clocking in at 1,038 words – and they were substantially more complex, with the majority consisting of a “researched argument or report,” with the student taking a point of view and marshalling evidence to support it.
“Student writers today are tackling the kinds of issues that require inquiry and investigation as well as reflection,” Prof. Lunsford concluded.
Lunsford believes the shift is partially driven by all the “life writing” (long emails, posts on TV discussion boards, blog posts, etc.) students now do outside the classroom. “They’re writing more than any generation before,” she says.
Of course it is also possible that there is no causal relationship whatsoever between all that “life writing” and those freshman comp essays, as approximately 1 billion other factors (including, as Thomas points out, higher educational standards and better information availability) may also have contributed …
(HT: The Daily Dish)