SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Learning, loving to write

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 7 May) – Almost everybody, if not everybody, thinks that writing is a gift, not a craft that can be learned, honed and mastered. If you’re talking about poetry and other forms of creative writing, maybe you’re right. Surely, William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe were a species above Homo sapiens when it comes to literature. It would take eons of evolutionary process to equal or surpass their superior literary genes. 

But I’m talking about the “ordinary” forms of writing, the one we use at work, in school and other daily interactions. These don’t require skills in applying figures of speech like metaphor and hyperbole. The only requisite here is knowledge on verb-subject agreement, proper grouping of sentences into a paragraph, and logical sequencing of ideas. 

Sadly, not a good percentage of students, including those in college, can write a few coherent sentences much less paragraphs that tell a story or convey a message clearly. I’ve read a good number of essays by both high school and college students, and the way they’re written made my blood pressure rise. Mind you, it’s not only the grammar and syntax that we’re dealing with but also the obvious absence of mental effort – never mind heart – put into them. 

One must wonder how students – in particular those taking up social sciences and other courses that require a lot of writing – come to earn degrees if they barely have the basic skills in written communication. Reading their term papers, exams and dissertations would be instructive of just how much the educational system itself has become one huge anomaly. 

Such problem naturally extends to the workplace. Many office workers have to wrench their guts out to be able to write a simple report or memo. In my previous work with a UN-funded environment project, many of my fellow employees were honest enough to admit that writing reports is the last thing they’d like to do. 

So, whose fault is it if our students and children cannot effectively communicate in writing? Are the schools and teachers to blame? And if they are at fault, what could be lacking in the instructional system? It would help to ask English language teachers how much time they devote to teaching their students to write. 

Yet, whatever shortcoming our schools may have is only part of the entire picture. I believe the home is the best place to start teaching children to write. Parents need not be good writers themselves to do this. Nor do they need to converse with their children in English in the belief that it would subsequently develop their writing ability too. Not at all, the biggest thing that talking in English at home could do is alienate the children from their native tongue. 

Here’s what my own parents did to me: They just pampered me with books. And no, I didn’t start right away with novels like “The House of the Seven Gables” but with kiddie stuff like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”. I started from there and later gobbled up Greek mythology, King Arthur, the Shakespearean tragedies and the other classics. 

In short, my parents taught me to love reading but not in an imposing way. They would just place the reading materials either on my bed or beside my toys. That’s how I fell in love with the written word. And when it happened, it was like an unstoppable flood rushing into a vast desert of thirst for knowledge. 

You want your children to learn writing? Make them fall in love with reading first. It will open a whole new world for them – now and in the future.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])