Writes and wrongs 3

November 11, 2005

If we, as William Leahy seems to suggest, think of argumentation as a skill too "academic" for mere undergraduates, who presumably need only to shuffle papers in some tedious future office career, there is no incentive for us to nurture the skills of good essay writing.

But I believe that rather than, as Leahy argues, ditching the "stringent criteria" and "inappropriate demands" of academic essay writing to avoid plagiarism, we need to help students to acquire the skills that will enable them to write without resorting to plagiarism.

We should neither lower our standards nor insult our students by suggesting that they do not need critical skills. Every time one of our former students writes a letter of application for a job, attends an interview, begins work in our increasingly stressful workplaces, applies for funding or a small-business loan, writes a report or engages in hundreds of other mundane situations during their working life, they will draw (probably unconsciously) on the skills developed at university through essay writing.

It is about time we took seriously the process through which those skills are acquired.

Jessica Bloom American InterContinental University,
London

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