Why Can’t Teachers Write?

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Why are American students failing? Because American teachers can’t write.

I received an e-mail from my children’s middle school principal today. The subject line read “March E-Mail to Parents.”

Maybe the guy isn’t an English major, but any teacher should be able to write a decent letter. Were I grading this in a basic Business Writing class, I would give it a D. My comments in bold:

Dear Parents:

This is my March email to parents.

You think? Does the writer really need to tell us when the subject of the e-mail is “March E-Mail to Parents?”

I want to give you some additional information about MAP testing.

Do you “want to” or are you going to? Does the reader really care about what you want? (No.) Also, to what is this information additional?

As you are aware, these tests are very important to both Wildwood Middle School and the Rockwood School District.

Assumes I am aware of the tests’ import. Perhaps I’m not.

Our testing window begins after Spring Break during the first week in April and runs until April 19th.

The tests are used to:


  • Bill Hennessy

    March 24, 2005


    Actually, this guy is terrible. The administration at the school seems much more interested in personal advancement than in teaching children. When it comes to kids don’t fit the Rockwood model (tall, good looking, great athlete, etc.), the school stinks.

    Because I have one child who struggles in school despite a very high IQ, I know these people well. Many in the school show great concern and dedication for preparing kids for high school and life. But they’re not in the front offices, and their efforts are often thwarted.

    I don’t pick on the occasional error; I make plenty of those. I do expect the school’s leader, though, to use basic writing principles when sending official communications to parents. If this had been a business letter, I would not take its author very seriously.

    More than that, I expect Rockwood School District and university doctoral programs to demand good writing. Again, it doesn’t have to be error-free, just professional.

    When I read this letter, my first question was, “how did this guy get through college?” That should never happen.

  • Kate

    March 24, 2005

    Mmm. This is your new friend, Kate. I couldn’t help comment on something about teachers. Honestly, I’m somewhat sympathetic to the principal on this issue. In all other ways, do you feel the principal is doing a good job by your child?

    On the other hand, you are the parent I worry about when writing letters home. Not that I shouldn’t worry about you because “the letter” is probably one of very few communications parents have with school staff. Letters home should represent care and skill to parents, I agree. And that’s why I try to take great care in such instances. But I am flawed and I hope my students

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  • Bill Hennessy

    March 23, 2005


    You got me. Then, again, I’m the original box of rocks that nothing is dumber than, to paraphrase P. J. O’Rourke.

    Thanks for the edits.

  • arthur

    March 23, 2005

    Dammit, this is an outrage! Doesn’t he know there are children to education in the United States?!

  • Happy Batson-Jones

    March 23, 2005

    Bill, the the teacher wrote, “that sight is http://www.dese.state.mo.us.” instead of “site.” I’m the last person who should criticize someone for a spelling or grammatical error, but I’m not a teacher either.

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