Ted Fabiano shares this letter to Congress with the Coöp on behalf of #blog4nwp.
I do not remember the grade Julie Howerter earned on her Brave New World test. I do not remember how she fared on the ACT or SAT, or her school attendance record.
What I do remember about Julie Howerter, a student in my senior English class at Blue Valley Northwest several years ago, is a piece of writing she created one month before graduation. The assignment, prompted by a colleague who had attended the Summer Institute of the Greater Kansas City Writing Project, was to write a graduation speech that represented the student’s true feelings about high school and the future.
Julie’s speech was about regret. She wrote that the end of high school made her realize she never took any chances after moving to Kansas from Colorado her sophomore year: never approached a group of unfamiliar students at a lunch table, never tried out for a sport or joined a club. Julie imagined that someday she would do all these things, but the end of her senior year had arrived unexpectedly.
Her speech did not employ traditional graduation metaphors she would have learned from listening to the speeches shown on television or published in books. She did not write about rivers or roses or roads less traveled or reaching for the sky. She wrote something that, as a speech, was without a model, without precedent. She expressed something that was truly her.
How much of a school day allows for the development of the individual? In an increasingly standardized curriculum driven by standardized tests, students are in danger of becoming standardized themselves.
It is unrealistic to expect that this trend can be reversed completely. However, writing can remain a part of a school day that can preserve an element of humanity in the daily march toward efficiency. Please consider the value of programs like the National Writing Project that encourage and educate teachers in the instruction of writing.