#55: Author John Warner on Rethinking Writing Instruction and Schools

Why do so many students leave high school without the ability to write in compelling and interesting ways?

According to John Warner, author of a new book titled “Why They Can’t Write: Killing the Five Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities,” it’s because we’re teaching them to write to a test, not to real life audiences. But that’s only one of many problems with schools today, places in which well meaning and talented teachers are constrained by outdated expectations and a lack of appreciation, and where students are constrained by standardization, stress and much more.

Warner, who is also a columnist for the Chicago Tribune as well as a blogger for Inside Higher Education, suggests some wholesale changes in the priorities and commitments we keep in schools. Among them to grant more agency to both students and teachers to do meaningful work that matters, to get rid of the scourge of grades, and to generally reduce the amount of stress that today’s high schoolers are feeling in their lives.

This 45-minute interview touches on a wide range of topics relevant to anyone seriously interested in rethinking the status quo of schools.

Resources Mentioned:

Why They Can’t Write by John Warner

I Love Learning, I Hate School by Susan Blum

Modern Learners Podcast #44 with Susan Blum

Modern Learners Podcast #38 with David Gleason

The Testing Charade by Daniel Koretz

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