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Why They Can't Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities
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Why They Can't Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  35 ratings  ·  12 reviews
There seems to be widespread agreement that--when it comes to the writing skills of college students--we are in the midst of a crisis. In Why They Can't Write, John Warner, who taught writing at the college level for two decades, argues that the problem isn't caused by a lack of rigor, or smartphones, or some generational character defect. Instead, he asserts, we're teachi ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published December 3rd 2018 by Johns Hopkins University Press (first published November 25th 2018)
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Jean-Marie
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non_fiction, writing
Yep. I was nodding in agreement with each turn of the page. I think Warner and I only deviate in opinion in one area: school. 8 years ago when my daughter's kindergarten principal said to me, "If you think you can do better," I decided I could and have been homeschooling ever since. Warner's philosophy on school is more of a Sheryl Sandberg "Lean In" approach. I get it. Many of us must lean into this broken system, so this is the best we can do. However, one bad teacher or one bad year, especial ...more
Gregg
John Warner takes the whole "Why can't kids write these days" and answers it thoroughly and convincingly. We're teaching them to write badly, he argues, and we need to stop doing that.

"We" is, of course, more than just that mean sophomore English teacher you had who hated you and made you feel bad about Prom. It's more than one school, even. It's a system that crushes individuality and thought in the name of conformity and nice-sounding phrases like "college and career ready," among other thing
...more
Elizabeth
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
As an avid reader of Warner's Inside Higher Ed column and as a writing instructor interested in critical pedagogy, I was not at all surprised to find myself wholeheartedly agreeing with all of the problems with writing pedagogy and practice that Warner details (from the actual assignments common in classrooms to far broader issues pertaining to the livelihoods of students and teachers). However, I was pleasantly surprised by the detailed solutions Warner provides -- particularly those that he's ...more
Shawn Towner
Dec 25, 2018 rated it liked it
I think I would have appreciated this before I went back to grad school. Having read all sorts of writing research, there's not much new here for me. But that also means that I'm not really the audience for this book. There is a huge disconnect between the research world of academia and the pedagogical reality of K-12 education. For a reader who's unfamiliar with writing research or the policy statements of NCTE, CCCC of the WPA council, this book could be eye-opening. I think it would make a gr ...more
Ietrio
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: junk
Another small intellect finding the universal solution.

The observations are quire right. And they are common on all media. No contribution here.

The solutions are in the range of older conservative gentleman who believes that his mediocre life is somehow a virtue. The system will be the same. The guardians of the system will be the same. Yet sprinkling some pixie dust here and there will dramatically change everything.
Heather S
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolute Truth

I have read many books on writing, but I have rarely agreed more with what an author was telling me. This book makes it clear why students are struggling with writing and what can be done about it.
J. Bradley
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is dead on about how we can teach writing better. If you teach writing, this is a must read.
Susan Blum
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The ways we teach writing are ineffective and, worse, produce phobias and truly terrible writing. Warner shows how to do it instead!
Ashley
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is one of those books where I just nod along as I agree with most everything. The bulk of the book is a wide-reaching screed about the state of education, though, and less a specific guide for more innovative methods for teaching writing. I would have liked a bit more practical advice and examples of the kinds of assignments Warner uses, but these are limited to about a quarter of the book.
Terry
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I digested most of this book on a cross-country flight, moving from chapter to chapter nodding my head in agreement. John Warner has written a book that will resonate with many veteran teachers, weather of college or secondary composition, especially those of National Writing Project experience. There isn't much that is revolutionary here; most of his thinking has been arrived at by other thinkers. But that is also part of his argument: we already know how to teach writing, but educational insti ...more
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Robin
Dec 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Focuses more on the other necessities that plague education. While I agree with many of the issues, I wanted more focus on writing.
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