A friend of mine told me a story about her son, who was a reluctant writer as a middle schooler. In fact, she says, “When he was 12 years old, I paid him to write something for me—just to prove that he could!”
It turns out he was a fine writer. He just hadn’t figured out yet was he wanted to write about yet. Then, he got into music and began writing music reviews. He attended a progressive high school, and the teachers there encouraged him to pursue his passion. He got some of his work published in a local music magazine and made it the focus of his senior project. By the end of his senior year, he’d written 67 music reviews.
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The problem with standards is that by imposing a minimum, you are at the same time imposing a maximum. If you say to your 10th grade English class, “Write a five-page essay analyzing Joseph Heller’s use irony in Catch-22,” there’s pretty much zero chance that anyone will go above and beyond that.
If you say to a student, “Your assignment is to write 67 music reviews,” he’s going to look at you like you’re insane.