Education: Teaching Thinking on Paper

The symptoms are woefully familiar to college instructors everywhere. Nonsensical sentences. Disjointed paragraphs. Wandering structure. Recklessly dangling participles.

Traditionally, educators have blamed the fact that Johnny can't write on inadequate training in the basics of grammar and syntax. Not so, says A.D. (for Albert Douglass) Van Nostrand, professor of English at Brown University. He contends that the problem is not so much that Johnny can't parse a sentence as that he can't think. Or more precisely, he cannot think on paper. Even a student who is a whiz at grammar, Van Nostrand argues, may be a dunce at stringing together sentences...

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