Do today's students have better writing skills than their parents?'s Teacher Poll of the Week
Do today's students have better writing skills than their parents?

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Writing skills are tied directly to overall literacy skills, which are defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the "ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts."

The majority of the teachers in this poll feel that today's students do not have better writing skills than their parents. This is reflected in overall literacy rates in North America are declining. Canada, for example had a literacy rate of 99% in 2003 but studies done over the past decade have shown a steady decline. If this decline continues at its current rate, Canada will be below the world's average literacy rate for adults in the next two decades.

Writing skills are a huge component of overall literacy therefore if literacy rates are declining then writing skills must be on the decline as well. Students nowadays are much sophisticated than previous generations. This generation seems to be growing up quickly. They are aware of things at a younger age and are able to talk about them with a confidence that their parents' generation lacked. When asked to put pen to paper they may be better able to express their ideas, but obviously are not doing it with better writing skills.

This poll, of course, is completely subjective and without data to refute the case on either side it may be impossible to come to a definitive answer. Many things have changed in schools since the parents of today were getting their education. The way core subjects are being taught is different. Emphasis on phonetics rather than rote memorization is one such example. The more we understand about how students learn the better able teachers are to address student learning difficulties.

Parents can help support learning at home by setting limits on computer usage or television time to ensure that their children have adequate time for school work. This trend towards declining literacy rates is worrying and it will take more than teachers to correct it. Parents, teachers and students will be needed to solve the problem.