The brilliant professor Mark Bauerlein scores yet another direct hit in a recent post about the value of those old-fashioned writing assignments:
In my classes I include both types of assignments, short, one-page writings and longer 7-page papers (I rarely go over 10 pages these days, but I try to make the class have 25-30 pages of finished writing overall.) I also make students bring in their rough drafts so that we may go over them sentence by sentence, word by word. (I’m lucky to have small classes.) It is a novel experience for many of them. To have a reader pause over the placement of a modifier, and to have to think about such things as a writer, is altogether new. The deliberation simply doesn’t go along with digital communication habits. Until we see students paying closer attention to diction and syntax, we should keep traditional writing assignments as a good portion of the work.
Actually, this quote is more of a defense of revision than word count, but it’s still the money quote in a great piece. By far the single biggest factor holding back anyone’s writing is lack of sustained effort–we naturally feel that a simple first draft gets the job done, and that’s that…and we teachers all too often reward such sloppy work by letting it slide by. Teaching students to care about and focus on every word is the best writing training we can give.