Sunday, December 04, 2005

Lower Education

As I work on my statements of purpose for my grad school applications, I've come to the conclusion that academic writing is a crime against humanity.

I've hired an "admissions consultant" to look over my stuff before I apply. She's got like 30 years of experience doing this, works at Harvard, and, from what I can see, knows more than most about putting together a solid college application.

She just returned the first draft of my statement of purpose for Stanford. And she made very few comments on the essay's substance, but has strongly advised me to change the tone from casual (and humorous) to formal. Which, to me, means boring. I don't doubt that that's good advice, either. Anyone who's ever written or read an A+ college essay, knows that they're written in a suicidally dull tone. Not that students should be encouraged to distract from their paper topic by goofing around on the page, but at what point did dead and oblique jumbles of sentences become the signature of "intelligent writing"?

From my experience with students, it seems this style of writing hasn't accomplished anything except to turn people off from learning. Which, obviously, is the opposite of what academia is trying to achieve. Of course, it's typical American to put tradition and formality over quality and effectiveness.