Writing well is becoming a lost art


CS Lewis once said, “You can make anything by writing.” Of course he was right.

Lewis used only the power of words to create a fictional world of the Narnia story. “The Chronicles of Narnia” is a best-selling seven-volume book that tells the story of Narnia and the story of the magnificent lion, Aslan, for over 50 years. Although this series is written for children, it is also popular with adult readers. Books are popular for good reason!

Lewis made good use of his classical education and expertise in language when he created the fantasy world of The Chronicles of Narnia. The settings are outlined in detail, the characters are richly developed, and the plot lines are full of drama. In short, Lewis knew how to write well.

Obviously, most people can’t match Lewis’s incredible writing skills. But we can certainly expect our students to learn how to write reasonably well. They need to be able to express their thoughts in coherent sentences and paragraphs, as well as create resumes that are not filled with grammatical errors.

Imagine CS Lewis was a young student today. What is the educational environment that best develops his creative writing skills?

Modern progressive educators will put Lewis in as free an environment as possible. Instead of sitting at a traditional desk in a classroom where teachers convey knowledge, Lewis directed his learning and research on topics of his interest. Freed from the boring top-down instruction of “knowing everything” teachers, Lewis will of course prosper, become a deeply critical thinker and a highly creative writer.

Still, this is a completely wrong approach.

In fact, Lewis has greatly benefited from his extensive knowledge of content in both ancient and modern languages, myths and paleo-English literature. These are not subjects that naturally come to students, even as bright students as Lewis apparently did. Most students spend their time studying childish things that may be of interest to them now but are of little use in the long run, leaving it to their device. Without knowledge of the basic content that Lewis learned at a young age in a rigorous and demanding school, it is unlikely that he could build the Narnia story.

Progressive educators suggest that critical thinking is a general skill that can be taught independently of content. But instead of becoming obsolete, knowledge of content allows for critical thinking. People can’t think critically about what they don’t know. To develop critical thinking, we need to ensure that students graduate from school with as much knowledge as possible.

Moreover, anyone who wants to be a good writer must first be a good reader. Studies have shown that phonics, the traditional approach to reading instruction, is far superior to the progressive strategy, the Whole Language approach, when it comes to deciphering words. If Lewis had been taught to read in Whole Language, it is possible that his reading skills were too weak to be a good writer.

Interestingly, nothing is new about progressive education and its modern manifestations.NS Century Skills “exercise. The sixth book in Lewis’s Narnia story series, “Silverchair,” begins by explaining the miserable school that the protagonists Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole attended.

The school, the Experiment House, was, as Lewis said, an institution where the people “have the idea that boys and girls should be able to do whatever they want.” The discipline was loose, the bully ran the school, and the students “did not learn much French, math, Latin, etc.” In other words, it was a school under the control of a progressive idealism.

Obviously, Lewis had a low opinion about the experimental house. He knew that when the school entrusted students with their learning, important subjects were overlooked. Whether it’s a fictitious version of “The Silver Chair” or a real “21”, the last thing students need is to attend a school like Experiment House.NS The “Century Skills” version found in too many schools today.

Fortunately, there are better options available. Like Lewis, today’s students need well-organized, structured classrooms, teacher-led instruction, and knowledgeable lessons. This is the learning environment that best fosters creativity and critical thinking. It is also the place where students are most likely to be good writers.

If future writers like CS Lewis want to grow and prosper today, it’s better to make sure they have the best education possible. Traditionally knowledgeable and teacher-led classrooms are a great place for them.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Michael Zwagstra


Michael Zwaagstra is a public high school teacher, senior fellow of the Frontier Center for Public Policy, and author of “A Sage on the Stage: Common Sense Reflections on Teaching and Learning.”