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From Will Fitzhugh

In Peanuts, when we see Lucy offering Psychiatric Help for a nickel, we know it is a joke: (“The Psychiatrist is IN”), but when English teachers in the schools insist that students write about the most intimate details of their private lives for school assignments, that is not a joke, it is an unwarranted intrusion.

There are a couple of major problems with the “personal writing” that has taken over so many of the writing assignments for the English classes in our schools.

First, the teachers are asking students to share information about their personal lives that is none of the teachers’ business. The vast majority of English teachers are not qualified as psychologists, much less as psychiatrists, and they should not pretend that they are.

Second, the time spent by students writing assignments for their teachers in their personal diaries is subtracted from time they need to spend learning how to do the academic expository writing they will need to be able to do when they leave school, for college and for work.

I will leave it to others to explain why English teachers have gone down this road in so many of our schools. I have written a number of articles about Creative Nonfiction and Contentless Writing, and the like, to try to encourage some attention to the retreat (or flight) from academic writing in our schools.

But I urge parents and others concerned about the preparation their children are receiving in reading and writing to find out why so many students are being assigned this personal writing which does not belong in the school, and the information in which is, or should be, of no concern of their English teachers, who need instead to focus on reading, grammar, literature and academic writing, instead of setting themselves up as nickel psychiatrists without either the training or the permission to practice on our children.

Our students are doing poorly in NAEP examinations of reading and writing, and having their teachers spend time as untrained therapists is no help with that at all.