I cannot stress this enough: wealthy AP students with professional parents living in safe neighborhoods have poor command of grammar, small vocabularies, and a strong proclivity to try to hide all of that by using the passive voice and the thesaurus . . .
This is what we experienced in our affluent school district, except for the passive voice and thesaurus part. I don’t remember seeing that.
I certainly don’t see over-use of passive voice (or thesaurus) in the first-gen students I teach in a local college. Just the opposite. Writing textbooks and college websites universally caution against using the passive voice, but I see so little PV in my students’ writing that I teach lessons on how to construct it1 and when to use it.
Remember that old saw about learning to follow the rules before you can break them? Usually applied to painting? First you learn to paint realism, then you graduate to abstraction. That was the idea.
For my students, it’s the opposite. They have to start using passive voice before it’s going to make sense for anyone to tell them to stop using so much of it.
Pop quiz: Winston Churchill uses the passive voice
1. In fact, my students all know how to construct passive voice. What they need is practice turning longer active-voice sentences into passive constructions.↩