Learning to write is good for STEM careers

John Bogle on learning to write in high school:

“My love for Blair [Academy] is pretty close to eternal,” Bogle told students during a visit in spring 2018. “It was at Blair Academy that I learned to use the English language and how to write. My teachers spent so much time with me, mostly with a red pen. But I got better and better under their tutelage. The result is that my writing ability, among other things, enabled me to go to Princeton and start Vanguard and watch it grow into a colossus.”

Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard Group and creator of the index fund, dies at age 89, CNBC, 1/17/2019

Carolyn J., a mathematician who co-created the first Kitchen Table Math with me (currently offline awaiting a new URL address) told me a story about leaving academia with her husband, also a mathematician, and trying to find work in the private sector. 

The transition wasn’t easy. Only colleges and universities pay you to do pure research in mathematics.

The company that eventually hired Caroline did so because she told the interviewer that she liked to write. That was true. She did like to write, and she was good at it.

After she was hired, the company hired her husband as well. Two new careers because one person knew how to write and liked doing it.

Being able to write is value-add. 

Reflections on about and around

Catherine’s spending Bastille Day getting back to the US; I’ll be spending it visiting Gettysburg. One of our traveling companions has equipped us with copies of Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize winning The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War. I finished it yesterday, and am now primed as can be for the theater of war and the dramatis personae: from Cemetery Ridge to Little Round Top; from Pickett to Chamberlain.

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When students don’t look up…

…at what they’ve just written, and at the squiggly lines that word processors generate under questionable word choices and grammatical errors, this is an example of what you get:


(From a recent student paper.)

Actually, most of my recent students have been good about proofreading. Examples like this one stand out to me partly because they aren’t that common, but partly, also, because I don’t understand why they happen at all.  That is, I can’t imagine what it takes to turn something in without (a) noticing these markings, and/or (b) caring to address them.

We’re still a long way from routine, sentence-level revisions!

Waxing sententious about sentences

With enthusiasts like Doug Lemov, the sentence is finally, after years of neglect, regaining its due. And this due is long overdue. After all, the sentence is the minimal unit of thought. It derives from Latin sententia, meaning “opinion” (and shares its root with “sententious”). As Catherine has cited J.S. Mill as saying, “the structure of every sentence is a lesson in logic.” And, as I noted in my last post, it’s the smallest unit of prose that lends itself to multiple revisions.

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