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Teaching Writing, Old-School

Continuing his search for answers to schools' writing-instruction problems, Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews profiles Rick Cannon, a renowned English teacher at an all-boys Catholic high school in Washington.

For more than 30 years, Mathews reports, Cannon has been getting glowing results from an "uncompromising," old-school approach to teaching composition. Among the master's tactics: Cannon insists, with parents' help, that students do their writing in long-hand as much as possible (as a way of slowing them down); he is near-fanatical about the importance of constant revision for anyone who is not at the approximate level of Shakespeare; he warns repeatedly against the dangers of "writing to impress" as opposed to "writing to express"; and—to seal the deal—he tells his students that if they learn to write well they will make more money when they get older (and he's got testimonials from former students to back it up).

Anything you could use this fall?

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