Stephen Combs writes for the Martin Center about a problem plaguing college writing programs.

By wide agreement of writing professors and composition scholars, new freshmen arrive not only ill-prepared for college writing but many show little improvement after four years of undergraduate education.

In 2002 the College Board established the National Commission on Writing, which found “growing concern within the education, business, and policy-making communities that the level of writing in the United States is not what it should be.” This may be the mother of all understatements. Using 2004 figures that have not been updated, a 2016 story at Inc. Magazine reported that U.S. businesses spend $3.1 billion annually on remedial writing training for their employees and new hires. The cost is likely much higher. …

… The problem, as college writing instructor John Maguire has explained here, is that high school graduates start college “with fully established sentence rot.” They haven’t been taught to write in clear, complete sentences. They don’t understand the purpose of a sentence or how to construct one. They throw words into sentences without understanding how they work in relation to one another.

Given this inability to use the building blocks of our language, constructing a whole essay or even a coherent paragraph—an assumed requirement of freshman composition—is out of the question. …

… The system has largely failed. A major reason why is politics.

First-year composition should teach writing and nothing else. But at too many colleges the mission fails because writing teachers, with the support of their English departments and administrators, use their classrooms as pulpits to indoctrinate their captive-audience students in the professor’s own political ideology. Politics overtakes writing improvement. And in some courses, involvement in community activism of the professor’s choosing is a requirement.