Think again. Several years ago stories like this 2008 post started to surface, warning:
U.S. employees appear to be falling short when it comes to writing skills. In 2006, 81% of corporate leaders rated the writing of high school graduates as deficient and nearly 28% gave similarly low marks to four-year college graduates, according to survey data compiled by a consortium that included the Conference Board and the Society for Human Resource Management.
Law schools, law firms, and appellate judges have been echoing these concerns with greater and greater urgency. "A warning to college profs from a high school teacher" in today's Washington Post suggests that we may not have hit bottom yet. According to the story, No Child Left Behind standards have left writing skills behind by deemphasizing social studies. Teachers have too many students and not enough resources or respect. And even the well-known AP testing of the ablest students is itself badly flawed:
[I]n the AP U.S. Government exam the constructed responses are called “free response questions” and are graded by a rubric that is concerned primarily with content and, to a lesser degree, argument. If a student hits the points on the rubric, he or she gets the points for that rubric. There is no consideration of grammar or rhetoric, nor is credit given or a score reduced based on the format of the answer. A student who takes time to construct a clear topic sentence and a proper conclusion gets no credit for those words. Thus, a teacher might prepare the student to answer those questions in a format that is not good writing by any standard. If, as a teacher, you want your students to do their best, you have to have them practice what is effectively bad writing— no introduction, no conclusion, just hit the points of the rubric and provide the necessary factual support. Some critical thinking may be involved, at least, but the approach works against development of the kinds of writing that would be expected in a true college-level course in government and politics.