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Ozarks RFD: Kids can still write


Good news, armchair critics: Young people can still write compelling and coherent prose and poetry with exceptional candor and grammatical skill.

Whatever you’ve heard or read about today’s students’ lack of literacy, forget it. Never mind that they communicate among themselves with digital shorthand few of us can understand, those who choose can write like pros. I’ve read the results of their literary efforts.

I was again privileged March 23 to evaluate prose and poetry anthologies written by area juniors and seniors for the annual Southwest Missouri LAD (Language Arts Department) writing competition. Republic High School was the site of this year’s judging, hosting dozens of teachers, writers, journalists and other qualified professionals to evaluate the literary efforts of students from elementary through high school in many genres.

I’ve participated in the judging for many years and read works from all age groups. Each division has its particular charm, from the innocent honesty of the younger writers, to the angst-driven prose of adolescents and the more mature reflections of senior students. Taken as a whole over the years they have given me a greater appreciation for the joys, disappointments and life struggles experienced by students. Whatever the challenges, at some point they write about them.

As I went through this year’s entries I was particularly impressed by the overall quality of the writing — a tribute to both the students and the teachers who mentored them.

Typically, I am able to winnow out two or three that obviously come up short, as well as pull out others that are definite winners. That wasn’t the case this year. I couldn’t easily separate “the wheat from the chaff.” There was no chaff.

In the final review I was moved by the writers who skillfully related life-changing experiences, from house fires to deaths in the family, though I could not ignore the inner fires that smoldered in the hearts of others.

I’m not an English teacher; I am a writer, more interested in the story than rhetoric. I hope my selections honor the better storytellers, but in truth I could not find serious fault in any.

I know I was privileged to read the best of the best, works already adjudged worthy by the writers’ teachers — that not every student is as accomplished as these few. That’s always been the case.

I’ve no qualms about bragging on the behalf of those I’ve read: Should they choose, kids can still write as well as, if not better than, we ever did.

Copyright 2024, James E. Hamilton; email jhamilton000@centurytel.net. Read more of his works in Ozarks RFD 2010-2015, available online from Amazon or from the author.


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