I am completing my second semester teaching first-year writing-intensive courses at Shimer, and it is increasingly clear to me that much of traditional high school writing pedagogy is, to use the technical term, ass-backwards.
There is an overriding emphasis on presentation to the detriment of actual content — you need a “hook” for your reader in the introduction, you need a strongly stated (read: exaggeratedly simplistic) thesis statement, you need to aim for a broad application in the conclusion, etc. Meanwhile, very little thought seems to be given to how you select and connect the much-vaunted “three main points,” for instance, or basically anything else about how to really figure out what to say. Similarly, students need to learn all about documentation styles and proper citations and avoiding the dreaded plagiarism, but little thought is given to how they are supposed to be making sense of and using those sources — although the number they must cite is strictly enforced!
It’s almost as though all the incentives point toward making papers easy to grade at a glance, rather than laboriously teaching them how to actually, you know, construct a line of thought that’s worth the bother of writing down in the first place.