One of my students showed me an essay she wrote for a contest or something like it in her school. I thought her essay wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very interesting either. I felt like I was reading one of the non-fiction readers in Inari-juku or a Wikipedia page. It read like this:
A textbook is a manual of instruction in any branch of study. In the U.S., college and university textbooks are chosen by the professor teaching the course, or by the department as a whole. Students are typically responsible for obtaining their own copies of the books used in their courses.
Basically, her essay was something that any other high school student in Japan would write. I thought she was not in her essay, and she agreed. We talked about it and she said one reason is probably because in school they are taught to follow one specific way – one specific way only – to write an essay.
This reminded me when I was helping Matsutani-san practice for the writing part of the Eiken exam. He wrote about different kinds of things, but they all sounded the same because he used the exact same format every time. When I told him this, he said he’s looking for the most efficient way to write, which means the easiest and most simple way.
I guess he has a point. The easiest and fastest way to write is good, especially for students who just want to pass the test, but I don’t believe in doing things just to do them. I mean, if you’re going to do something, you might as well do your best so you can create something really good.