Whenever I attend an academic conference, I learn a lot, although what I learn is not necessarily the subject-matter of the conference itself, or the papers that are presented. Often, it’s the “happenstance” nuggets and accidental insights that are most interesting.
I have now unpacked from the recent conference in Detroit, and “debriefed” by sorting through the papers and notes and handouts that accumulate during such meetings, and was reminded of an observation made during one presentation–a research finding that was intriguing, to say the least. The study found a positive correlation between writing proficiency and “engaged and knowledgable citizenship.”
The research was alluded to in passing, and no explanation was offered. I suppose the easy answer might be that people who are bright and well-educated are more likely to write well and more likely to be engaged, informed citizens. But that seems too facile. I know people with degrees from prestigious institutions who can’t write clearly, and I know others with those same credentials who somehow missed elementary civics and government.
Of course, I didn’t see the research and didn’t get a citation, so it may well be that the study was flawed. But if it wasn’t, how might we explain this correlation? What would be the connection between the ability to write with clarity and grace, and the possession of above-average civic knowledge? Why would these two particular skills/understandings be correlated?