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The arrival of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, a program that can generate sophisticated text in response to any prompt, has sparked a new discussion on the future of high-school English classes and the role of writing assignments at Summit K2. English teacher Daniel Herman raises this question in his article “The End of High-School English”, comparing the impact of ChatGPT on the field of writing to the printing press, the steam drill and the light bulb.
Herman argues that the program’s ability to produce writing that is better than the average writing seen by teachers and professors may signal the end of writing assignments and even writing as a skill to be taught. He reflects on his personal experience as a high-school teacher, stating that not all teenagers are interested in literature, but he believes that a basic competence in writing is an essential skill for life. However, he now questions if this logic still holds true given the advancements in technology.
ChatGPT has demonstrated its ability to generate a sophisticated and emotional 600-word college-admissions essay and a convincing 400-word cover letter for a job application. This leads to the question of whether students will still need to develop writing skills and if the fundamentals of writing are still necessary for experimentation.
Despite the impressive capabilities of ChatGPT, it is important to note that writing is more than just fulfilling a task. English classes provide students with the opportunity to explore their own thoughts and emotions, and to communicate effectively through writing. They also help to develop critical thinking skills, creativity and imagination.
Moreover, writing assignments are not just about producing written work, but also about learning how to revise and edit it. The process of writing is a key aspect of the assignment and helps to develop a student’s abilities as a writer. In this sense, writing is not just a skill to be taught, but also a practice that students need to engage in regularly.
In conclusion, while the advancements in technology and the capabilities of ChatGPT raise questions about the future of high-school English classes and writing assignments, it is important to remember that writing is more than just fulfilling a task. It is a process that helps to develop critical thinking skills, creativity and imagination, and a practice that students need to engage in regularly. As Daniel Herman states, “You have to learn how to reliably fulfill an audience’s expectations before you get to start putting eyeballs in people’s ears and things”.