Excerpt from Précis Writing for American Schools: Methods of Abridging, Summarizing, Condensing, With Copious Exercises
During a recent visit to England, where I had the opportunity of seeing the work in English in many of the best-known schools of Great Britain, I was greatly interested in the superior quality of their instruction in composition. As I studied the various methods by which this superiority is secured, I became convinced that no small part of it is due to their fundamental conception in English teaching of making thought and content basic. In most schools far more attention is paid to this than to the type of drill which emphasizes mechanics and perfection of form. And one of the classroom practices which secures this emphasis upon thought and content is technically known as precis writing. Practice in precis writing is there commenced at a comparatively early age and continued through the upper grades and on through the universities.
I of course realize that in some of our American schools we have done work which carries out the same general intent as that which directs the making of the precis: we have exercises in abridging, summarizing, abstract-making, and condensation. Indeed, recent questions of the College Entrance Examination Board, especially the English Comprehensive Examinations, have taken the value of this work into strict account. Yet in practically none of our schools have we pursued this method systematically; it has all been sporadic, and limited pretty exclusively to the closing year of the secondary school, when many of our teachers have centred their attention upon the drill which prepares their pupils for the college entrance examinations. And certainly in all these efforts we have evolved no accepted technique for the making of a satisfactory precis.
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