As the semester is passing, I am starting to really digest the idea that writing is not as simple and basic as most people think it is. It is quite a complex discipline, because it requires a lot from the writer in order for it to be considered successful or well-written. I usually focus on both articles assigned every week, but this time Bad Ideas About Writing was an article that I feel I have a lot to say about. To start with, the article itself was very interesting, considering that it was a compilation of multiple authors and their experiences and beliefs regarding various aspects of writing and the way its taught. The three sub-articles that were read had views that I strongly agree with. So now…let’s begin.
First Year Composition Prepares Students for Academic Writing was definitely a topic that focused on breaking stereotypical thinking in regards to first-year writing students and their instructors. They are though to be “writing teachers [who] consist primarily of error-correctors and behavior-modifiers armed with red pens and elbow patches.” Wow, they sound scary! I mean, imagine the danger of elbow patches, and the blood shed that can occur with one scratch of a red pen? It’s too gory to even think about. But, the discomfort at the sight of red marks all over essays and papers has instilled fear in students, preventing them from the being the best writer possible. The red pens were weapons used in the 1800s when good writing was measured by counting errors. It’s sad to think that’s the criteria by which writing was graded. It wasn’t content that mattered; it was the correct places of commas or missed capitalizations that were more important than anything else. Errors are unavoidable; “errors are a fact of life.” It’s not as easy as learning the alphabet song or as calling an apple “red.” It’s a “complex in-depth process that goes way beyond correctness.” The process matters: what the student thought, what they used to bring those words onto paper, etc. I would say I was one of the 80% of college freshman and 50% of college seniors who hadn’t written a paper more than 20 pages. Instead, from what I remember, my longest paper till college was about nine pages. My first long-paper assignment was my short story, which totaled 17 pages. Should I feel guilty that I fall into those statistics? NO, because writing should not be forced on a student. If the words should be genuine, let it flow out, not be sucked out of the writer. That’s the only way it will help in other disciplines. It should be enjoyable in order to be a successful skill. And for that to happen, rhetoric needs to accompany good writing hand-in-hand. It will allow for the classroom to become a “productive space for respectful argument.” A place for appropriate and healthy civic discourse to take charge.
Next, let’s move on to Reading Is Not Essential to Writing Instruction. This highlights the effects of widespread state-testing and its interruption in proper reading/writing instruction. Teachers became too focused on test preparation rather than making the students comprehend the skill of reading and writing itself. The ability to excel in these disciplines wasn’t the task at hand; it was getting good scores. This method failed to teacher students how to think. Instead, the pressure was put on what to think, preventing the students from becoming autonomous academically. And to teach students how to think? This cannot possibly be achieved in one or two semesters. It’s a never-ending process that takes roots in elementary school and stems out for the rest of your life. The process doesn’t only involve writing, it’s about reading too. It’s vital for a student to read like a writer; to not only see texts for their meaning, but rather for their writing style, format, and reasoning. And once the teacher emphasizes this in their classrooms, they will be able to target the idea of relatability and personal experiences in writing. It adds emotion, power and a sense of individuality to each writer’s story while universalizing their feelings and connecting to others. But all these aspects of writing can only be obtained if and when the instructors if flexible in their instruction and goals for their students.
Lastly, Failure Is Not An Option is the article that discusses the mentality behind failure and its impact as a defining moment for a student, teacher, etc. In life, especially today, advancing in life is considered progress. There’s no other way to look at it. But that can’t be. Failure is needed, it’s necessary in order to move ahead. You will only what you want when you get what you didn’t want. You will get back up when you fall down. You will only appreciate the break of dawn when the night slips away. And this way, success will only be tightly held close to your chest when failure has been experienced. Researcher Manu Kapur states that our brains are wired for failure. I didn’t think it would be, considering that my first reaction to failure is disappointment, sadness, discouragement, etc. But I guess that’s what makes us want to challenge ourselves and others later on. It’s that bitter taste of failure that sticks in the back of our minds that pushes us to do make better choices and produce better work. Human nature is to remember negative feelings more than positive. Because even though the positive might occur many times, one or two negative incidents will completely wash away the rest. And that will stick with us. Is it wrong? I don’t know, but that way of behaving is embedded in us, and it’s difficult to be otherwise.
In the end of it all, writing can be said to be an ongoing process which does have a birth but never an end. It’s infinite and its possibilities are endless. It’s a discipline that requires the writer to take a risk and experiment, to wonder and ask questions. It’s a discipline in which the destination doesn’t hold as much value, as the journey to get there…