Tag Archives: truth

Voice and Student’s Rights to their Own Texts

For me, the most important part of any writing exercise is that my audience, whether it be in a paper or on stage working out some new material, is that my voice is heard.  The idea of “our voice” is what helps us be heard. Not only what it is we are saying, but also the nuances of the feeling and emotion we want to give off in our piece. Once again, we take a dive with the GOAT Peter Elbow and analyze the academic relevance, and even push back on the idea of voice in writing.  I have to admit, I was a little surprised to see that there seemed to be a considerable amount of push back regarding the idea of voice. I guess it is naive of me to think that our voice should come through in all of the writing we do. Then again, these points of contention seem to be focused mostly on academic writing.  In the reading, Elbow talks about how writing is such a prominent part of everyday life, and we need to use our voices in these practical situations. The best example is in a professional sense when writing an email or some other type of correspondence. Voice is essential for the reader on the other end to pickup the tone and ultimately how you feel about what is being discussed.  I found this very true in my own experience. Writing professional emails has been a part of my repertoire for the past 3 and a half years since I completed my undergrad in finance. One thing I learned that helps immensely in this situation is to use your voice in writing so that the emotion you are feeling comes through. For example, if there is something that you are unhappy about, it is important to make sure the reader on the other end can pickup that you are unhappy.  It is the only way for the issue to get resolved. One of my favorite parts of the article is when Elbow begins to dissect all of the different manners in which we use our voice. He first goes into detail on how we usually fall into this trap where we take an adversarial stance. He describes it as the “Either/Or Battle.” I find myself falling into this whenever my friends and I have a healthy debate. It does not matter what it is we are discussing, we always try and prove ourselves right.  Inversely, we are trying to prove one another wrong (which I seldom am). This rings true throughout most of our daily lives, doesn’t it? We all have a voice we want people to hear, and we will make sure out view is heard and taken seriously, while also poking holes in others opinions and views. It is an interesting way to look at voice, but also find it to be the most poignant. The next is probably the most underutilized sense of voice, and that is compromise. For the reasons Elbow mentions above, we do not like to compromise.  In anything. However, I am aware of the power and the intelligence it takes to compromise. Think about what it is. When we compromise, it is likely viewed as a concession to our point and saying that we have “lost” in this instance. It can be viewed, and this is my own take, as a skill. For one to compromise, one must be aware and intelligent enough to understand that there are many ways at viewing the same things. An almost infinite spectrum for to learn, grow, and understand what it is we are discussing. I’ve always said the most important part of any person is their awareness, and being able to accept contraries and find common ground in a debate or disagreement is vital for ones growth as a person and, in this case, as a writer.  I will never agree with the idea that there are times where your voice should not be made clear in certain types of writing and presenting. Voice is authenticity, and I would rather live in a world of authenticity (good or bad) than one where people need to dumb down there thoughts or views to appeal to another group or person. “They see a debate between right and wrong when it’s really a choice between two lenses or “terministic screens” (to use Kenneth Burke’s term). We need both because each shows us something about language that the other obscures.” This quote from the article definitely because I have a philosophy I try and live by, and it is this idea that there are no such thing as truths, only perspectives. And allowing ourselves to see the value and potential “truth” in a contrary point of view, not only are you allowing yourself to be a more present citizen of the world, you are open to to the understanding that ones voice is a composite of an infinite number of variables that can shape a person in a particular way.  I really loved reading this article as it put some things in perspective, and gives me more confidence than ever to be able to use, and most importantly, never lose my voice. 

The Elbow reading went really well with Brannon and Knobloch’s idea that it can seem that students sometimes do not have rights to their own texts.  It goes hand in hand with what Elbow was trying to convey in the article about voice. A quote I found compelling in this second article, “rhetorically more experienced, technically more expert than their apprentice writers. Oddly, therefore, in classroom writing situations, the reader assumes primary control of the choices that writers make, feeling perfectly free to “correct.””  I think this does a great job of encapsulating what the issue is. Going back a few weeks, we talked about how students are seasoned to write whatever it that their instructor may want them to write. The reader, who is the teacher in this instance, is the judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to interpreting the writing and see if the student was “correct” in their analysis. Going back to the point I made earlier (sorry for all the jumps. I just think these articles work so well together!) what we may find to be truths may simply be our own interpretation of the material.  In an exercise as free and expressive as writing is, it is important that we stay mindful. And don’t get me wrong. I totally understand why teachers need to take these stances, and the duty it serves in being so critical of writing. But, just because something is an acceptable construct in our society does not mean there is another way of thinking about it. The authors continue to talk about how “We must replace our professional but still idiosyncratic models of how writing ought to appear, and put in their place a less authoritarian concern for how student texts make us respond as readers and whether those responses are congruent with the writers’ intentions or not.”  In short, we do not need to be less critical of student writing, but more open to the ideas the student is trying to portray, as long as things can be evidenced and defended. Voice works both ways; saying what we want in a manner in which we want, and the ability to take that dynamic and frame it in a way to understand what the writer is trying to say.