Social Class Reproduction

Four Rules for Teaching Writing:
Image result for image: joy of writing
Always give writing assignments that

1. you will enjoy reading;
2. students will enjoy writing;
3. students will enjoy reading what others in the class have written
4. you will enjoy writing.

If any one of these conditions were not true, then it probably wasn't a very good assignment.

Advice I give to my students: When your words surprise you, you know you are writing.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Following my last post, I had a conversation with a close friend--one of the most intelligent people I know--about who cares what you think? She said something about how most people's self-oriented thoughts are boring. We were talking about memoirs, the essence of her claim being that the only memoirs worth reading are those written by people who have gone behind the veil.

Most of us  have been veiled. We have learned to think in the way our culture has taught us to think. I doubt that I need to cite evidence for this claim. The function of culture is to indoctrinate those within the culture into the dominant way of thinking. The dominant way of thinking is unsurprisingly controlled by those who benefit most from the dominant way of thinking. So in a way, I agree with my friend: who wants to read memoirs from those who have been brainwashed?

I don't know where to go from here. Who has and hasn't been brainwashed--and who's washing our brains? On the surface, it seems as if people who read and have been perhaps super-educated are those who might have evaded the washing machine. A book by Jeff Schmidt, Disciplined Minds, challenges this assumption of educational-privilege. Schmidt, a physicist, argues that the more degrees you have obtained, the more you have been washed. He makes a good case. The more degrees we obtain, the more we benefit from the existing order--and consequently, reinforcing that order to maintain our privilege.

These are random thoughts. I don't expect anyone to take them seriously. I think, however, that if we find a way to encourage and listen to the voices of the disenfranchised, we might move forward rather than running in place.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

This is my characteristic rambling. I'm thinking about David Coleman's remark with zero sense of irony about student writing: "that no one gives a shit about what you think." I'm willing to grant that Coleman was carried away by the moment and his own importance in his address to the New York Department of Education in 2011.

But still: he addresses a central problem in writing instruction. I cope with this problem. There's a kind of reigning ideology out there somewhere that imagines depersonalized writing as the holy grail of writing instruction. Personalized writing (scatalogically emphasized by Coleman) is what we want to get away from.

In a way, I get this. We're imagining that we can write about the world out-there without warping it from the in-here. In a sense, this out-thereism is the endpoint of the enlightenment, scientism, truth.

It's not too hard to understand the classism involved in this opposition between the subjective and objective (Bourdieu)--and also to suspect the ways in which the dominant classes manipulate the perception of the objective--they are, after all, in control of the discourse.

I'm going to reflect on my students' writing. Clearly, when I give them writing topics that ask them to think about their lives, their histories, their dreams, they write like Shakespeare. When I move them outward, asking them to write about the outer-world with some reference to themselves as the ones perceiving that world, their writing flattens out.

Some hang with it, but others seem to have lost the connection between themselves and the words they are throwing onto the screen. When I ask them to write about about a subject (a la Coleman) with no reference to themselves--well, this writing isn't a lot of fun to read--and quite obviously for them, not a lot of fun to write.

I know that when my students are in their texts, I really enjoy reading and responding to them. I do this with pleasure.

I know that when I write with myself in the text, I write with pleasure. I do it for the sheer hell of it.

I recently wrote a long essay about teaching with perhaps too much of myself in it.  But I have to wonder, as someone asked me, who cares about you?

I take this question seriously, and I really can't work my way out of it.

Here's the end. I know I like to write when I am 100 percent in my text. I also know that when my students tell me about themselves, that's the writing I like to read. I \ like to read because I get to know them. In our classroom, we become a community through our writing (about ourselves).

I'll leave my thought here before I go back to rewrite my essay and try to take a bit of myself out of it. My question still is: what are we teaching them?