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.

The Writer in Plato's Cave

Contextualized within Plato's parable of the cave, which is arguably the foundation for our cultural privileging of the "formal operation" stage, "narrative/ descriptive" writers are those prisoners with their necks and legs fettered so that they can see only the shadows of the puppet show representing the things of this world (see below).  The prisoners are cognitively straitjacketed, unable to turn their heads to see either from their neighbors' points of view or that what they have assumed was real were only the shadows of puppets playing out their fictive dramas on the stage high on the wall behind them.  When the prisoners learn to break free from their chains and turn their heads (that is, break free from their personal vision), they can begin to make the slow and difficult ascent from the cave into the world, as it were, of exposition.

Republic, 314

The assent in Plato's parable involves several hierarchically valued stages comparable to several kinds of "exposition."  Forsaking the drama of puppets, the truth seekers make their way out of the cave into the world of true light as opposed to the false light cast within the cave.  In the true light of the sun, Platonic seekers can see things-in-themselves rather than the shadows of puppets.  This stage corresponds to "informational" writing that purports to present "objective" reality.  The logic of "informational" writing is, as with "personal" writing, still spatial or temporal, but the object, the point of view, and the language changes.  The object is no longer what the writer sees but what is objectively there.  The point of view is no longer idiosyncratic but universal.  The language no longer reflects the personality of the writer but is the clear, unembellished language of Locke that has as its ideal the unambiguous representation of "reality."
After the seekers in Plato's parable have learned to look at things-in-themselves (no easy task, for after the dim light afforded by the fire in the cave, the light outside is blinding), they can look upward at night to see the patterns of the stars, interpreted by Plato as abstractions of reality.  This stage corresponds to "scientific" writing characterized by analogical thinking.  Disinterested observers, unlocked from their "cognitive prison" (DiPardo), interpret abstract patterns from empirical observations.  The patterns take the form of scientific "laws" or generalizations reporting what happens.  The generalizations are hierarchically or logically related to present an organized conception of the subject (see Moffett, Teaching 45; Britton 97).  The logic of writing associated with this stage is inductive.  The point of view is universal (impersonal).  The language must clearly report the results of observed phenomena and explain the ideas constituted of the generalizations and their arrangement. 
Finally, seekers are able to turn their eyes toward the Sun.  From the Sun, representing in Plato's cosmology the ideal of the Good, streams the light of pure reason, illuminating the seeker's mind.  To Plato, dialectic was the discourse corresponding to this stage.  In contemporary culture, the two speakers in Plato’s dialectical discourse have generally merged into the theorist or philosopher.  Their discourse is theoretical with conclusions derived from hypotheses that are, because of their high level of generalization, essentially disconnected from the phenomenal world.   Emancipated from the transient world of things, the seekers have, in Plato's words, passed from the "world of becoming into the world of real being and truth" (324). 

Irvin Peckham

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