Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My Weekly Rant Posted on the Internet

I enjoyed the Fulwiler article because it really provided a clear purpose for revising. It gave activities to help generate a productive environment for students at this stage in the writing process and I also liked that it showed several papers written over the course of three or four drafts.

However, I feel like some of these articles on multigenre, or creative expository writing are getting a little Freedom Writers-ish on me. By that, I mean they are becoming somewhat cliche and over dramatic. Talk about ironic. In their desperate attempt to plead for their case in expressing the inner student writer, they have become what they are struggling to fight against. The problem with this, of course, is that it shows that all forms of writing may become redundant and overdone, regardless of the style. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great if teachers can promote a creative way of telling a narrative, and encourage this. But I can see how this may get old as well. You will still be limited in the techniques that you teach the student, and thus, the student will only be able to produce so many different creative styles. In a decade, there will be a shift back to the bland and personality-less writing that is to the point and spares the details...maybe.

Anyway, I think there are some issues regarding this article that are clearly avoided, but really need to be addressed. First, the samples were all college level. Motivation in high school and college are very different. I think there are very few students willing to spend as much time on one piece as the students were in the article, much less is there time to actually do so in a realistic setting. Second, I still think there is a difference between creative writing and expository writing. I feel like this was an unfair article because a narrative is considered both creative and expository. In an argumentative and research paper, it is much more difficult to use "descriptive" language. Third, and most importantly, this kind of writing will not likely pass a student on the MCAs or GRAD...or whatever they are called now. I think promoting this writing may work in a class after these tests are administered. But until then, I think it will be difficult to teach this writing and then back track to a basic essay format. Students will not understand why this is necessary and the government will not want to listen to why your students are so smart for forming such complex essays.

Finally, I don't think the problem of summarizing the essay in the introduction is purely that of essay writing. Look at the young adult fiction we are encouraged to read. After reading the book Speak, a young adult novel I actually liked, I read the back cover out of curiousity. It states in a neat little paragraph what happens and how her life has changed since the event. I kick myself for actually reading the entire book when I could have read that one paragraph. The film industry is much worse. I hate watching most movie previews because they give away so much of the plot. The movie industry wants people to be sure they will enjoy the film so much that they give away the best parts in the previews. People are trained to want to know the ending before they see it. Worse yet, is the summarizing at the end of a book or movie. I love the movie Bridget Jones' Diary...until the very end in which she has to spend two minutes summarizing the conflicts of her life and what they have made her see in herself and other men. My skin crawls at that part. If the writers, creators, directors, or whoever, feel that this is necessary by the end of the movie, then the movie is not good enough to represent an artistic statement. I strongly feel this is why Napoleon Dynamite is looked at as a pointless movie. There was no introduction to the characters, and there wasn't a concluding summary about them. People are not able to see how this is a story of a lonely boy coming of age unless they are explicitly told. Students are exposed to this formulaic writing not necessarily because it is taught in school, but because they are raised in a society that believes art does not stand on its own without some sort of explanation.

Overused, I know, but my resource link this week is OWL. It has a lot of paper writing suggestions for all parts of the writing process. The link takes you directly to the revision section.

On a side note, I have been listening to a lot of Mika, which is ridiculously happy music, so perhaps my attitude will change in the near future.


  1. Maggie,

    Thank you for being honest and saying that some of these articles are "getting a little Freedom Writers-ish." In doing all of these readings I can't ignore that annoying little tug of REALITY on my conscience.

    I also like that you commented on your reservations as to whether or not this type of creative narrative would pass on the standardized writing tests, I think this is a big question mark for all of us as we go into our student teaching. I've read/heard that if students learn the skill of writing well that this translates to these tests, but what about those students who aren't at this ability level? Are we supposed to deny them the basic skills that will help them to pass the test?

    On a less important note... Napoleon Dynamite WAS pointless. A lonely boy coming of age.. ha, rubbish. The only watch-able part of that movie was when he danced at the talent show at the end. I should know, I watched it like fifty times so I could learn it. ha ha :)

  2. This comes down to all the things we've already said a million times. We need to balance. We need to figure out how to teach students to work on a paper and REALLY know how to revise and learn when something is ready to be done. The article did give good suggestions on working with revision; in the real world students will not be allowed to turn in terrible work, or they will lose their jobs. Things must be presentable, and often that involves going back and reworking something. There's a good chance that's a report or a presentation in the business world. Unfortunately, students don't necessarily see that far ahead. They have heard all the things about the real world a million times, but that doesn't mean they'll care right now, years before they're "in the real world." In order to get kids to stick with something long enough, we're either going to have to get them interested or we're going to have to teach them to somehow "suck it up" and learn. I guarentee we will all come across both of these situations.

  3. Hey Maggie,

    You make interesting points in your argument. I have often wondered if all the teachers are now moving toward asking students to write papers about "whatever is important to you" and therefore students are just rehashing their papers from previous classes. Still, I can't believe that variety and choice are all bad. Even if, in terms of form, we are limiting students to what we have time to teach, it's better than just one form, right? And, it will give students an opportunity to feel confident in some of their writing, because they can choose at least one form that they are (hopefully)comfortable with if they are able to choose from several forms within a multi-genre format.

    I do agree with you about the summary and and preview overkill in books, television and movies. When I watch shows like 24 or Grey's, I run out of the room before the "scenes from next week" come on. Can't we have any surprises anymore?