At the Inkshed Working Conference 19 on PEI last week (more
information about it, its sessions, the inksheds from the conference,
and pictures, is available on the Inkshed Web site), one of the
discussions on Sunday morning was focused on Roger Grave's document
on the reading table and on my review of _Worlds Apart_ in the fall
Inkshed Newsletter. After the conference Roger wrote to the
participants, saying, in part,
> I'd like to talk more about an issue that came up on Sunday am in
> the response / discussion about what makes a writing task "real,"
> what counts as a real or "authentic" rhetorical situation. The
> service learning classes [described in Roger's Inkshed paper] do
> that, but Russ made the point that any class, at least
> theoretically, is capable of this. What conditions mark these
> occasions? Consequences of the writing act? Perception on the
> part of tne writer?
This is an issue that I'd like to have the help of Inkshedders in
thinking about. I'd like to begin by putting a slightly different
spin on what Roger cites me as saying: my main contention is not that
we _can_ make situations "real" in class, but rather that classes, as
conventionally constructed, make it extremely difficult and unlikely
to happen, even though it is possible.
Here's a simple minded example: what I'm writing, right now, as I
compose this, is _real_, in that my central motive is to use this
writing to convey an idea to readers whom I want to understand it and
whom I want to respond to it(Bakhtin says they're the same thing,
eh?). If I constructed a scenario in class in which I asked a
student to imagine this situation and write the email, turning it in
as an assignment, it would _not_ be real. (And we need to remember
that that kind of simulation rarely happens in class.)
So there's my dichotomy. What makes one real and one not, and what
are the important differences in terms of language learning? What
conditions, to use Roger's terminology, mark an occasion when writing
is "real" or "authentic"?
Is that the issue you were raising, Roger?
St. Thomas University
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