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CASLL-L  May 2002

CASLL-L May 2002

Subject:

Re: more on "real" writing

From:

Marcy Bauman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CASLL/Inkshed <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 18 May 2002 00:39:24 -0400

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (135 lines)

I'm sorry, but the longer this discussion goes on, the less
helpful I'm finding the distinction between "real" writing and
"inauthentic" writing.  Patrick, I know perfectly well what you mean by a
Bakhtinian notion of dialogue, and I understand the references to "Anyone
for Tennis" -- but I just don't think it's a helpful distinction to say
that writing inside of classrooms is not real, and writing outside of
classrooms is real.

I think it's far more useful to say that writing in those contexts serves
different purposes.  The point of school writing is to provide "examples
of something"; it's performative, and the grade *is* the response: the
situation constrains the written transaction to the point where the grade
often seems like the only *possible* response (cf. Giltrow and
Valiquette's findings that student writers tend to read instructor
comments as justification for the grade).  But I simply will not buy the
notion that because this writing is performative, students and teachers
are not sometimes authentically engaged in its production (and
consumption, as in reading, as Will points out).  Perhaps this kind of
writing has little to do with writing outside of school; perhaps a grade
is a limited kind of feedback that doesn't really serve the writer or help
her to learn -- I'll buy all of that.  All I'm saying is that students can
be authentically engaged in trying to get the grade, and that
their engagement can lead them to the same sophisticated kinds of audience
awareness (what will this teacher like?  What topic should I pick?  How
should I approach it?) that we see more easily in out-of-school writing.
You can say that this happens only in rare cases.  Fair enough.  But that
it happens at all is an indication to me that "real", "authentic" and
"engagement" are the wrong terms to apply to describe what I think
Patrick and Russ are trying to describe.

We go round and round with this "real/authentic" thing and never get
anywhere.

So that's why I'm proposing that we look at what writing situations allow
people to learn about writing.  What do we want them to learn, and how can
we set up the situation so that they can learn those things?  If we want
them to learn to write for various audiences, we have to provide more than
one; if we want them to learn to persuade, amuse, call into action,
entertain their readers, then we have to create situations where those
things are possible outcomes of the writing.  Not all situations allow all
outcomes.

Marcy

        =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
                           Marcy Bauman
                         Media Consultant
                       College of Pharmacy
                      University of Michigan
                           734-647-2227
        =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=



On Fri, 17 May 2002, Patrick Dias wrote:

> I still intend to respond to Russ' review of our book (Worlds Apart etc.);
> however, the question about real writing situations reminds me of Anna
> Freedman's analogy in her provocative paper, "Anyone for tennis?" -- I have
> watched an exchange of shots, some of them have been returned, others have
> whizzed by, and I no longer want to remain a spectator, but take up my
> racket and make a few telling returns (really write, for all real writing
> is consequential -- something gets done, something happens).
>
> For one,  most school writing is not real writing (it is of course, real
> school writing), though we would very much like to make it so, because, I
> suspect we believe there is no learning without engagement. As Russ has
> suggested, real writing occurs in anticipation of a response, is dialogic
> (in the Bakhtinian sense). In Anna Freedman's tennis analogy, the shot must
> be returned or conceded. A grade is not a shot in response (the evaluator
> is on the sidelines, like a coach perhaps, shouting "good shot!" but there
> is no one on the other side of the net to return that shot -- that
> well-crafted wrist shot, the elegant rhetorical turn, goes into empty
> space); a grade is not even feedback -- in the sense of an ongoing
> dialogue, a speaker, or an actor, or a performer picking up from an
> audience; the institutional setting defines the act of writing: what is
> good writing (earns a good grade)? and how do I make this good?
>
> But enough of analogizing.  As the other Freedman (Aviva) has said, school
> writing goes nowhere; once it's graded, it's filed away, discarded,
> forgotten.  At the end of term, so many of those well-bound reports are
> left behind, and end up in the recycling bin. In our research on academic
> and workplace writing, most workplace writers asserted that they had
> learned to write at work. We might claim that we prepared them to write at
> work, but they certainly did not see the link. Rightly so. Workplaces are
> complex settings, hierarchical, with long institutional histories,
> organizational cultures, and a lot more (not unlike our own institutions
> and departments, one has to live a long time in them to learn their ways);
> so such settings and the exigencies that arise within them cannot be
> simulated in classrooms.  As Aviva Freedman puts it so succinctly, you
> write where you are.
>
> I have argued elsewhere that so much of school time is spent preparing for
> the life after, whether that be Grade 3, Junior or Senior High, Community
> College, or the University; and at each level, there is the perennial
> complaint: Didn't they teach you anything in ........?  Students need to be
> writing for the here and now, from their own needs, as defined by them.  It
> is only then they will be able to judge for themselves if they are
> accomplishing what they set out to do, and what remains to be done. It is
> the need to say that ineffable "such and such a thing" that James Britton
> said is worked out in the saying, is discovered or realized in the writing.
> Real writing serves intention, is goal-directed, is motivated by will and
> desire. Good writing, real writing, I believe, is an outcome of our using
> language as a tool, as an extension of ourselves, and not as something "out
> there" that we somehow appropriate and model. Classroom communities are
> just as real as any workplace setting for writing. I know from much of this
> discussion and from past issues of Inkshed that places for such writing are
> always in the making.
> Patrick Dias
> 518 Montford Drive
> Dollard des Ormeaux, QC
> Canada H9G 1M8
>
> Phone: 514-626-3605 (Home)
>
>                 -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
>   To leave the list, send a SIGNOFF CASLL command to
>   [log in to unmask] or, if you experience difficulties,
>          write to Russ Hunt at [log in to unmask]
>
> For the list archives and information about the organization,
>     its newsletter, and the annual conference, go to
>               http://www.stu.ca/inkshed/
>                  -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
>

                -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
  To leave the list, send a SIGNOFF CASLL command to
  [log in to unmask] or, if you experience difficulties,
         write to Russ Hunt at [log in to unmask]

For the list archives and information about the organization,
    its newsletter, and the annual conference, go to
              http://www.stu.ca/inkshed/
                 -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

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