On Thu, 23 May 2002, Russ Hunt wrote:
> Someone writing an assignment doesn't have that rich context, and if she can't make it up her
> writing will have that unmistakable, amateurish, clumsy feel that we all know so well. How can
> one learn to make it up?
I feel a pull in what Russ writes to go full circle in what is a
great discussion and note what everyone has already said about
school-based assignments and work place writing. Strange though,
that students can understand and interpret rich contexts in other
semiotic areas -- dress, dialect, music, food (?) but many don't
translate the daily strategic choices they make in those areas to
their academic work. I hedged here with "many" because I'm not
sure all of my students want to be good writers and fewer probably
want to be good academic writers. For many, "passing" (to be
perceived as a good writer) seems sufficient.
More and more I'm being drawn to "strategy" as a metaphor rather
than "writing" or "rhetoric" -- partly because it is a term my
students understand and can relate to other areas of life. I tell
them that in service learning contexts we are learning "strategies"
for creating change. In some cases the strategy includes writing,
in other cases it necessitates an understanding of the organizational
context and politics of a situation. I'm learning too that even
if all of my students are eloquent writers, there are times when
the political/social/temporal context is simply inappropriate and
there is no writing that can be persuasive.
How do we make it up? Dare I propose that we stop teaching writing?
Instead, as others have noted, we place students in difficult
or dysfunctional communicative situations (team-based work,
client-based work, community contexts, simulations) that require
them to figure out what to do/write/read next. Such situations
denaturalize communication as a strategic issue: "the client isn't
listening to us," "Bob keeps missing meetings" and they seem to blend
the purposeful with the technical.
Brenton D. Faber WTSC 91.1 Clarkson Radio
Clarkson University http://radio.clarkson.edu
[log in to unmask] www.clarkson.edu/~faber
"Innovation has too many syllables"
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