In spite of the format of the post below, we do a lot of personal writing in my required writing class at LSU.  Students love it–and that alone is good reason for promoting personal writing in the classroom. Now they are willing to investigate an issue of interest to them (like the effects of urban architecture (my architect student) or the rules of attraction (one of my funniest writers who is wondering about this sort of thing) or the reality of reality tv shows (the writer was depressed when she discovered one of her favorite reality tv shows had false sets) and write essays explaining to the other students what they have discovered in their research. We keep track of our daily research by posting on our research blogs. I modeled for them how they might do it. I did a quick search and discovered in a few minutes David Coleman’s astonishingly ignorant stance on student writing and posted for my students an example of how they might keep track of their information on the blog. I did check out Coleman’s statement–Bauerline (another of my nominees for MisEducator of the Year) accurately reported it.

Here were my directions to my students:

Write up a report on at least one hour’s of research you have done so far.  Give links to your sources, what kind of information you found there, and what you thought about that information.

Example:

Bauerline, Mark. “Teaching Writing Through Personal Reflection: Bad Idea.” The Chronicle of Higher Education.  March 18, 2014.  http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2013/02/07/teaching-writing-through-personal-reflection-bad-idea/
 Coleman basically says it’s a load of shit (almost direct quote). No one in the workplace is going to ask you about your personal opinion.  They want claims backed up by evidence and reasons tying that evidence to your claims.  “The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a sheet about what you feel or what you think. What they instead care about is can you make an argument with evidence, is there something verifiable behind what you’re saying or what you think or feel that you can demonstrate to me. It is rare in a working environment that someone says, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.” That is rare. It is equally rare in college by the way..”
Coleman’s stance has since been widely reported. Critics (educators) have noted that this stance is evidence of how estranged from the classroom Common Core standards are.  Bauerline, an English professor, says here’s the problem with the complaints: Coleman was right.  Cites Sandra Stowsky’s (did she really do that? Has Bauerline or Coleman heard of Applebee and Langer?) study that claims high school teachers teach mostly personal response to literature–which is why students need to be remediated. Students don’t know how to interpret complex texts. That is rare. It is equally rare in college by the way.  Bauer… goes on to rant about how students who write this touch-feely stuff are being seriously disadvantaged.  This isn’t the real world. It’s time to get rid of personal writing in the classroom.
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Me:
This kind of thinking is getting a lot of press. There’s no sophistication by Coleman/Bauer about how students learn to write, the research many others have done about voice, commitment, style, engagement and so on. The question is why are these people who are ignorant of writing studies dictating how writing is taught. I’ve been somewhat supporting Common Core, but if Coleman is running it: this is just dead wrong and counter to tons of theory and research on how students learn to write (the affect of writing studies).  This makes me sick. I’m going to write about this on my blog: personalwriting2.blogspot.com

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