Behind Genres

  I must be misreading–it looks as if people are actually reading my posts. I don’t want to comment on the self-devaluation involved in my surprise.

But I’m going to write a bit more about teaching writing, trying to push my thinking and teaching to a place it hasn’t been.

I know there is a lot of value in teaching students how to write in-genre. But we have to note: the more we describe what we’re looking for, the less we’re teaching them about writing. The extreme is of course the 5-paragraph essay.  When we describe explicitly what we’re looking for (sometimes making these criteria out of our heads), we’re devaluing our students as writers–and possibly as people. I know the arguments about explicit and implicit pedagogies. And I’m sympathetic with the explicit strain–but if you can’t create writing situations that move toward new meaning framed in new ways of speaking, you’re not really talking about writing–or of thinking. I know that framing the genre/non-genre question in this way is quite frankly ridiculous.

However, we must remember that when we are teaching our students how to write within patterns, we are teaching them how to think and be within patterns. I know there’s a middle ground somewhere: that our students need to recognize those moments when they need to dress for the occasion and also find those moments when they can look inside and try to figure their lives out through the agencies of their own experiences. 

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