Dividing by One

I’m avoiding some other work I should be doing. I had two thoughts I wanted to get down about teaching writing–the first one a consequence of what I was writing to a friend, the second about how students learn from each other.

The first is quick and mostly a re-framing of what I have written before: In our field, we have possibly too easily embraced the service argument at the expense of our commitment to our own field. I realize I am essentializing our field–as if we were an individual rather than a wild array of writers, teachers, social reformers, and searchers-for-meaning-through-what-we-do. Still, let me plow ahead, generalizing from my position and history as someone in the field.

We got over the service-to-other-fields quite some time ago–but I have realized (see my book, Going North) that my later logic of teaching in service to my students has been service to other disciplines in disguise. I have argued that we need to do what we can to help our students negotiate the labyrinth of post-secondary education. That logic leads to genre-based instruction and embracing the four outcomes we laboriously constructed in the CWPA Outcomes Statement. Basically, we want to teach our students 1. that writing (like other discourse performances) comes in genres (we should reference schema theory here), and 2. that we should teach our students how to scope out the genre/rhetorical situation called for in each discourse performance and act or not act accordingly (see my article, “The Yin and Yang of Genres,” for a gendered interpretation of whether one should or should not act accordingly).

But there is something else–and I can’t really put my finger(s) on it. It has to do with constructing meaning out of our lives and discovering and communicating that meaning through writing. I really hesitate to say it, but teaching our students how to construct meaning and communicating that meaning through writing is almost a higher purpose, something far beyond the service logic I have previously embraced.

The service logic here isn’t bad. To some extent, we have to learn how to get along in whatever communities we find ourselves–we have to, you might say, learn how to speak without noise. But we also have to learn how to speak.

Not getting to my second item on this morning’s agenda (although it might be implied in what I have written about the first).

3 Replies to “Dividing by One”

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