About Not Reading in a Writing Class

My friend and colleague Scott Warnock mentioned something about my anti-reading philosophy in his blog about online instruction. I started to write a comment that was clearly going to be too long, so I’m going to finish it here:

Well, actually, I lost it, so I’ll try to rewrite it:
I minimize if not eradicate outside reading in my writing classes. In about 1968, James Moffett made the sensible claim that the only books students need in a writing class is each other’s writing. I have long taken that to heart. I want students to be circulating their writing, reading and responding to each other in real communicative fashion (which also rules out the kind of criteria-centered, fix-it kind of peer response for which in my most of my career I have been an advocate). I start from the premise that I’m a writing teacher, not a reading teacher. Writing is what I have studied; it’s what I know about. And it’s what I love to teach. I have not specialized in reading.

I of course understand that when one is writing, one is reading and that when one reading, one is writing–but this dialectic points toward a different notion of reading than Bartholomae and Petrosky in their misguided way champion. Truthfully, when I have my students working on a project (right now, they are working on writing advice for writing teachers), I do encourage them to do some internet research to see what others may have said about teaching and misteaching writing. We also read some articles on the subject, like Gary Tate’s wonderful essay, Halfway Back Home, but not many. As I said, I really like to minimize reading anything outside what we write. That’s what I and my students enjoy doing.

I can’t resist throwing in my anti-critical thinking spiel following the same line of argument as I did with my anti-reading theme. But I’ve written about this before on this blog, so I’ll stop. Maybe I’ll post a link to a chapter I wrote about critical thinking in Going North, Thinking West (see Important Resources to the right).

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