Bad Ideas about Writing am responding in part to Cheryl’s and Drew’s invitation to rant about bad ideas about writing. In their CFP, they referred to the 1975 Newsweek cover article about why Johnny (and Jill) can’t write. We can track these complaints back to1828 when Bishop Whately responded to awful student essays by theorizing that instead of having students write declamations about abstractions like “Citizenship” or “Honesty,” he had them write from the experiences of their lives: thus, the now infamous “My Summer Vacation” essay.

We know that Harvard’s claims about students’ inability to write tracked back to the incoming students’ inabilities to parse the sentence, “He said that that that that that pupil parsed was not that that he should have parsed” (1870).

If you parsed that :), you don’t need to be remediated. It’s a cool sentence and brain game. I challenge my students to parse it in the grammar section of their final portfolios at the end of the quarter. A few get it.

But here’s what good writing teachers know: students of course can write–look at what my students have written in my links on the right side of this blog. I see good writing flying in from students in our program like . . . like, well, like undocumented drones.

What’s  interesting is why certain kinds of people say students can’t write. We hear this from politicians, members of the business community, and from many of our colleagues. From the professoriate, complaining about student writing is  a rite of passage.You’re not a professor unless you complain about students’ inabilities to write. If you think they can write, that just shows how much you know about writing.

Complaints from members of the professorial class may be slanted projections of their own troubled relationships with writing. They are certainly the consequence of their inabilities to create writing situations in which students might want to write (look at my rules for good writing assignments above).

3 Replies to “Bad Ideas about Writing”

  1. Looking for a strategy to process your current Language writing? Try out paraphrasing coming from articles or blog posts and also textbooks, almost all while using the any terminology computer software for help.

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