Friday, February 16, 2007

Conflicting Styles

I thought in the essay "Conflict and Struggle: The Enemies or Preconditions of Basic Writing?" Min-zhan Lu's idea about conflict being vital to teaching basic writing to be an intriguing idea (Lu 136). It made me question my comments of an earlier blog. I had stated earlier that I would want to put my students at ease at the beginning of the class. Now I am thinking they should not get too comfortable, because some friction can be very conducive to writing. So the key thing may be to have the students feel comfortable about the class and writing, but use possible conflict in their writing so as to develop ideas, like for argumentative papers.
When I think back about writing I have done, especially ones I enjoyed doing, they were often started by a conflict I felt passionate about and upon which I wanted to express my views. So if an instructor could get a student to look at writing as a way to air grievances or as a way to express his or her views on a subject it could really help them get started writing. The first draft or two may be very rough rants, but the student could be shown how modifying the writing would strengthen the content and therefore the power of his or her words.
I was glad to be introduced to Lu's idea of conflict in her essay. It gave me something new and important to consider about basic writing. I also liked how she sectioned the kinds of teaching styles and the different instructors who promote them (Lu 136-52). In that way the article gave a good introduction to many kinds of philosophies in the field through the decades. However, I found that with so many examples it was hard to find Lu's own points on the subject of basic writing.

Lu, Min-zhan. "Conflict and Struggle: The Enemies of Preconditions of Basic Writing?" Landmark Essays on Basic Writing. Landmark Essays. 18. Ed. Kay Halasek and Nels P. Highberg. Mahwah, NJ: Hermagoras P, 2001. 135-57.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Chicken Scratches to Hunt and Peck

It was kind of funny to me to read about poor handwriting being a sign of poor English skills in Errors and Expectations (Shaughnessy 14-5). I found it funny due to the fact I have been teased about my handwriting for years and I have a B.A. in English. Though I am not saying that I have fantastic English skills. I am usually told my penmanship is horrendous or cute like a third grader's. I am a frequent writer. I write a lot for class and for a creative outlet. I also usually write on paper with my favorite number 2 Ticonderogas. So the use of a computer as opposed to handwriting does not really explain my poor penmanship. Though I think our discussion in class about computer usage now compared to the importance of handwriting during the time of Shaughnessy's book was an important factor to consider.

I found it interesting Shaughnessy put handwriting and punctuation together. Though I love English and am in graduate school, those two fundamentals had always been two of my writing weaknesses. It has made me wonder if my own writing problems have some kind of link as well. One explanation of the connection from Shaugnessy was "Thus matters like handwriting and punctuation and spelling become important, if only because without some measure of ease, without being able to assign some operations to habit, or even to indifference, the novice writer is cut off from thinking (14)." I think one of the differences for me was that I was not self-conscious about it. So helping these students to just write and edit later will help them get their feet off the ground.

Works Cited

Shaughnessy, Mina P. Errors and Expectations. New York: Oxford UP, 1977.