Monday, September 28, 2009

Does blogging make for better writing?

I'm struggling with this question right now. MS Stewart led me to this article by Stanley Fish in which he says "all courses listed as courses in composition {should} teach grammar and rhetoric and nothing else." The discussion in the comments section would probably bore most people, but I was intrigued by the different points of view. I've also been thinking about (and re-watching) the Seth Godin video about blogging I posted on my last entry. The essential question is: is it enough to write, and to write in quantity, or do students need repeated formal instruction in writing?

The obvious answer is "it depends" but I don't really want to cop out like that. I do know that when I worked in publishing, I was astounded at how poorly constructed some of the (eventually published) manuscripts were.

I work with young adolescents, many of whom don't feel like they have anything to say in writing. It takes a long time and a lot of room to convince them to put a piece of themselves down on paper or on the screen in a blog. If they do have something to say, students often feel that their words will be poorly received. Blogging changes this dynamic. Powerfully changes this dynamic, my lament last year notwithstanding.

Where then, does formal instruction fit it? Particularly rigorous formal instruction? I know that my writing is better for having been critiqued. How can we be rigorous and yet supportive? When does our rigor lead to squelching student voices?

I'm not the only one who disagrees with using formulaic writing, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Writing Center has a page devoted to helping students break away from the five paragraph essay, with a guiding question "How do I break out of writing five-paragraphs themes?" I do wonder why the authors wrote the section in which they say that high school teachers have good reasons for teaching these essays.

I have no answers to these questions right now. I'm just hoping that it is true that writing more will make my writing better (although Seth Godin would disagree that it is just those 10,000 hours that matter). We'll see.

1 comment:

Alfred Thompson said...

I think that blogging makes for better thinking. I think that the advantage that blogging has is that it allows for both expression and for feedback. This tends to encourage people to think about what they are writing. Not just the mechanics but the ideas they are expressing.
Almost every can benifit from an editor BTW. I don't think anyone ever really completes becoming the best writer they can be. I've writtin several published textbooks and yet editors continue to help me improve my writing. I think that students need both formal education in writing and less formal practice. Blogging can help there.