Monday, February 6, 2012

Aversion to Writing

Question: Why do students develop a life-long aversion to writing?

Answer/Quote: “With all due respect to the many excellent scholars working in the field of composition, I would suggest that the single most important sentence in the last twenty-five years of composition scholarship occurs in Linda Brodkey’s essay ‘Writing Permitted in Designated Areas Only’:

While it appears to take longer in some cases than in others, composition instruction appears to have succeeded best at establishing a life-long aversion to writing in most people, who have learned to associate a desire to write with a set of punishing exercises called writing in school: printing, penmanship. Spelling, punctuation, and vocabulary in nearly all cases; grammar lessons, thesis sentences, paragraphs, themes, book reports, and library research papers in college preparatory or advanced placement courses. P. 118. 

Comment: The author goes on to suggest that teachers cannot motivate students to write; students must motivate themselves to write: He provides a quote from Edward Deci (Why We Do What We Do):

In fact, the answer to this important question can be provided only when the question is reformulated. The proper question is not, ‘How can people motivate others’ but rather ‘how can people create the conditions within which others will motivate themselves? P.121.

His answer is not very satisfying, but he has framed the problem. How do teachers help students motivate themselves to write? RayS.

Title: “ ‘A Livelong Aversion to Writing’: What If Writing Courses Emphasized Motivation.” Patrick Sullivan. Teaching English in the Two-Year College (December 2011), 118-140.

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