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Ramblings...

I had very mixed feelings after reading Brannon and Knoblauch's article On Students' Rights... I thought it a noble cause to give more confidence to student writers and give them ownership of their writing, which would hopefully increase the incentive to write, lead to better writing, etc.

However, I am a bit resistant to the article’s main assertion that “the teacher’s role is to attract a writer’s attention to the relationship between intention and effect, enabling a recognition of discrepancies between them, even suggesting ways to eliminate the discrepancies, but finally leaving decisions about alternative choices to the writer, not the teacher? (218). I have respect for teachers- or at least most of them. I am attending the University of Minnesota because I want to learn, to grow, to tap into others’ wisdom and knowledge and become a better writer, reader, student, and person. I see my professors as people who have put a “monton? (I couldn’t think of a word in English, so I reverted to one of my favorite Spanish words) of energy and time into studying this subject, thus deserving my respect. Obviously, teachers are not infallible and make mistakes. I can COMPLETELY relate to writing based on what I think a professor wants to hear (which I think is a very sad state of affairs, as it doesn’t allow for critical thinking or stepping outside the box), but I felt like the process that Brannon and Knoblauch advocated was not giving teachers enough credit and power to assert objective truths or to correct faulty interpretation.

Not only does this process require multiple drafts for the student, which, as we read in Harris’s article, isn’t necessarily the best option for all students, but it also forgets the need for student’s to learn. Let me explain. My senior year, I was in AP English, and I thought I was a pretty good reader/writer. However, it soon became very clear that I had much to grow in these faculties, especially in analyzing texts. It wasn’t until I did practice exam after practice exam, responding from critiques from Mrs. O’Brien and put these skills that I learned to use, did my skills increase. If the focus would have been solely they intentions of my writing, I would not have become a better reader/writer. I am not foolish enough to say that there is only one right interpretation of a text, but I will say that there are more right interpretations, interpretations that take all parts of the text into account to make an educated argument. Part of writing is an ability to analyze and to draw conclusions, but if students are never trained to look at a text in that way- they could write all they want and get their point across clearly, but never say anything of substance.

When the focus switches from analyzing text, making arguments and drawing conclusions to “what the writer means to say and what the discourse actually manifests of that intention? (217) it lessens academic growth. What if, dare say, that the intention that the student was attempting to convey, was wrong? It just didn’t make sense, and he/she read the text incorrectly. While they were able to assert their claim correctly, they asserted a claim that was faulty. How is this going to improve their writing, their critical thinking?

I acknowledge the good that this process would do, giving a “sense of genuine responsibility? to writers, but I feel that more attention and importance should be placed on students response to teachers critiques- we must not become too wrapped up in HOW something is being conveyed, and forget WHAT is being conveyed.

Comments

i don't know...it seems like a teacher could make corrections or pose objections to a student paper while still working to understand it on its own terms. even if a student made some really wacky claims, if a teacher could work with the logic of the paper to show a student what they'd need to do to establish their point (rather than simply pointing out its wackiness), they can help students identify the holes in their reasoning, and begin to think about what makes an argument tenable.

all that said, this article is probably most useful in literature-based disciplines, or in creative writing.

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