Peter Elbow in “Being a Writer vs. Being an Academic” voices his concern about the goals of first-year writing course. The main question is whether teachers should train their students to be academics or writers. For Elbow, the two goals are not compatible as they involve different attitudes toward writing and reading. Elbow allows the readers to see his own dilemma in having to choose between the two goals. He then explains why he decides to teach students to be a writer rather than an academic. One of the reasons he gives is that academics privilege reading over writing. For Elbow, this emphasis on reading in the academy is in conflict with the goal of writing. He further points out that teaching students to be an academic not only takes away the writer’s sense of ownership and authority from them but also discourages students from having original thinking. An example Elbow gives is a literature course in which students are asked to analyze “To His Coy Mistress.” Elbow points out that “even if the student happens to have a better insight or understanding than the teacher has, the teacher gets to define her own understanding as right and the student’s as wrong.” In the end, Elbow calls the readers’ attention to the need to define the roles of academic and writer in the society to avoid the teaching dilemma of having to choose between the two goals.
Sharing Bartholomae’s view about university writing, I don’t quite sympathize with Elbow’s argument in this essay. I wonder whether we, writing teachers, need to choose for students. Can’t we let them choose by letting them see different writing situations and discourses? I don’t quite agree with his insistence on the dichotomous nature of the two roles either. Academic writing does not totally obliterate the writer from the text; whether the goal of writing is to express oneself or to communicate, the writer, the creator of text, is always present.Posted by pitug001 at February 8, 2005 11:35 AM