Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Poetics and Teaching (Rough Draft)

Teaching writing has been reduced to transmitting technical skills in this era of Student Learning Objectives and quantifiable assessment. What used to be an opportunity to explore ideas, reflect on one's perspective, and consider big life questions has become a practice in technique.

This may seem unimportant to most outside observers, but the implications for the kinds of people universities are producing are huge.

Because writing classes not longer include a "literary" component to content, students no longer consider "aesthetic" questions. Aesthetic is not just about style and beauty, by the way, it's a term that encompasses the "whole" person, the mind, heart, and, yes, spirit.

Such considerations are seen as quaint, outdated, and not sufficiently rigorous by current approaches to teaching.

I think this is a great loss.

Students come out of writing classes without considering social, ethical, or human questions -- the kinds of questions, that, as humans, they will have to confront in their lives.

Current approaches assume that students will get this kind of exposure "somewhere" out there in life. The problem is that "literary" treatments are not something that many students are going to seek out on their own. Such experiences are seen as luxuries and not necessary or even interesting to many students.

I think one has to acquire a taste before seeking out art, theater, poetry, literary nonfiction, and other forms of literary experience.

The look I get when I raise these kinds of questions is one of "Nobody needs that anymore."


I don't want to be part of system that excludes being human from learning to write, think, use language, build a life.

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