Monday, June 9, 2008

Some thoughts inspired by Bartholomae

I am a writing teacher but really I am a thinking teacher -- in order to be a good writer one must first be a good thinker -- too often my students have not been taught to think and question but only to memorize and listen. This can't be good for them or the future.


What is college for?

I have three college degrees and am working on my fourth. I have taught at the college level for 9 years. Yet when my 7 year old asked me that question I couldn't answer right away.

For the undergraduate I teach, and for the general public, the easy answer -- the only answers is to provide entry or pave the way to a professional. A college degree is the price of admission to achieve the American Dream today. Without a degree my students envision a life of working service sector jobs or hard manual labor. They see struggle, poverty, and painful uncertainty if they fail to earn that degree.

Yes, college is the gate keeper for many professions but it is much more than that. College should also be about thinking, questioning, and challenging both yourself and the ideas that others force upon you. Some of those ideas may settle on your rain and other bear fruit.


Share at least one tip you've gleaned from this exercise to help you better understand "academic writing" or writing within the academic discourse community


Discourse is dialogue -- you are entering a conversation...continuing it...advancing it if you will. When you enter the discourse you have to ask yourself: What do you have to say about this topic? What can you add to the conversation?

Some writing in collee will be the kind of writing you do for an abstract -- condensing and spitting back another's idea in your own words. That is writing as learning but often writing in college (and indeed beyond) will require much more from you. This is writing as knowledge making. You start with someone's ideas (words) and bring in your ideas/words then synthesize these to advance (move) the conversation to a new place.


A discourse community has its own unique rules and conventions. They existed before you entered and will likely remain unchanged by your presence. You can contribute to and challenge the discourse within the community but in order to do so effectively (to be taken seriously by other members) you need to do so within its rules and conventions.

Writing within a discourse community is like a game -- you must learn the rules in order to succeed.

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