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Academics Versus Writing Centered Classes Essay

1783 words - 7 pages

One of the biggest debates in composition theory seems to be the notion of fostering the “creative impulse” versus “structure” in the writing classroom. We have run into this argument time and again in class, and it is waged on a larger scale in the “Bartholomae and Elbow Debate” in terms of academic versus writing centered classes. In class we have discussed “structure” as grammar, and the “creative impulse” as the desire students have to break the rules of language in their own creative endeavors. Bartholomae and Elbow provide us with natural extensions of this argument in their own debate. The “academic classroom” according to Bartholomae is more beneficial to students, as they gain a sense of intertextuality and learn how to write and respond to the academic writing that has preceded them ( i.e. critical theory and literature). Elbow on the other hand fosters the idea that students will learn how to write more effectively within smaller writing communities that are created right within the classroom itself and spends more time in his own classes with that side of the issue. This is the conflict that we will run into no matter what facet of composition theory we discuss. The problem with this debate, however, is that both Elbow and Bartholomae are conceiving of these two (supposedly) oppositional roles too narrowly. They are both at odds concerning the role of each in the writing classroom despite the fact that they see the commonalities. It is important for all teachers of writing to address this debate, and be able to see past it, which as evidenced in the debate in Cross Talk, Elbow and Bartholomae were not able to do. I feel as if my first personal essay addressed these matters as well, although I did not deal them specifically without knowing the debate between Elbow and Bartholomae firsthand.

When what Elbow would call “academic writing” did not interest me in high school and community college, I really had no interest in writing or English as a whole. It was only when I was asked to do something creative that my teachers were able to bring and kind of passionate writing out of me. In Elbow’s view, the writing centered aspects of those classrooms empowered me with language, where the work of academics had me lost in the shuffle. Of course, this is hindsight, and I had no idea this was the issue at the time, or even when I wrote about it in my first essay. If I had been asked after writing this first essay, I certainly would have come down on the side of Elbow in this debate. The story of my interest in language, writing and literature has another side to it though. It is one that did not occur to me until it was fleshed out with more certainty in the Bartholomae and Elbow debate. Writing a few poems in high school as an apathetic teenager and again in Community College as a Communications Major (almost the same as the former) was not enough to make me want to commit myself to studying writing and language both in working towards a...

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