An Integrative Approach to Teaching Writing
If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.
Aboriginal Activist Sister
Teachers of writing have begun to move from thinking about writing as a product with rules, to writing as a process with an authentic, individual voice, to writing as a system of social and political actions. Many feel the need to align themselves with one perspective against the others, but, "Unless we take into account these differences in perspective, we will be unable to establish sufficient common ground for moving the discussion forward" (Lindemann 288). Rob Pope, in his English Studies Book, explains that, "Most undergraduate English courses now have a considerable variety of emphases—Literary, Linguistic, and more broadly Cultural" (1). But how do we decide which emphasis to make? The answer lies in how we see the world, and why we teach writing in the first place. Borrowing indirectly from Physics, I want to examine a quote that may shed some light on what kinds of thinking are behind these different emphases:
A unit of experience can be viewed as a particle, or as a wave, or as a field. That is, the writer can choose to view any element of his experience as if it were static, or as if it were dynamic, or as if it were a network of relationships or a part of a larger network. Note carefully that a unit is not either a particle or a wave or a field, but rather can be viewed as all three. (Young, Becker and Pike 122)
Thus, the way we see the world has enormous influence over the way we see the teaching of writing. Some see writing as a product (static particle), some as a process (dynamic wave), and others as a system (interconnected web of relationships), but it is most important to remember that none of these views are complete. They inform each other, although one is usually dominant in the way one thinks of writing. Which one is deserving of top position depends upon what we believe to be the role of writing and education in society.
What is it we are trying to do? Do we teach writing to help our students learn proper form and style, to help students discover their true selves, or do we help them to better understand themselves and their relationship with the world around them in order to make a difference in that world? Do we want them to accept the world they are thrust into upon graduation or do we want them to be conscious shapers of that world? I argue that these should be some of the central questions not only in composition programs, but also in all of education. Anne Ruggles Gere, in her Introduction to Into the Field, discusses teachers and theorists "reconceptualizing the discipline, deconstructing received boundaries, and reconstructing relations between theory and application" (3). It is this kind of reconceptualization I hope to propose.
Many have been struggling with...