Re: investing in writing and revision?

Jeffrey R Galin (galin+@PITT.EDU)
Fri, 16 Aug 1996 17:03:44 -0400

On Fri, 16 Aug 1996, Marcy Bauman wrote:

> On Fri, 16 Aug 1996, Jeffrey R Galin wrote:
> > I think Eric is making this idea of "real" topics appear too easy, and
> > I'm willing to bet that the majority of students, no matter how much
> > choice you give them, still see their work as required rather than
> > desired . . .
> I think that topics like abortion and gun control and euthanasia
> and all the other old saws _are_ real to the people in our classes.

Marcy, think about what the term "real" means. Would it mean that
students discuss these issues already outside of class? does it mean that
they are subjects about which students can form passionate opinions? Does
it mean actual problems within a social context that students decide need
to be solved? Are we suggesting by the term "real" that teachers seldom
have their finger on the pulse of students a generation or two younger and
so we need to bone up on their cultural interests so that we can make our
teaching "real" for them?

I feel ornary today. I'm sorry. Real is not a functional term
for me. I've had students get extremely worked up about the Dibble
affair on Lamda MOO. They were arguing on a MOO and in class is dramatic
and meaningful ways. They were passionate. When it came to writing a
paper, most of the most passionate students chose to work on a topic of
their choice concerning the impact of hypertext. When I asked why, they
all said the issues were too complicated, too "real" if you will. They
opted for the easier topic. They were doing school.

> routinely give my students the opportunity to form interest groups to
> investigate topics of their choice, and I inevitably see the same topics
> over and over. I think that many eighteen- to twenty-year-olds are
> learning to argue as adults, to form adult opinions, for the first time
> when they come to college, and the issues of the day are their issues as
> much as anybody's. I've been struck with the sensitivity and passion
> with which people address those topics.

Yes, I agree with everything you say here, but students still know they
are doing school. They pick topics that they know work because that is
what they have been trained to do (which gets us back to the question
whether students really know what is best for their own learning). Real
to me suggests something that moves beyond the game. One might say that
Fred's recent grad course where he had his students building a corporation
was real for a technical school. That that scenario too is frought with
problems. It suggests that the primary goal of education is to cater to
corporate needs and that any "real" training of our students is training
for the corporate world.

> I also think that there are a lot of tired old tape loops about
>those topics, and the challenge is to create situations where the tape
>loops can be gotten past. It's been my experience that if I can create a
> situation where people feel free to debate the issues and to counter one
> another respectfully, nearly everyone learns something about audience.
>It's the quality of interaction about it that makes a topic "real," not
>the topic itself.

Then I guess we are using the word "real" differently. Seems to me what
you are describing is learning. Learning situations can be facilitated in
a whole host of ways, some more student centered than others. I didn't
get a sense that Eric was talking about the less student centered
approaches. I got the sense that he was talking more about getting
students engaged in topics that interest them but within a very specific
kind of pedagogical environment.

I guess "real" pushed my button today. Does this mean I have offered a
real response?

It's the end of the week and I'm tired. Oh well.