Re: More snapshots stuff-reply

Tricia Christensen (christen@SONOMA.EDU)
Fri, 19 Jan 1996 22:18:23 -0700

I've been lurking on the list for a while, and I find this discussion of
the evils of secondary education to be quite interesting. It seems
to me from the posts I've read that a lot of what is circulating here is
the myth of the "decline" of public education. I'm reminded of
Mike Rose's text "Lives on the Boundary," where this decline theory is
taken apart by Rose. Essentially he states that those who made it
to college, even some forty years ago, were essentially the elite
who had made it through high school. The drop out rate was enormous, and with
all the jobs available with only a little education, college education
was only a plus for those who really wished, or could afford to go on
for higher degrees.

Of course, now, there's a very different attitude toward college,
especially as many of the industries that supported labor have fallen
off in the US: the garment and textile industries, machine
manufacturing, electronics etcet. It's very hard to get jobs that
don't require a college education. So we do see students coming in
who might have happily done something else. Their attitude is often
projected in the classroom. And writing above all things, especially
when taught without any type of practical application to the "real world"
needs for writing, is seen as a waste of time. I've tried to remedy this
by constructing assignments in the courses I've taught that address the
needs many of my non-english major students will face. My students write
essays, but they also write memos, letters to editors, reports (such as
police or medical reports), all in the hopes that they'll have the
opportunity to see how writing may fit into their later careers.

When it comes down to it, I've often wondered how useful it is for
students to write on the very popular topics like: Describe an incident
from your childhood that taught you something about life. I'm not
denying that there can be fun exploring one's self , or exploring
one's creativeness through writing. But essay assignments that seem
self-based often ignore that most writing is part of a conversation.
To paraphrase Bakhtin: The utterance is always a response to other

So maybe secondary school is not too early of a place to start asking
students to write for a number of different "discourse communities."
Maybe what we should be asking is for the teachers in HS to help our
students understand that there are many audiences out there, of which
academia is only one. While we're at it, forgive the levity here, we
might want to ask for more money for public schools, smaller classrooms
and better access to materials. This too might go a long way toward
preparing our students to face the rigors of college writing.

Tricia Christensen