Gotta say, these are exactly the kinds of topics that SchoolSucks paper
archives feed into easily. I'm not sure these are the kinds of topics
Eric was referring to, though if he was, I'd say there is a major problem
in the way the topic choice process is framed.
Getting to "real" topics, whatever those may be, appears to me to be
extraordinarily difficult unless you are talking about community action
projects. And many students are not tuned in to that sort of thing.
As first year students, most of them are pretty absorbed in their own
worlds. At least that was the case for me and many of the students I've
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 . . .
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On Fri, 16 Aug 1996, Phyllis Ryder wrote:
> On Fri, 16 Aug 1996, Eric Crump wrote:
> > > So, How DO you find these "real" writing assignments...
> > I don't. Students do. All I do is insist that they have permission to write
> > about something they care about. I don't screen topics (though I do advise.
> > bring up questions about who they hope to affect with their writing, about
> > what relevance the topic has & to whom, etc.). Real writing projects aren't
> > hard to find. In fact, once you open up possible writing topics to the Rest
> > of the World, the big challenge is choosing among too many choices. I've had
> > students who want to do *everything* all at once.
> In our program at the U of Az we ask students to choose topics that are
> meaningful to them and can be debated. Often we get great papers of real
> interest to the students: ie a welfare mom writing to the campus
> community to convince them that she does deserve the federal money she
> gets that allows her to come to the U. But most often, I think, students
> hear "an issue that can be debated" and they pick the common topics--gun
> control, abortion, why frats are good things, affirmative action--and
> while they have SOME interest, they aren't really spurred on in their
> writing. We ask them to write a first paper explaining their personal
> experience with the topic as a way to develop that incentive, but often
> I think they aren't REALLY convinced that they will learn much from the
> essay writing/research. We have them write to "real" audiences--ie
> letters to companies, administrators, etc.--but even so, students often
> just do it because they're required to take fy comp and therefore they
> have to write an essay or three. How to break through that?
> Also, your discussion of students referring to each other's papers
> reminds me of a writing project developed at the UA by Sandra Florence.
> She calls it the "Communiversity" and has been given grant money to run
> it. She gathers people from the university and the community to work in
> writing groups. They each write an essay on a given topic. Then they
> exchange essays with X people. From each colleagues' essay they are
> required to take something--a quote, an image, a writing style--and
> incorporate it into their revision along with an end page explaining what
> they "took" from their peers and why. This kind of exchange continues
> until all students have incorporated something from everyone else's
> essay--so there are many revisions. All are bound together at the end of
> the semester. I have adapted this as an essay in my Advanced Comp
> classes and found it a great way to make students feel they had a real
> audience in each other and to make revision feel "real" because they now
> had to think about these other positions. The essays really develop and
> change and grow. Students are interested to see what others "took" from
> them-- a great lesson in their own rhetorical effectiveness. Sandra has
> talked about her project at CCCC. It's
> really spectacular (and that's not even talking about the extraordinary
> value of combining members of the university community--teachers,
> students--and members of the Tucson community!)