Reality check

Marcy Bauman (marcyb@UMD.UMICH.EDU)
Fri, 16 Aug 1996 23:29:57 -0400

Jeff, I know what you mean about the term "real" being too nebulous and
ill-defined to be functional. Let me try to say what I mean a bit better.

I'm using the term "real" to mean writing that the writer is engaged in.
Period. Real writing can occur because of school assignments, because of
having a "real audience," because of writing for non-school contexts,
whatever. Reality is, for me, a property of the _writer_ and not the
writing situation. The trick in my teaching is to try to create
classrooms where most people experience the writing as real -- as
engaging and important for personal reasons, and not only because they
care about what grade they get. I would be very happy if everybody in my
classes learned to see writing as another way of conducting those
late-night bull sessions Nick talked about; when they can see that
writing can satisfy their needs for acceptance among their peers, or
their desire to out-argue the other person, or their drive to make sense
of their lives on this planet (well, that's what _my_ late-night bull
sessions were about, anyway), they'll be more likely to understand the
ways in which writing can help them lodge a complaint, communicate to a
boss, or even get a good grade.

My problem is, I don't see how they can be learning anything
useful about writing unless they _are_ engaged with what they write.
Unengaged writers aren't in a position to learn what we have to teach
them; they're the ones who internalize the funny grammar rules
("Paragraphs must have three sentences," "Never start a sentence with X",
etc. etc.), and who don't know how to deal with feedback from others when
they get it. All unengaged writers learn is how to eat their spinach.


Marcy Bauman
Writing Program
University of Michigan-Dearborn
4901 Evergreen Rd.
Dearborn, MI 48128

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