The Main Problem

Fred Kemp (
Sun, 22 Oct 1995 17:00:45 -0500

The mbu discussion has bounced around a lot in its six-year existence, but
the real problem has only surfaced once or twice.

The real problem with computer-based writing instruction has been embedded
in the nature of the teachers themselves.

What are they, these people who teach literature/writing? Why do they do it?

Are they writers themselves? Are they people who actually spend hours a
week reading the great 'stuff' they shove down students' throats?

Are they as intellectually acute in their own lives as the models they
force upon their students? Do they think about things in the way that they
tell students are proper?

Do they do what they tell their students that THEY should do?



I've had it with prescriptivist bullshit teachers who memorize a bunch of
stuff over twenty years and then pound their own students for not having a
clue about ridiculous stuff that any reasonable human being wouldn't even
CONSIDER in any but coercive circumstances.

90% of the writing teachers in America are teaching 'rules' that they
themselves have never, ever applied, MAINLY because they have never written
a thing for publication.

They don't know what writing IS because they have never written. They have
only transferred down the line the 'rules' that they have been taught, ad
infinitum. I was taught these rules, and now I teach these rules. [Lord
this happens so much in life!]

Writing is a human emotion process, not a rule process. What happens to
writing teachers when they, after a number of years, start restricting
writing instruction to all these rules instead of what writing really is?
Do they become so separated from the actual act of writing itself that they
start thinking that writing is some great Tic-Tac-Toe board of activity
instead of something that grabs people by their gut and heart?

What do I do to keep alive my own feelings about writing when all I hear is
this stuff about priming people for some correctness machine down the line
(business? graduate school?)

I write. Like now. Like it or not, this message is my way of handling my
feelings about writing. But I have the courage of my convictions, stupid
as they may be. Our students will never have courage in their writing if
we don't honest-to-god read what they write, and think about what they
write instead of nail them off the bat for WHAT they write.

Real life, MBU.

Fred Kemp