A couple of notable essays have appeared recently about focusing on teaching writing, as opposed to literature. Here are a few money quotes, starting with the original piece in Salon:
It’s hard to blame anyone for not wanting to teach writing, which, while it might not involve manual labor or public floggings, is hard, grueling work. Often it demands maximum effort for minimum payoff, headache-inducing attention to detail, wheelbarrows full of grading, revision after revision, conferences with teary-eyed students. Who wouldn’t prefer to talk about books or stories or poems? Problem is, the hard, grueling work to be done doesn’t go away. Ask any college composition teacher.
A reaction from another teacher, quoted at Instapundit:
Teenagers, already a cauldron of emotions, rather enjoy boiling over onto paper, as long as authenticity trumps accuracy or analysis. They “reflect” all the time, mostly on their cell phones in indecipherable shorthand. Building, supporting, and defending a thesis – that’s much less fun. Teaching them to how do it, and grading the results, is much harder work as well.
Others have chimed in, but you get the idea: teaching literature is fun and easy, whereas teaching writing is painful.
It’s absolutely true. (more…)