Friday, November 18, 2005

My heart aches

Truly. Two of my College Writing students, both women in their 40s beginning college after many decades of hard work and raising families, expressed their frustration with trying to master the skills and absurdities of academic writing. One emailed me about what she says she would call writer's block, except that she isn't a writer. That's what she said.

This is a woman who had just two days earlier turned in a beautifully written short essay defining the word "emotions." Who consistently expresses herself in intelligent and often sardonic ways. Whose wit is appreciated by all of us in the class. Not a writer.

This is the result of the cult of Authorship, in which writing and literacy become mystic practices enjoyed by Smart People who are Paid to produce Books. A cult that exists within a culture that turns some writers in Celebrity Authors, and condemns so many to fear and anxiety and voicelessness.

Look at me, turning into a Radical Teacher. Or maybe I'm just finally getting angry enough to speak up.

In the meantime, we're having a party in my College Writing class on Monday night, before we dive into a practice version of a test that's supposed to certify these students as "competent writers." I understand all the institutional reasons for that test. But I understand more the fear such testing creates in the hearts of these wonderful writers.

And they are. Writers.

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