The Classroom Production Line

My Weekend of Writing, image credit sscnet.ucla.edu

On Monday I had two essay drafts, one journal entry, and a blog post for another class due. As you can imagine, I declared the weekend my “writing weekend” and strictly stuck to that theme. However, I believe I might be in need of some more creative names because I don’t believe this will be the last one in store for the semester. My load this semester includes three sociology classes and this writing class, but all are heavily focused on writing. The first week of classes I can’t remember the amount of times I heard professors lecture on the importance of good writing skills, and how they intended to improve these over the course of the semester.

As college students, we are constantly being reminded of the importance of writing – either for grad school or our resumes or our careers. It is important to be able to produce something that communicates messages effectively and hopefully eloquently. Just think, most of us in this class probably are here because of these things.

This drive for getting better at writing is perfect evidence to support the reading I have done for class. In Deborah Brandt’s book Literacy and Learning, she presents the idea of writing as a economic practice. Writing is a form of labor. People write in order to achieve something – profit, good grades, work recognition, or a number of other things. She contrasts writing with reading and points out how reading is done for moral purposes. A reader is concerned with learning about something, not producing something.

Think of how much writing we produce for classes and our motivations for doing it.  And now think of that in contrast to reading. So many people never do the readings for class, but hardly anyone doesn’t turn in a paper. We aren’t directly measured on our reading ability most of the time. Brandt writes, “Reading usually cannot participate unadulterated in systems of exchange in the same way as writing.”  We exchange our writing for a grade, but rarely do we exchange reading for a grade.

In answer to Brandt’s last question, “How equipped are we now for sustaining a nation of readers?”  I think we have to be, or at least that is the message we keep getting.

4 thoughts to “The Classroom Production Line”

  1. I think you bring up a great point. Writing, in all aspects of life, is important. As you explained your class load, I couldn’t help but think that mine was the polar opposite. I’m in organic chemistry, spanish, genetics, writing, and a research lab. Although our course loads are completely different, I would have to say that I, too, spent the majority of my weekend writing as I had a rough draft, blog post, lab report, and scientific essay due on Monday. I can’t say which one of us has it worse off, but I can say that I find it amazing how writing is so necessary across each and every academic field. Initially, I thought that as a science major, I would be doing minimal writing in my classes, however after freshman year, I realized I couldn’t be more wrong. This need for writing is, like you said, required for us to achieve anything – be it personally or academically.

  2. You bring up an interesting point that writing is always done in an effort to produce something while reading serves more of a moral purpose. An interesting distinction between the end results of practicing reading and writing are that with practice in writing comes better quality and with practice in reading comes speed. Last semester I had to write 12 papers in addition to weekly blog posts; I can’t say that I enjoyed writing them, but I did learn something about writing and myself as a writer from each one.

  3. You make some very good points in relation to reading and writing and Brandt’s article. I can’t remember the direct quote but she said something about reading being efficient but writing is efficient. Because our writing has so many rewards within it we often diminish the pleasure of reading especially for a class. Most of the times it’s just for the sake of having something to say durin discussion, or having good quotes to support your argument in your paper. So I can’t say how equipped we are for sustaining a nation of readers, but it seems like our preparation is lacking.

  4. Such a lively post, Eva, and really thought-provoking, as the comments here bear out! I, too, am often astounded by the sheer volume of writing required in academia, both as a scholar and as not-so-far-removed from being a student. I wonder, too, about “sustaining a nation of readers”–if reading is undervalued when you have to do what I often refer to as “triage” in coursework, then how is reading itself sustained? Or is it…? I’ll definitely be thinking about this over the next several weeks. (Also, I wonder if it helps us to think about that question if we’re thinking about writing AS a form of reading, and vice versa? Maybe that’s just me wanting to save reading!) 😉

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