“You can’t learn to write in college.”

Or that’s what Ray Bradbury says anyway.

 

I’ve never really liked science fiction. That is until I read Fahrenheit 451. I had this misconceived that scientific wasn’t realistic, and I’m more of a non fiction type of girl. When I read Fahrenheit 451, I realized that science fiction, or at least the way that Bradbury writes it, is realistic, just not in the present. In his interview, Bradbury talks a lot about how his books are looking into the future, and what could actually happen if we aren’t careful. He says, “Science fiction pretends to look into the future, but it’s really looking at a reflection of what’s really in front of us.” He redefined science fiction and it’s importance for me.
So how did Bradbury become so wise? Not college. Bradbury actively advocated that going to college is stupid. He came to this conclusion because he believes that teachers have prejudices and proport to having more knowledge than students– something he finds unacceptable. These statements have big implications for us, as we are currently studying writing in college. I don’t know if Bradbury is right, but his ideas got me thinking. Thinking about all the writing classes I’ve taken thus far and the different ways my teachers have taught and commented on my writing. Often times teachers comment on rough drafts with things they would like fixed, and if you fix them you get a good grade. If you don’t, well, then it is likely you receive a bad grade. This seems problematic to me, because although my teachers might be more experienced writers than me, should they be allowed to force me to change my writing in order to receive a better grade?

When I first read the statement “You can’t learn to write in college”, I thought it was kind of silly. My writing has seemed to improve in college, and I have learned a lot of things pertaining to how to be a good writer. But, even that begs the question, who decides what makes a good writer, or even a good piece of writing? As I thought more and more about that, Bradbury’s point seemed to start to be more and more plausible. Bradbury also says “you can’t write for other people”, something you actively have to do if you’re learning how to write in college. It made me question academia, because every time I write in college, I am writing for a grade. I am altering my writing for the particular class and teacher.

I can give an example. I had a teacher who hates writing that involves suspense; he thinks it frustrates the reader. I love both writing with suspense and reading suspenseful pieces. It keeps me on the edge of my seat. But, for his class I wouldn’t dare write a piece with suspense, since I knew it would likely receive a poor grade.

 

Bradbury is against formal education in general, because he taught himself everything by frequenting the library. Maybe he is right to dislike formal education. It’s probably something I will wonder for the rest of my life. I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure whether the way formal education is structured is something that is conducive to learning and, more specifically, becoming a better writer.

3 thoughts to ““You can’t learn to write in college.””

  1. Hey Meredith,

    I’m glad you chose Ray Bradbury’s interview because he brought up a lot of interesting points that you then expanded on in this post. I have also questioned the validity of grading subjective work such as writing. There isn’t a right or wrong answer like in math and science classes. It’s interesting that you mention how you write for grades in classes because oftentimes, I feel like that is what gets emphasized in our world: the outcome, and not the effort or the thoughts that go into the work. You mention that you aren’t sure if Bradbury is correct in his assertion that formal education is futile and misguided; do you have any ideas on how the problems you mentioned could be fixed in the educational system to actually help writers? I’m not sure if there’s an answer to it either, but just curious to hear if you’ve any ideas.

    Che

  2. Meredith,
    I think that your point on Bradbury’s assertion that “you can’t learn to write in college” is a very interesting one. While I would disagree with him, I completely understand his point, in such a way that I kind of wanted to agree with him. I don’t think you can learn to write in college. Writing is a skill and more importantly a process. It continues to change as you change, and your beliefs and feelings change. That is what makes writing so special, it is a piece of ourselves that is written down and stays the same with time.
    I would go on to say, that the “way” we all write can change, and college is the platform for a lot of this change. In college we are all exposed to so many writers that can have a great effect on us as well as the teachers that help guide our direction.
    As you can see, this topic interested me a lot and I am glad you chose Bradbury. This is an interesting conversation, and I look forward to seeing how others view it.

  3. Hi Meredith,

    I loved reading your post about Bradbury! It was extremely interesting to see a common relationship between the two of you in regards to education. I also share this common feeling. There have been many times throughout my education where I feel frustrated due to a lack of learning. The example of your professor who did not like suspense writing truly irked me. I believe that you should be able to write any way you desire, and then your professor should help improve your skills. Contrary to your professor, I love reading suspense writing and would enjoy reading one of your pieces!

    Did you continue to read science fiction after Fahrenheight 451? Did Bradbury change your overall perception of the genre? I continually ponder questions because I will find a writer that I like a lot and read many of their works. However, after a few months, I may never return to anything similar. I feel that I often go in fades with reading. Do you do this too?

    Have a great day,

    Chloe

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