constant conversations

Brandt’s essay made me think back to my own k-12 schooling and experiences learning to write. I remember clearly the system my kindergarten & 1st grade teacher used to teach us new words we’d eventually be able to read in sentences – we’d start off with red, then graduate to orange, then eventually the end of the rainbow. (I used to be really proud that she ran out of words for me before the end of the unit and ended up adding spanish words instead). I remember later being asked “how old were you when you learned to read?” but never the same question about writing.

Writing was always taught formulaically, a book review or later maybe a five paragraph essay all easy to master with the right conventions – topic sentence here and conclusion there.

I think Brandt’s point that “mass writing is given less ethical and moral value than mass reading” is really interesting. I think because reading is so quantifiable and objective – you read something or you don’t, and you read x many books a year – it’s easier to measure in terms of value. Yet we ingest so much more information on a daily basis today than ever before I wonder how school curriculums will adapt. I remember my english classes in high school being so focused on comprehension of classic books (and sparknotes saving my grades), and I agree with Brandt that something seems to be shifting the relationship between writing and reading. thanks to technology we’re constantly in conversations with not only our peers but strangers in the world. I can’t help but think that my initial education didn’t really prepare me for these constant conversations (didn’t intend to name drop but i really like that Passion Pit song…), but then again we need to learn to walk before we can run, so who knows.

Response to Sullivan & Brandt

One of the reason why I’ve always thought blogging has become a dominant form of writing is because of the increased connection and decreased distance between writers and their readers. It’s plain to see that the home of the blog, the internet, is the major factor in this coalescence. Brandt expounded upon the phenomena of writers overtaking readers in terms of prevalence, and it’s the blog that’s to thank (or blame) for this fact. Her assertion begs the question, “What will happen when everybody starts to write their own words before they’ve read those of others?” Blogging makes writing so easy and appealing that anyone online can do it, but will writers actually improve or just become more plentiful?

Sullivan points out that a major reason why he blogs is because of the constant connection between bloggers and their readers and their lightning insight, comments, and critique. I think this gives way to a healthy process of discourse, but, as made clear by every comment section ever, it quickly can get messy. So is heavy moderation the key, or are should commenters just duke it out? I think ultimately it comes down to a case-by-case basis, but it should be the people’s say. Sites like Reddit that use a system of upvotes and downvotes have adapted well to this issue, and I think blogs can do it too. This can also be a solution to filter out fluff, and keep writers informed when they go to post their work. By embracing the blog as a form of collaborative writing, authors and readers can abide by the majority, and ultimately continue a practice that is both educational and progressive.

And your score is…

I’ll admit that a lot of the Brandt paper was of zero interest to me. I just felt like I was reading a lot of lofty, unsubstantiated wording, which is not true, but as someone not versed at all in the topic, I was lost. What I did really enjoy were the concrete examples she offered of interviews she had conducted with various people. The snippet that struck me the most was with the education specialist from a national trade association. He talked about sending in all his work to have it run through the Rudolph Flesch readability forumla.

Readability formula!?!?

At first, I was totally shocked by this. The more thought I lent the topic however, the more sense it made. I remember an assignment I had to do for a scientific writing  class I took freshman year. We were required to “translate” an original research article into an article for a popular magazine. My prof at the time asked all five (yeah, five) of us in the class our best guess for the national reading grade level. I boldly, and in clear demonstration of my naivete, offered some high school as the reading level. Wrong. Third grade. 3rd grade. That blew me away. Language, word choice, sentence structure, sentence length, syntax, all of that stuff we agonize over because we think it makes good writing. It has to be simple for real world consumption.

This brings me to two last points with the Brandt paper. First, I think literacy and reading are a HUGE issue in this country. The SES connection is a deeply disturbing one brought to light by Brandt. This highly industrialized country has only a 98% literacy rate. Most European countries have 99 or 100%. I don’t believe reading should ever be put on the backburner as far as how undeniably essential and important it is to functioning in our culture and society.

Lastly, in light of our discussion about the essay rubric in class today, I think the readability formula really highlights just how important audience and purpose are to every piece of writing we do from now until we stop writing. It is critical that you know who you are writing for/to because every audience calls forth very different demands from the writer.

Untitled

Despite the articles being a little repetitive, I found parts of the pieces interesting.  Obviously, writing and reading are inextricably linked to each other, as Brandt points out, “There can be no reading without writing, nor writing without reading.” But, I personally had never really considered either of the two activities in the ways Brandt presents them.  The concept of mass literacy through writing was interesting to me. It seems to implicitly make an argument for the value of effective communication and the importance of what I think Kenneth Bruffee would call “social discourse.”

In my peer tutoring seminar, we’re talking a lot about writing, what writing is, how to best learn how to write, and effective strategies for making good peer tutors, and thus, better writers.  I’m noticing a trend in these writings towards a more collaborative learning style. Advocates of this particular style of teaching cite the effectiveness of communicating with other writers, at all skill levels, about writing and the writing process, and Brandt’s piece seems to reinforce this theory. In a society that’s tending towards a mass population of writers, writers are forced to communicate with each other and, in doing so, they make their writing better. There’s a trend of moving away from defining knowledge as this abstract good to be transferred from the knowledgable (the instructor) to the ignorant (the student). More and more, knowledge is being defined in a collaborative sense, where understanding is something to achieved through conversation, according to writing scholars like North and Bruffee.

It’s then interesting to think about what Brandt says, and how she classifies reading as good, but writing as good.  If knowledge is no longer a commodity, but a goal to strive towards, then reading as the sole mean of disseminating knowledge becomes obsolete.  Obviously, I don’t think people should stop reading, but I’m tempted to say that far more emphasis needs to be placed on, in academic institutions especially, the value of writing.

Writers Read and Readers Write

As I read Brandt’s piece, I began to think about my education as a child. Did my teachers teach me to read or write? In Elememtary school, both reading and writing were emphasized equally. But as soon as the basic skill of reading was mastered (“The boy kicked the ball. Then he ran home.”) the focus shifted to how to become a better writer. All throughout junior high and high school my teachers helped me improve as a writer, but being a good reader was basically expected. I’m thinking this may have something to do with why I despise academic reading, but am pretty good at explaining myself in words.

Brandt provides examples of on-the-job training associated with writing. I think it’s common to emphasize what one can produce (through writing) and forget about what one can take in (through reading). But if these two forms of communication go hand-in-hand, shouldn’t we put just as much time and effort into raising effective readers?

“Creative writing is especially popular among the group doing the least amount of reading, the young.” I suppose I fit in to this description. I have always enjoyed writing creatively much more than reading.

“If reading makes us more informed, independent, innovative, productive and free, what does writing do–accept apparently make us less inclined to read?” At first this sentence made me mad. Writing does so much more than make us less inclined to read. I think writing is more innovative, productive and free than reading. When I read, I feel confined. But when I write, I feel free to express my inner thoughts.

Brandt redeems herself by including the positive feelings of workday writers: “…and the pleasures they derive from what can only be called authorship, including the satisfaction of feeling their words enter and at times alter the environments that surround them.” I can relate to this feeling of satisfaction and pleasure that occurs when I write. I love the quote Brandt includes from a freelance writer. It embodies how I hope to feel as a freelance writer in the future.

I think Brandt did a good job of explaining the relationship between reading and writing and how our world is changing in terms of both.