Can Writing Be Taught (To 19-Year-Olds)?

November 30, 2007 § 5 Comments

Brevity editor Dinty W. Moore is at his most crotchety in his guest blog post, On Seeing Clearly, over at Insidehighered.com.  Really, how does he get off saying stuff like this?

The average twenty-year old, by no fault of his own, doesn’t want the hard truth. He still wants to be reassured. He wants to believe that the answer is simple: if we act well, things turn out well; if we act badly, we are punished. It is only when we get older—most of us, that is—that we’re able to understand with any depth just how arbitrary, unfair, mysterious, odd, and slanted is that thing we call reality.

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§ 5 Responses to Can Writing Be Taught (To 19-Year-Olds)?

  • Grover says:

    Which is why I’m not in favor of dropping universities’ core curricula or promoting early graduations a la the UK and stuff. Just imagine if we could get all the way through school without learning–or even getting our first intimations of–that one great truth that “Life isn’t fair.”

  • […] Dinty Moore of Creative Nonfiction pops up with a short, delightfully grumpy piece in Inside Higher Ed about the problem with teaching nineteen-year-olds how to “write.” […]

  • […] Dinty Moore of Creative Nonfiction pops up with a short, delightfully grumpy piece in Inside Higher Ed about the problem with teaching nineteen-year-olds how to “write.” […]

  • Kate Flaherty says:

    Thanks for your generous words about your students. Yes, many of the students, even the ones who seem to have plenty to write about, aren’t ready, are they? My favorite meaty chunk of an essay to have undergrads read is Primo Levi’s “The Gray Zone” which bangs away at these very ideas. I remember reading such essays at 19, forming my solid black and white opinions of them, and stickin’ to my beliefs, no matter how naive. I’m still in revision, still chagrined at the idiotic, heavy-handed ideas I was so sure of. But I remember what I read then, what I said then, what I wrote. It just took a few decades for me to figure it out. I hope to have a similar effect on students myself. Writing (and reading comprehension) can certainly be taught to 19-year-olds–it just might take a really long time for the results to show.

  • aiken says:

    Yes . . . twenty year olds are still cock-eyed optimists; my mother would have said, “They just don’t know no better.” If they have been part of academia for fourteen years, then that is their excuse. If, on the other hand, they have been intelligent, hard-working 16 and 17 year olds from generational poverty, they have discovered the “one great truth.” But . . . still . . . human desire and faith rests on more than reality. Sisphyus continues to roll his rock up the hill, every time it rolls down. He has seen reality, but he laughs, despite the gods, infuriating them. I teach, for much the same reason.

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