Sunday, March 30, 2008

Here's To Me

I have just read a wonderful essay on writing by Paul Robinson. You can find the book containing the essay through this link: "Opera, Sex, and Other Vital Matters".

The essay: "Why Write?" is an insightful piece laced with wit. I won't try and sum up Robinson's work, other than to offer some lines that made me pause. Robinson quickly dispels the idea that people write for money. They may think they are writing for money, but when the majority of writers pause and consider how many hours they spend and what the return is for their efforts, that concept quickly evaporates. Likewise dispelled is the idea that writing is something that professors do for tenure. Robinson points out that many professors continue to write long after they've achieved that end. So why? Why write?

One thing Robinson proposes is that "Writing is an act of self-clarification, in which we bring order to those ideas and sentiments that otherwise would remain muddled and inarticulate". I love that. Of course, writing isn't a guarantee that the muddled becomes unmuddled, but the act is a way to express thought in a manner that stimulates further thought.

Robinson goes on to note that "Actual readership is less important to the writer than imagined readership." I love that idea. Actual readership. In some cases my readership is me. Too often my work never goes further than my harddrive. But of course, Robinson would nod with understanding.

"The writer reads his own work with greater pleasure than any other reader." This narcissistic logic, according to Robinson, protects the writer from insanity.

Why write?

It really is narcissism, isn't it? The idea that what we think is important enough to engage people is fascinating. Of course, being a frightening egomaniac, I have no problem at all with this concept. I can't imagine people NOT wanting to hear me.

Someone else pointed out that a writer must be an egoist to deal with the rejection that is part of the writing experience.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Narrative Inquiry

I have recently been exposed to a group of educators who believe the best way to inquiry is through the narrative process. Their approach is a personal one. My reading in this area started with a woman named Vivian Paley, a kindergarten teacher who used a form of community drama in her class to help students grasp new ideas and to express themselves.

The thing about using narrative for inquiry, and I am not objecting to it, just thinking out loud, is that its personal approach tends to be too subjective and for some not approachable. The opposite of the narrative would of course be a straight forward proposal, giving the reader something to think about, challenging him, and backing up statements with numerous facts and figures. The problem with the second approach, of course, is that black and white figures don't always tell the whole story and can be skewed.

What interests me about this trend toward narrative in educational inquiry is that it goes in the face of No Child Left Behind and its emphasis on quantitative results. Maybe its a reactionary movement within education. Not that I would ever want to accuse my fellow teachers of being passive aggressive.

As always, when thinking about extremes, the middle road seems the best, taking the cream that both sides have to offer.