research and writing IV: engagement and design

Monday, December 22nd, 2003

The classroom is designed space, architectural and mnemonic. The things we do in college are also designed. Do we need colleges? My answer is no. Do we need smart people to learn about health and healing? Yes. Must college be the place to graduate professional citizens? No, but its probably as good a way as any other. There are, however, other ways, such as professional apprenticeships.

I find it absurd that education is sold. I find it absurd to sell it in semester chunks. Heres a course on Biology. It lasts 3 months. In this bio course all that you need to know will be covered in 3 months. I say cut it to two weeks. I say extend it to 6 months. I say lets write all our papers in Power Point or draw them in crayon or in acrylic. Lets do photo essays or films to express our understanding of cell mutation.

Design. Art.

A year-long comp sequence should prepare people to express themselves in an economics course, sure, to execute a case study. It should also teach them to be flexible and to anticipate other writing situations. British Lit demands a different kind of writing than marketing. But the goal is the same: understanding and persuasiveness (and more). There are also hidden goals: to understand the bureaucracy, to learn who needs buttering, to learn that people will be judged by their grammar, to learn that life isnt fair, to learn that life is fair, to learn that stock issues in a policy claim necessitate an understanding of facts and value judgments, to learn that some people dont believe in god and have a different view of the minimum wage. To learn that writing is really a negotiation with space, to learn that the invention process is another way of thinking through memory.

Writing involves numerous and often contradictory skills: organizing time, mapping ideas, gathering data, establishing a subject, memorizing vocabulary and methodologies, learning subjects and their conventions, understanding failures in logic, making distinctions, channeling curiosity, learning and executing editing standards, anticipating audiences. None of these are under expressed ownership by any single department in higher education. The English Department doesnt own writing. It doesnt even own literature, just as the Law School doesnt own the law. Citizens own that or should.

Effective writing comes with time and practice. Since Im a visual thinker, I find it useful to think of writing as research as a subset of architecture: writing is design, construction, and the understanding of a kind of space which admits all other spaces. Writing is a cognitive map; writing is shared memory; writing is analysis; writing is the promulgation of image exchange between people engaged in conversation. Writing is a room where we sit and think. Writing expresses engagement.


4 responses to “research and writing IV: engagement and design”

  1. gibb says:

    I don’t really understand all you’re talking about yet–it’s been a rough day, but since I’m still awake, just a thought…

    Msn’t the visual vs textual thinking gender influenced? Women like dirty books, men like books with dirty pictures.

    I do understand that we think in images of pictures, and have blogged once about trying to think of the word “tree” as t-r-e-e rather than picturing a brown pole with green leaves. I think it can be done, but it is not the natural manner of thinking. Is this process learned? We learn what a tree is by having it pointed out to us and hear the word, “tree”. We don’t learn about it living a secret life as a spelled out word until we’re four or five.

    Think I got off the subject here.

  2. Jason says:

    Why do people get charged money for education? Because it costs money to provide it is the most common answer. But in my opinion, its because people want it. In a capitalist environment, any time someone wants something, someone else is going to charge them an arm and a leg for it.
    I remember a quote from a show (or movie) a while back: “As you know, a teacher’s first job is to make their students feel good about themselves.” Um, isn’t a teacher’s first job imparting that book learnin stuff?
    Another quote (from Boston Public I think) when a principal was asked about why he keeps a controversial teacher on his staff, “His students learn.” Well, that’s great in theory, but doesn’t that kind of imply that there are other teachers whose students don’t?

    In reference to women’s dirty books (re: romance novels lol) I’ve read a couple, and I was quite appalled at the number of them that have the main heroine’s future husband sexually assault her at some point. Weird.

    Jason

  3. gibb says:

    Jason, studies have shown that the rape fantasy is #1 on the list for women — although the fantasy is nothing like a real rape; the man is handsome, gentle but forceful, and comes back to marry her. And this study may no longer hold true as women are now granted more sexual freedom than ever before.

    And the visual vs textual thing goes deeper than romance novels.

    There are good and bad teachers just as workers in any field. Not everyone wants to further their education beyond high school, and there’s no reason to be handing it out free.

  4. Rina says:

    I don’t have a problem with education being sold. I think that if education were sold in a free market, minus all the attached strings and bureaucracy…the good teachers would get paid a whole hell of a lot than what they get now under this oppressive system. I think that the crappy teachers rue the day that something like that might come to pass.I actually have a sick, twisted fantasy of someday opening up an educational establishment that cuts out the middleman ie: the administration and government.But…for now it’s only a sick, twisted fantasy that I won’t be able to touch for at least another thirty-two years. And if that day should come, Mr. E, prepare to be persuaded from your retirement :-)