“But due to a series of historical accidents the teaching of writing has gotten mixed together with the study of literature… the result … writing is made to seem boring and pointless”
– The Age of the Essay, Paul Graham
This is the first thing to truly resonate with me so far in this course. Whilst I most of the readings and ideas presented in this course has made me go “mhmm” and nod in let’s be honest, rather uninspired agreement, the opening of Paul Graham’s The Age of the Essay had me yipping with enthusiasm. The rest of his post I’ll skip over, but the start had me going off.
It’s been a few years now, but one thing that has stuck with me from my high school years was that English was also a monumental bore. It was never treated with respect – certainly not by the students and considering my year 12 English teacher was better known as the music teacher, I don’t think it was really respected by the teachers either. The assignment to write about a badly recorded DVD of 12 Angry Men did nothing except turn me off.
And sure, being able to critically dissect articles and the persuasive devices they have adopted is an important skill to learn – but what use is it when you’re response to the article must be presented in a formulaic, uninspired, plain boring 800 word response in order to get a good mark. I wrote a scrappy 150 words in my phone in response to a For What It’s Worth mX article that I found on the last Belgrave train on Thursday night, and not only was it a more interesting read than my year 12 persuasive response, it was a more useful read.
There’s an obvious void in high school English of writing about things that enthuse the students, and in the big world outside school, formulaic, stuffy writing has never been so ignorable.