Contemporary Challenges to Writing Well

Follow up to the previous post, “Writing Hard”.

When working on their drafts, I ask my writing students to continually self-assess whether they’ve been sufficiently introspective and whether they have interesting ideas to communicate.

Sufficient introspection is tough for an increasing number of students who are unable to unplug for any time of real consequence. For some of my students, not texting for an hour and forty-five minutes is excruciating. I wonder, how introspective can one be when alternating between texting, talking, listening to music, facebooking, tweeting, watching youtubes most recent viral videos, or streaming films?

A second challenge is sufficient exposure to complex and challenging content. This challenge takes two forms—the quality of curriculum materials in school and the personal choices made outside of school.

With respect to the later, young people watch a lot more television and movies than they do read. That’s not inevitably negative, depending on the relative quality of their preferred television programming and movies.

Extrapolating from my students and my daughters and their friends, today adolescents tend to watch television and films that fail the complex and challenging test.

Again I wonder, if they’re unable to unplug and they’re switching between Gossip Girls, Camp Rock, and Legally Blonde (my frame of reference is admittedly female) what can we expect from them in terms of interesting ideas?

Postscript: I’m not immune from these challenges, particularly unplugging. I am too easily distracted. That partially explains why it took me so long to FINALLY finish Franzen’s Freedom. Whew, masterful. Worth noting, he said he worked on it in an office without an internet connection. Currently I’m reading The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. And last night the family and labradude gathered for this excellent film. Fifteen was NOT happy it was subtitled, but she dug deep and read for the whole 2 hours. She’s still not quite forgiven the Galpal and I for subjecting her to this excellent film five years ago.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

4 thoughts on “Contemporary Challenges to Writing Well

  1. My two are addicted to the modern media as well, and it is hard to get them to read anything of substance. However they really like camping and do not miss the technology when we are on Mt. Rainier for a week. I also remember a young girl thanking me for a bike trip years ago, saying “It is the first time I really had to THINK about life” I guess you just have to provide opportunities.

  2. I like Dean’s comment about providing opportunities. When I can get students engaged in a discussion where they use their “electronica” (as I call it) to help them join the discussion, I feel most successful. Just ignoring the technology doesn’t help…so, I’m continually searching for answers. Thanks for your post.

  3. Thanks. I was thinking the same thing the other day when my fifteen year old and three of her friends worked intensely for two hours piecing together a calendar on line with digital pictures of themselves for a fifth friend’s sixteenth bday. We can’t put the toothepaste back in the tube. I agree, teachers need to integrate their electronica in ways that deepen discussions.

    And Dean’s comment brings to mind the notion of digital sabbaticals. Some people and some families unplug one or two days a week, usually on the weekend. We haven’t tried that, but should.

    • I think it is hard to do a holiday at home, but getting away works like a charm. As a foreign language teacher, I sure enjoy the contacts and connections that can be made these days through technology that were just dreamed of when I started into the field.

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