An Immodest Proposal for Sorting Student Writers

1. Divide all incoming students into two groups: those who read and those who don’t. By “read” I mean books. By “books” I mean non-vampire-wizard books. Sub-divide the readers into those who annotate while they read and those who don’t. This gives us three groups: non-readers, readers, and reader-annotators.  Set each group on its own track, only allowing them to take courses with their own kind.

2. Adjust the grading system for writing courses. Give the non-readers .75 value for the grade they receive in their non-reader writing course. Give readers full credit. Give annotators 1.25 value. At any point, non-readers or non-annotators can repent, overhaul their behavior, and jump up a level. At this point, the “jumpers” must say goodbye to their old friends for good.

3. Non-readers can be assigned reading, but we shouldn’t give them full credit for the course, even if they read it. They are non-readers. Just because they have read their reading doesn’t mean they’ve read it. No instruction on how to read will be given. They are, after all, non-readers.

4. The writing of non-readers should not be graded for content or technique. It should be graded for word count. There is no need to grade it, since it won’t ever improve. Colleges and universities should decide whether or not to staff the non-reader classes, or to allow papers to be submitted to CheckMyWordCount.com complete with thumbprint and birth certificate. Dollars previously allocated for instructing non-readers should be applied to the salaries of those who teach readers and reader-annotators.

5.  Reader instructors should only teach how to annotate. Their only goal is create “jumpers.” This instruction should be so disciplined and annoying as to prematurely force the readers to jump. It should be like basic training. You jump or you stop reading altogether and slide back down to the non-readers. I’m not joking around here.

6. Annotator instructors should do no instructing. They should only recommend books and talk about writing, books, and ideas. Classes should be conducted at a coffee house. Pretentiousness should be fostered in the first half of the course, and then curbed in the second. There should be a lot of discussion about how impossible it is to be a writer, both financially and emotionally, in this country.

7. Non-readers should be reminded every day that ditch-diggers, grave diggers, and tunnel diggers (basically all forms of diggers) are people, too, and that even some of them read.

8. Annotators should never be graded. Never. They should not even have to show up. They should, at the end of the semester, give you a piece of writing of X number of words. This will be an “A” times 1.25. Then, the department will assess all writing: non-readers, readers, and reader-annotators, and verify that the process worked.

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