One aspect that Haswell discusses that always amuses me is the idea of the paper being the way that the students assess the teacher. “…The experienced students may write a first essay more as a diagnosis of the teacher than of the student…”(22), and based on their grades, the students will adjust their study habits, or writing technique accordingly. These results are also found in test taking, as the initial test scores are much lower than the second test scores. After finding their original assumptions about an assignment are not on par with the instructor’s expectations, most students promptly begin “trying.”
Experienced students may have “learned that the writing teacher’s focus on writing is usually overpowered by the subject teacher’s focus on content”(22). Where things become complicated is when writing crosses over into other fields of study, and grading expectations are the same. Behavior that was not prioritized in writing classroom is easily picked apart in the subject classroom. Students ignore the obvious grammar errors and focus on content, and “When the students go their sociology papers back, they were able to correct a third of their errors on their own. They said, ‘Why didn’t you warn us?’”(23).
Part of the problem of assessing writing as a field is discussing the idea of college writers being writers caught in the middle of the writing process. Students have a preconceived idea of their own writing abilities, and also the value that is placed on writing in the academy. As their education progresses,“…many students find writing devalued in other courses and associated almost totally with grades and graduation requirements”(31).
“Teachers do not face learners really, but learners manques, students with a ‘history’ of failure who will be therefore inclined to fail again”(53). These are the “flaws” within students that teachers will be unaware of, but that the individual student will have been coping with since beginning to learn about writing. The idea of teaching as part of a history, reminds me of the idea of literary criticism existing within a canon of other works of literature, each new addition changing both the works that came before, and altering the placement of those that will come after.
Random quotes of note:
“Teachers have to confer some sort of status on the people sitting before them and some sort of value on their performance; students react to that status and value” (53).
“Only from the perspective of academic credit is an “A” essay that is turned in the first week also an “A” essay when turned in the last week”(18).
“None of the group write English as a second language, and all are eighteen years old” (21).