Writing the Wrong Stuff


“If I was disenchanted at all, I was probably disenchanted with me. For one thing, I suspected I was not writing quite the way I wanted to write, and sometimes I was oppressed by my weekly deadline … I was a man in search of the first person singular…”  ~E.B. White, One Man’s Meat

Unlike E.B. White, the weekly writing deadlines that leave me feeling stifled and worn out are not for anything prestigious like The New Yorker—just sophomore sociology classes at a modest little college. And my quest for the first person singular will most assuredly not result in a children’s classic like Charlotte’s Web—I’d settle for a little more autonomy with my school papers, but I wouldn’t cry if I could dabble in creative nonfiction or try my hand at an ethnography.  I can relate, though, to feeling dissatisfied because I’m not writing the way I would like to be.

Many teachers, at least at my school, seem to hold to the belief that it is not only in their job description to create the course syllabus and handout grades, but that it is also their responsibility to insure the students actually bother to crack their one hundred and thirty dollar textbook that was not optional for the course and didn’t come in paperback.

Teachers often begin the first day of class with the “You’re and adult now, so no one is going to hold your hand” speech while simultaneously assigning pointless little papers that many of them publically acknowledge is only to serve as a type of homework babysitter.  It’s not writing nor researching, just vomiting back the information with a small handful of citations thrown in for good measure

I know that the teachers who assign so many waste-of-everyone’s-time papers mean well, but their papers leave me feeling patronized, jaded, and craving educational autonomy.  As E.B. White said he felt before he decided to pack up his family and leave their New York home for the country, I feel disenchanted—mainly with the notion of institutional education—because I’m not writing the way I want to write.    


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