Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Just musing...

I was reading article headers from today's issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education and came upon the following article title:

Citation Obsession? Get Over It! (Chronicle article links only last a few days, alas...)

In case the article has disappeared by the time you get to it, the gist of the article (written by Kurt Schick, a writing faculty at James Madison University) is that English faculty, librarians, et al spend WAY too much time worrying over the way that writing is attributed, so much so that it actually impinges on the quality of the writing itself. He does not think that we should stop teaching attribution - just that we need to obsess over it less so that it does not get in the way of the actual content of the work. I will quote the paragraph that does the most to sum it up:

"What I advocate here is not to dispense with teaching students how to use sources but rather to abandon our fixation on the form rather than the function of source attribution. Here's why: We cannot control how much time and effort students invest in a particular writing assignment; we can only influence how they distribute their energies. Professors' overattention to flawless citation (or grammar) creates predictable results: Students expend a disproportionate amount of precious time and attention trying to avoid making mistakes. Soon, they also begin to associate "good" writing with mechanically following rules rather than developing good ideas."

This will probably sound somewhat heretical, coming from one of the keepers of the status quo, but I believe that Mr./Dr. Schick is on to something in a big way. Now, I am NOT an English faculty, nor do I play one on TV (oops, showing my age there) - but isn't it far more important to build the creative thinking and expressive aspect of the activity as strongly as possible before we worry over the window dressing? Citation and grammar is certainly not unimportant - but is it as (or more) important than the idea itself?

OK, going to put my flak jacket on now...


Song of the Day: Get Over It  from the Eagles, released as a single during their appropriately titled Hell Freezes Over tour

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