This semester, I designed my Engl 1101 research projects around the book Bad Ideas About Writing, edited by Cheryl E. Ball and Drew M. Loewe. Students had to choose an essay from that book, find that essay’s sources, and then that source’s sources, and write an answer that answers this question: What’s a better idea (than the bad idea) about writing? As you can see in this blog, there are a variety of interesting answers. I hope that you enjoy them and learn something!
My honors sections also have to do a group project related to the research project, and my section this semester decided to have a text dialogue about Scott Warnock‘s essay “Texting Ruins Grammar Skills.” They recorded their group chat and made it into a video that is both interesting and enlightening:
In today’s society there are a lot of unrealistic rules and ideas that are we are implemented into thinking are actually true. Barriers that stand in the way of many people from doing things because of these unrealistic rules and ideas. A lot of these unrealistic rules and ideas are found when it comes to writing. There are numerous works of literature that talk about these unrealistic rules and ideas, one of them being Bad Ideas About Writing.One particular bad idea about writing specifically is that “Only Geniuses Can Be Writers.” This bad idea applies not only to published authors or poets who earn a living from their writing, but also every-day writers such as students. Teaching our students that you don’t solely have to have preternatural intelligence or talent to succeed as a writer is a better idea.
In their literature classes our students are consistently exposed to writers that have been labeled as geniuses of thought such as Shakespeare, Orwell, and Emerson. They are taught that these are truly writers whose work is illustrates writing as something that should flow freely and easily. When in reality, writing is hard. It is a better idea to discourage these unrealistic expectations and to instead teach our students that you don’t have to be a genius to be capable of coming up with an original thought. When students are implemented with these unrealistic expectations that you have to meet certain requirement in order to be a writer, they fall short of being able to realize their full potential. In The Irish Times, author and musician Josh Ritter writes about he struggled with the image of these genius authors. He writes, “Never mind that for my entire writing life I’d been writing at my kitchen table, with my guitar on my knee and a pen and notebook handy, if I wanted to be a real writer, I would need a desk. […] And without the desk, how could I write my novel?” Ritter comes to the conclusion that grand writing tables, remote cabins, and candlelit sitting don’t accurately represent what writing actually looks like for anyone. Instead now writing is more of a collaborative endeavor in which writing requires asking for your colleagues’ help or finding ideas and inspiration in others’ writing. The education our students are receiving should embrace this model of writing of collaboration over isolation. As stated in the essay, “As both history and contemporary practice demonstrate, writing has always required deep social engagement and influence, and no writer has succeeded solely due to pretern
atural intellect or talent. The pervasive idea of the reclusive author and genius birthing prose free from influence must die—and in its wake, a renewed idea of productive and meaningful collaboration (with other writers and their texts) will thrive.” (Bad Ideas About Writing, 69)
If our society stopped implementing these unrealistic expectations on what it takes to truly be a writer, would there be more published authors today? Those who because of these unrealistic expectations hold back on seeking to become writers because they believe their creativity doesn’t meet the standards and they’re hesitant the quality of their work because they don’t consider themselves geniuses like Shakespeare. If our students were stopped being taught these bad ideas about writers and taught them that yes, writing is hard, but geniuses aren’t the only ones that can be writers.
Imagine being placed in a strange place; because of an attempt create a better life for yourself and your family and being forced to learn the native language as well, without any prior knowledge, or help. In Steven Alvarez’s essay, “Official American English is Best”, he attempts to paint this picture, and explains one of the main arguments against making American English the official language. The growing belief that American English should be the official language is a bad idea, because it does not take into account of the history, cultural differences, or cultural shock someone coming from another country with no prior experience. The world is a constantly growing, and changing, place due to a multitude of different cultures and unique perspectives. While I understand the logic of some people wanting to make English the official language of America. I still believe it is not ethical and downright discrimination to some people. It punishes those who are not at fault to them or having any control of where they are from. The short film Immersion (2009) illustrates the struggles of a 10-year old boy named Moises that has immigrated to America from Mexico he faces challenges when he has to take a test and cannot understand it because English is not his natural language. The video below illustrates the tradition and culture that Alvarez attempts to drive home when mentioning what is being missed out on.
Chairman Mauro Mujica’s interview on Fox News was enlightening. Initially, browsing thru the website, I had preconceptions of what the interview was going to be like. I thought it would be an interview about hating to hear about immigrants that can’t speak, and them speaking their native language instead of English. Instead the interview was about Mr. Mujica wanting English to become the official language because he has seen its productivity in different countries where, in essence, the new country teaches how to become a “productive member of that society”. He uses the examples of “whatever the country is” how they don’t let you work for 3 months, and pay you to learn the language they set you up to actually be productive and not failure.
The original idea that “Official American English is Best” is not politically correct, and completely opinion based, can be said that it is one of the most spoken languages in the world. As time has passed native languages have begun to diminish in America. “Although ethnic identities may survive in some form into the third and fourth generations or even beyond, immigrant languages generally suffer early deaths in America. This demise occurs not because of an imposition or compulsion from outside, but because of social, cultural, economic, and demographic changes within linguistic communities themselves. Based on an extensive study of America’s historical experience, sociologist Calvin Veltman concluded that in the absence of immigration, all non-English languages would eventually die out, usually quite rapidly.” (Rumbaut and Massey p.142)
As the world changes, and evolves, so has the number of immigrants that have converted to using English; they have used it more frequently based on the age of their arrival to the U.S. as shown by the results of the study by the American Community Survey “English Proficiency of Immigrants by age of arrival education and Decade of Arrival”. The study shows that as time has passed the English proficiency prior to 1990, between the ages of 0-12 the rate was around 65%, between 1990-1999 the rate was close to 80% and between the years of 2000-2010 the rate rose to about 82%. As time has gone by English proficiency has increased, particularly the early ages of 0-12 years old. The younger the English speaking transition begins, the more proficient the individual is but as they begin to get holder the English proficiency rate decreased. “Speaking a foreign tongue at home does not necessarily imply a lack of fluency in English, of course; but given the nation’s well-established reputation as a graveyard for immigrant languages, the prospects for stable bilingualism in the United States appear slim.” (Rumbaut and Massey p.147)
There is no such thing as a best language; there simply is a notion of being the right language at the right time based on the circumstances. Being able to speak English very well in Brazil, for example, will not be of any good because that is not the native tongue of the land. A better idea would be that learning English is essential if you would like to have more adaptability in today’s ever-changing world. This added adaptability increases the chances of becoming successful and adding to the growing bilingual community around the world. Using English as the official language of the United States is not a totally bad idea, as long as there are procedures put in place to ensure that all immigrants are given the necessary tools to become successful members of society, while still holding onto their natural traditions and culture. If the time ever comes what will you vote towards; making English the official language of the world or keeping things as they are?
Alvarez, Steven. “Official American English is Best.” Bad Ideas About Writing, The Digital Publishing Institute, 2017, pp. 93–98.
“a Film about a New Immigrant Struggling in an English-Only Class.” Immersion, www.immersionfilm.com/.
“Chairman Mauro Mujica Talks Official English on ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight.’” U.S. English, 6 Apr. 2017, www.usenglish.org/chairman-mauro-mujica-speaks-to-fox-news-tucker-carlson/.
YouTube, 5 Apr. 2017, youtu.be/kE2VHH4GT28.
Rumbaut, Rubén G., and Douglas S. Massey. “Immigration & Language Diversity in the United States.” Daedalus, vol. 142, no. 3, 2013, pp. 141–154. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/43297256.
American Community Survey “English Proficiency of Immigrants by age of arrival education and Decade of Arrival”. 2008-2010 merged files.