The idea of writing about objects isn’t a novel concept. If one looks at the work of academics everywhere, one could see how this principle is used to enhance their work. The terminology and imagery behind the idea is novel, however, which is what confuses students in my opinion.
Students today are being torn in different directions. You’re good, you’re great, you’re terrible, you’re not as hot as you think you are. For every class there is a different set of rules to follow. And up until a student gets to college they are never taught about the importance of audiences, which are those instructors expecting different things from the student. No one told us about that basic principle, so we learned to sheepishly follow a five-paragraph format and hope for the best.
Personally, nothing specific comes to mind when I hear “write with objects.” Objects can be everything, which is the point of that word choice, but that initial uncertainty is enough to stunt any work from a fledgling writer. Trust me: I’ve been one of those writers so crippled by doubt that I barely manage to meet a word requirement.
The best advice I was given about academic writing prior to university was a lesson in the rule of three. For those of you who don’t know, the rule of three is where you can’t have an idea in a paper without three pieces of evidence to support it. The idea is to create something that’s harder to knock down. I envisioned a good paper in this model to be like a stack of cards, but glued down (looks delicate, but really hard to pull apart.)
Having that idea, having that image of how a paper should act helped me tremendously, but it took longer than it should have to get there.
I think a clearer way an educator can express what they want from their students is to say, “You have this idea. It’s not working because it’s not grounded.” This includes the theory of objects, just taking it a step further, I think. It adds action to it, makes the object more tangible because the object can affected. The writer is allowed to have both the concrete feel of the object but still retain that an idea is being pushed forward in a meaningful way.
I think Maguire was on the right track. But he also needs to realize that without other educators with the same opinion and understanding on objects in writing his vision of objects in the classroom is likely to just stay a dream. The dialogue about teaching writing needs to continue, and I think there needs to be more leniency on certain subjects.
The goal is to teach good writing. An educator can do that through both theories, as long as the message explicitly addresses grounding your ideas. It’s easier to do that with objects, but we need to focus on explaining the whys at the same time we teach the hows.
Ground your argument for either theory and let’s get back to writing.