Monday, March 27, 2006

Readin', Writin', and Really Wishin' School Was Out

Have y'all noticed that over the past few months, my writing has become more sloppy and less focused? It seems that I have trouble writing more than a few sentences at a time, and the thoughts contained in those sentences aren't very good.

I was just looking over some of my previous blog posts from last summer, and I must say--at the risk of sounding conceited--I am impressed with what I read. However, I am also perplexed. It seems that when school started last fall, my writing skills began to go downhill. My mind began to lose its ability to think deeply about one topic for a long period of time. I'm moving from topic to topic, thinking only superficially about each one. Now, I hope this is simply because I haven't had adequate time to devote to thinking and writing. I fear, however, that my students' bad habits are starting to rub off on me. Maybe this problem will correct itself when school ends. (Only five more weeks!!!!!)

In an effort make the rest of the semester a little more interesting, and more importantly, to foster deeper thinking and understanding in my students, I have given them a new assignment for their last paper, which happens to be a long research paper. Their task is to research a topic that they don't know much about, one that they would like to be able to form an opinion about. They have to deal with topics from the following areas: a controversial issue for which they don't already hold a strong opinion; an event in history (like the Kent State riots or the Ruby Ridge incident); a belief system or belief-related practices (such as any religion or political philosophy, or practices such as polygamy or Veganism); or a culture/group/society (such as a gang, an ethnic group, or any other type of social/activist/interest group). The goal of the research is to learn about the subject and gain insights about the subject. My students don't have to come to an agreement with the beliefs being discussed, but they have to come to an understanding of why the people involved believe the way that they do. The paper the students will write will discuss the insights and understanding they have gained and show the reader how they came to these insights.

My students are actually quite excited about the research because they now have the chance to write about topics that normally would not be conducive to an English class or other college classes for that matter. They are choosing very interesing topics as well: With all the controversy around South Park and Tom Cruise lately, some are choosing to research Scientology. Others want to learn more about Islam. I also seem to have a lot of conspiracy theorists in my classes because some of the other topics include the Knights Templar, the Illuminati, the Skull and Bones Society, and the idea of the moon landing being a hoax. I hope that these papers will be fun to read.

What do you think?


Tony Arnold said...

I agree with your assessment of your own writing, I was very disappointed, and I give you an F for blogging. I am just kidding!
You were way to hard on yourself.

I am impressed with the assignment. I sure wish you could post the students work for us to read--without their names of course, but I bet that is not legal to do.


JMG said...

Well, I was only going to give myself a D.

I could post students' essays if I got permission from the student. I thought about starting a blog for students' writing, but I couldn't figure out a way to work it into the syllabus. I wonder if they would be more conscious of their writing if they thought the general public would read it?

Ayatollah Mugsy said...

You found me out, you little scamp!

I hope you will not take offense, but I have deleted your most recent comment on my blog. It is for the good of the ministry, you see.

Please tell your students researching Islam that I am available for interviews.

JMG said...

No offense taken, Mugsy. I didn't even think about the idea that it might involve some top secret mission or something.

I will inform my students. I'm sure they can benefit from your vast wisdom (and maybe learn a little something about professional bowling as well).


jettybetty said...

I really hate it when life keeps cutting in on my *quality* blogging time ;-)!

Those papers could be really interesting--you might have blogging material for all summer that way!

Of course, I love the idea of a blog for your class, too--perhaps your down time this summer will help you figure that one!