I have been lucky that my life is not filled with people who would belittle my choice to be an English major, but I know many other who are not so lucky. Some people say that English majors will never find jobs, that it is not a worthwhile field, and the like. These are generally the same people who value science or business fields as the most useful or valuable. Yet I can not believe that those same people would like to live in a world without the contributions of English majors. I could not help but think as we discussed this topic in class of the conversations of have had with people concerning my choice of career. As I said, I have not met anyone who has discouraged me, yet when I tell them that I spend my breaks not with a job or an internship but working on my writing, I have had some less than supportive remarks. It reminds me of our discussion of valuable fields of study versus those deemed less so. In these people’s eyes, my time would be better spend doing a “real” job or in a unpaid internship, despite the fact that I have chosen to become a professional writer. In my eyes spending as much time as I can justify working toward my career is the best use of my time. Yet just as some would consider my studying creative writing a waste of time. so would they my working on it.
Plagiarism was always a word that instilled fear in me. Teachers put so much emphasis on the evils of it and the scale of punishment when I was young that it is now impossible for me to hear the word and not feel stressed. To this day whenever I reach the plagiarism section of a new syllabus, which inevitably exists, generally somewhere in the middle, I always panic. I always worry that I will be accused of plagiarism, that I will accidentally forget to cite a quote, or that I will write something not knowing that someone else already said it. Yet I have never in my life done anything that even comes close to being classified as plagiarism. I think other students may have a similar feeling. So much threat is attached to the concept of plagiarism that is creates an irrational fear for me. And often things classified as plagiarism are really just mistakes that could easily be fixed, and had no dishonest intent behind them. As we said in class, there is a difference between a mistake and dishonesty. And even those students who do copy papers may feel pushed to that point my stress. They are so inundated with work for multiple classes that they may feel copying the work is worth the risk. That does not excuse the actions, but it does highlight a flaw in the system.
As I have become more in tune with technology I have also begun to consider more deeply it’s effect on both myself and others. Which is why I was very interested in the Carr article we read. It speaks to an experience that I find myself going through, the inability to focus. I think it is true that today’s technology is changing how we think, but I do not believe it is necessarily a deterioration, and I do not it is purely the fault of the technology itself. As with just about anything, I think any issue there might be lies with people. How people choose to use technology is extremely important. Technology offers us certain capabilities, and we then decided how to employ them. Sometimes people abuse technology, which then creates the problem. For example, as we discussed in class, people often spend too much time in their phones and do not necessarily interact with other people the same way in person. That is a social condition we created because technology allows us to, not because it forces us to. There have of course been devices and apps created that rely on the way people use them, but that still stems from humans, not the technology itself. Technology does not force people to use it in any particular way. It offers a great deal, and it is people who decide what they will do will that.
I am very interested in this idea of voice and writing for an audience because it is a topic that I have been thinking about a lot lately. I read a great deal of online articles on various subjects, and I have been wondering in recent years exactly why I find them so much easier and more enjoyable to read than many of the things I have to read for school. I believe there are a number of reasons that contribute to this, but I think a great deal of this has to do with voice and audience. The articles I read for school are written in an a very professional voice and are meant for an academic audience. While I am not incapable of reading or even enjoying such an article, I always find the article I read in my free time to be far more engaging. They are very often written informally, for an audience comprised of people like me. They are meant to be for ordinary people reading for interest, not scholarship. I find the easy going tone and simple everyday language to be comforting, and it helps me move along in my reading. This thought often comes to mind while I am writing papers for school. I sometimes feel that I could get my point across in a simpler and clearer manner if I did not feel restricted to write in such a professional tone. Though I do understand why I am required to, I still feel as though I am a better writer when my voice is free.
One of my favorite things about this course was how every time we entered the classroom and began class discussion, we not only discussed the specific topic that was on the agenda for the day but also pulled in knowledge that we had acquired from previous class discussions. And by building connections between things discussed inside the classroom, we were able to build connections with things beyond the classroom. One of the ideas that seemed to be strung from discussion to discussion as a key connector was the idea of using your own voice in academic discourse. The concept of voice was brought up again when talking about original work in our plagiarism discussion. And this got me thinking, what exactly do people think of when they think of “voice” in writing? Voice being talked about in connection to originality makes me think that some people define voice with the age-old phrase used at the beginning of so many writing prompts, “In your own words . . .”. And while I agree that, yes, using voice in writing does mean using your own words, it is so much more than that. To me, voice means invention; it means creating a dialogue in your writing that facilitates a new conversation. A student could write an academic paper in their “own words” while not bringing anything new to the table. This distinction between original worlds and voice is important because, in the words of T.S. Eliot, “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice.” It is imperative that students are encourage to use their own voice in academic discourse, because if they do not, academic discourse will no longer serve as a means for knowledge making—we would never discover anything new if we are too afraid to insert our own voices into the conversation.
This is a very hot topic for class discussions and that shows this is an emotional subject. No one likes hearing they are in a “fake” major. What a blow to a person’s confidence. Whether or not that student independently chose a major or a parent urged them to go down a particular path, insinuating that a major is fake is basically telling that student that everything they’re working towards has no value. Personally, I feel a lot of the creative majors get the most flack for being “fake.” If only I had a dollar every time I heard someone say an art major isn’t practical. The art and design majors hold a special place in my heart, and it absolutely kills me that creative jobs aren’t necessarily paid the same amount or seen as valuable as jobs in the science and mathematical fields. Every person has their own set of special talents, whether it is artistic capabilities or being mathematically gifted. Why should one talent not be considered valuable over the other? All majors should be treated equally, because they each carry out special responsibilities in society. We are always going to need designers, teachers, doctors, artists, mathematicians, scientists and the like. On campus, respectfulness towards all majors needs to be a new trend.
I think a writing class should teach the basics of grammar and sentence structure, as well as different styles of writing. Learning the basics of writing is necessary for all aspects of life, so it would only make sense to incorporate grammar usage within a writing class. Perhaps how in-depth grammar rules and writing styles are taught would depend on the level of education the student is in. For example, elementary writing classes would include sentence structure and grammar rules. Middle school writing classes would teach students different styles of writing, like a book report, a science lab, and a reflection piece. Once at the high school and college level, a writing class would involve teaching students how to develop their own style of writing, as well as explore the various genres of writing like editorials and news updates. Also in college, I think a writing class should begin to analyze works of pieces from various time periods to see how writing has evolved throughout the years and if any patterns have be demonstrated within the text. Maybe if writing classes were structured in this way, and required at every level, the apprehension students have towards writing various different types of paper will lesson, if not disappear. Writing does not have to be this “pulling teeth” process, but rather a fun exploration into the use of words to convey a message and inform or persuade an audience.