I had the opportunity today to visit with a class at one of our high schools. It’s a neat class where students are exploring the digital world that their schooling happens within. They’re looking at electronic resources and portfolios and other things. They asked me in to talk about blogs and blogging in light of my recent thesis work as well as my overall interest and experience in the topic. They’ll be starting a blogging project soon, and I’ll be visiting with two more sections of the course tomorrow.
I shared this with them, a distillation of some of the descriptive and prescriptive ideas I’ve written about blogs and blogging and bloggers. I tried to emphasize that good blogging, is a simple set of skills: reading, writing and thinking, although not necessarily in that order. Good blogging is a continuation of the tradition of good writers and folks from pre-digital times, too. Good blogging is paying attention and asking good questions. Thomas Paine’s name came up.
Good blogging, too, is hard to do well. It’s play dressed up to look like work. ((Sometimes, with footnotes. Footnotes look much too workish to be fun, right?))
My comments were nested in some of and what they have to say about reading and writing. I dropped the s-bomb a few times. Not because I wanted to, but because David Coleman, one of the architects of the standards, who’s now out on the road teaching folks what the CCSS are about, did in a talk a while back. The larger talk he gave was about how the CCSS shifts the focus from some areas of literacy ((Read: the personal.)) to others, namely more emphasis on informational text and close reading and writing.
I don’t mind that shift. And I think some others have over exaggerated it. But what I do mind very much is when he says this:
Do people know the two most popular forms of writing in the American high school today? Texting someone said; I don’t think that’s for credit though yet. But I would say that as someone said it is personal writing. It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think. What they instead care about is can you make an argument with evidence, is there something verifiable behind what you’re saying or what you think or feel that you can demonstrate to me. It is rare in a working environment that someone says, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.” ((Link to the video – about 8:30 on the time code. The unofficial transcript I’m quoting from is here. The off the cuff reference to not giving a shit, surprisingly, isn’t in the “official transcript.”))
While Coleman’s right about needing to be able to make an argument, or at least to use evidence and be verifiable ((One concern I do have about the CCSS is the same that I do about education policy in general right now; who decides “what counts?”)), he’s certainly wrong that no one cares. As I told the students today, I’d say that the trick to writing with voice and passion and agency and with owning your learning is that people will give a shit about what you have to say. But you’ve got to make them. And that’s what a good writer, or blogger, does. She makes others care and shows them why they should. A blogger, at least in the ideal ((Which I think is the right model to aim for.)) is the embodiment of a close reader and attentive writer, or, as Coleman describes as the aim for students through the standards, a good blogger should:
Read like a detective and write like a conscientious investigative reporter.
Yeah. Bloggers should be like that. Good crap detectors making interesting stuff.
Sounds great, and there’s only one problem.
Suppose the students whom you want to blog and write and bleed their passions on a digital page somewhere as a way of learning to read and write and think just don’t care?
Suppose they’re indifferent about learning? Or at least appear to be. What do we do about that? And what did we do to make that happen?