adapted writing guide, a few thoughts on writing and pedagogy

i just spent some time summarizing and adapting someone else’s adaptation of someone else’s guide to writing (specifically for ethics and philosophy but many of the points apply more generally). i have attached it in case it is of use!

i am now assisting with this particular ethics course for the first time. it was therefore no longer surprising  but still unsettling that on almost every midterm i graded last week, i wrote “a thesis sentence would be helpful.” i‘ll note that this is a masters-level course. i thought about reintroducing the (as noted by a friend, colossal “In-and-Out 4-by-4 Animal Style”) sandwich as teaching tool but opted against it.

i find it upsetting that in a school of public health – covering topics for which communication skills are ostensibly quite important – there so little direct emphasis on improving writing and public speaking.

first, for better or for worse, at least in my department, TAs do the vast majority of the grading. we generally don’t have the time (nor, ahem, the commensurate pay) to comment on writing style and grammar as well as content.

second, the writing resources at school are limited to one man. he does a great deal of good work but we can hardly assign all students to go to him before a paper is due, as in undergrad the professor could mandate that a paper went to the writing center before it was turned submitted  (where you were forced to read your paper out loud, which was both terrifying and extremely helpful).

third, the above point is all the more upsetting given the school’s cultivation of an international student body. that there are no writing resource that ESL (or, likely EnL) students can access when working on a specific paper is fairly upsetting.

fourth, i am of the firm opinion that one really learns how to write or present by having to comment on or grade good and bad writing or presentations. however, most times when i try to insert a mandatory “read your paper out loud to another student” or “grade a fellow student’s paper” into a curriculum, it is shot down for one reason or another. yes, it’s a pain. yes, students might go easy on each other. nevertheless, i still think is a good idea and a necessary component of taking good writing seriously. rating other students’ presentations seems to go over slightly better – but only slightly.

Writing for ethics_HEL2013


miss marple & an apology to india

while i have been sick, i have watched/listened to (a fairly absurd amount of) british murder mysteries, including tommy & tuppance and miss marple (including the episode in which miss marple and tuppance team up!).

on another track, there are always funny turns of phrase when working in english in india (and other places). one that always particularly tickled me was referring to “pressurizing” someone to do something, as opposed to “pressing” or “pressuring” someone into something, as i would say. it always seemed like an odd transformation of the word.

but now, thanks to miss marple,  i realize that ‘pressurizing’ was in fact a british construction, foisted at some point onto the colonies. i still think it sounds funny but at least i know where to place the blame for a goofy word.