Nonacademic Writing: Social Theory and Technology

By Ann Hill Duin; Craig J. Hansen | Go to book overview

students should always be able to exercise their right not to engage in this kind of writing. Students should not be required to advocate for anything, even for something of their own choosing. However, I do not think it essential that K-12 students write for participatory purposes as part of their school program.

Perhaps the most important implication of the ministudy presented in this chapter is the value it suggests in asking students to read and analyze the participatory writing of the average citizen rather than (or in addition to) the public discourse of eminent public figures. The writing of these letters did not require advanced composition skills so much as it demanded thinking about basic questions of purpose and audience and appropriate ways to communicate in public. These letters demonstrate not only that many different audiences may be relevant for any one piece of writing but also how one piece of writing may differentially affect its many readers -- and their relationship to each other -- at one and the same time. The phenomenon of multiple purposes, multiple audiences, and multiple responses is not confined to participatory writing. Plural audiences and plural purposes, like plural authorships, are as common in the workplace as they are in civic life. In civic writing, as I have discovered in my research, they come into being by more than the use of a cc:. Students might well examine a group of communications on one topic in the letters to the editor column of a local newspaper, or a group of letters sent to a public official on a controversial topic. Inasmuch as these letters are public information, an instructor could obtain copies and, after removing any identification, invite students to think about the kinds of questions that Ede ( 1991), for example, explored in her study. They could discuss who were the intended readers for each letter with respect to attitudes and values, how might other kinds of readers have reacted, and how they reacted-to their content, tone, and explicit purposes. There might be no better preparation for their own participatory writing as adults than opportunities to critique the strengths and limitations of the communications written by writers in their own community.


REFERENCES

Anson C., & Forsberg L. ( 1990). "Moving beyond the academic community: Transitional stages in professional writing". Written Communication, 7, 200-231.

Associated Press Managing Editors. ( 1976). The APME red book. New York: Associated Press.

Brewer J. ( 1952). Wellsprings of democracy. Guidance for local societies. New York: Philosophical Library.

Buell E. H., Jr. ( 1975). "Eccentrics or gladiators? People who write about politics in lettersto-the-editor". Social Science Quarterly, 56, 440-449.

Ede L. ( 1991). "Language education and civic education: Recovering past traditions, reassessing contemporary challenges"

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