But here’s the meta-moment for teachers of first-year writing: for many of us, the question Jeremias asks is a familiar one. It’s often asked in the semester’s first writing assignment, with the given rationale being that students will find it easy to write about matters familiar to them.
There’ve been plenty of critiques of such a rationale. I’m very much in agreement with the reservations Joe Harris has expressed about the personal essay — the worry that grading, in some ways, becomes an evaluation of the self that the student represents on the page — but after reading the MetaFilter thread, one of my responses to the Personal Essay assignment has become a recognition of and revulsion at my own voyeurism.
I mean, I look at some of the MetaFilter responses, and I look at the innocuous question with which Jeremias prompted such responses, and I’m floored — although the openness of the MetaFilter respondents and the closeness of first-year writing respondents really ought not to be surprising.
I wonder if this could be one of the ways in which blogging might change the pedagogical practices and written products of first-year comp.