Victor’s Post!

I fear my response to Brooke’s text will come off as reactionary, but I nevertheless have to express my disagreement. Brooke’s identification of the student and the writer as two mutually exclusive roles is strikingly reductive. Firstly, I took issue with the fact that the article is basically equating the notion of “student” with “teacher’s pet,” which I personally find offensive (and I seldom get offended). Secondly, I ask myself when being a student became so disreputable. I pride myself in being a student, and given the career path I have chosen, I will always be one. I, too, think of myself as a writer, and yet do not sense any conflict between these two. I imagine Brooke has decades of teaching behind him, which I do not; what I have is my experience as a student, and as such, I actually appreciate the authority of a professor. (I understand the intricacies and dangers of the authorial and authoritative figure; I understand the aversion to institutionalized power that has prevailed in the last fifty years; I understand and appreciate the fundamental need to question the systems [be they epistemological, ethical, etc.] into which we are born—a need that is at the same time an expression of maturity, enlightenment, critique, or however we want to call it). Still, when I enter a classroom, I do so with the full knowledge, or at least hope, that the professor knows more than I do. In an act of trust, I place myself in her hands, expecting to be taught and to engage in thought that I might or might not agree with. I do not find this oppressive; as a matter of fact, I find it liberating. Brooke quotes Knoblauch and Brannon, who argue that “school writing alters the normal circumstances in which writers take initiative to communicate to some reader […].” I find it extremely shortsighted to argue that there are normal circumstances in which a writer comes to her craft (and, to be honest, a little contradictory for a paper who is arguing against institutionalized normality). My best writing, for instance, has come out of class discussion—be it as an elaboration of something I have learned in the classroom, or a reaction to it. This, however, entails that something must be presented to me in class; I believe professors have the responsibility and obligation of, in a certain sense, guiding their students, and this implies (at least) a tacit form of authority; it implies the presence of a certain set of material and rules. I am a firm believer of knowing the rules before breaking them (here, I think of poets who imitate Modernist poetry believing that Pound or Eliot had no idea whatsoever of the poetic rules they were breaking; or critics who think deconstruction can operate outside of the system). Ultimately, I take issue with Brooke for assuming that students in high school or even college are intellectually mature; I do not think they are (I clearly wasn’t, or even am). That’s why we study. The people I have most looked up to in my life are all professors, and to have seen them as my peers when they taught me would strike me as arrogant. I appreciate Brooke’s attempt to find innovative ways of teaching (I encourage it, in fact), but I do not think that he has to do so by undermining other ways of teaching and operating.