Re: Help w/TW Skills

Subject: Re: Help w/TW Skills
From: LynnDianne Beene <lbeene -at- UNM -dot- EDU>
Date: Sun, 4 Feb 1996 17:11:35 -0700

On Sat, 3 Feb 1996, Kevin Montgomery wrote:

> Lynn Beene asked what are the most valuable TW skills she should teach
> in her upcoming class. Several folks gave good and practical
> responses. I'll throw out another that is a bit different and much
> more difficult to define.

> The best writers I've worked with, whether they bear the TW title or
> not, are the ones who can solve problems. I don't mean just the
> problems we face in structuring documents, juggling words, and the
> like, but problems in subject matter, tools, coworkers, and the coffee
> maker. The best TWs can face the unfamiliar and figure it out. They
> don't depend on "the experts" to spoon feed them information. When
> there are gaps in material, when they can't run a process, when the
> darn machine won't boot, or when the project's due and they're on
> their own, they pull through on their own. They don't whine, "This
> isn't a technical writer's job!" or "I'm not a programmer (or analyst,
> engineer, mechanic, etc.)."

<snip>

> Here are some mostly-serious guesses on what might help students
> become super problem solvers. Have them solve problems! (Problem
> solved! Darn I'm good. <grin>) Give them challenges not directly
> related to TW.

<snip>

> Yes, I know this approach isn't practical. Your class time is limited.
> No schooling can substitute for living.

<snip>

Actually, Kevin, you open up another issue that I've been worrying over
for some time. As you might guess, most of the prof. writing students
I'll have for this class will (probably) be getting jobs at LANL, Sandia,
White Sands, etc. In other words, in DOD field where nuclear items are
prime. And you're correct: we can't teach everything in school that
life on the job can do. Here's my quandry: if I set problems for the
class (and I agree wholeheartedly with this approach), do I set ones
tied to nuclear issues? If so, what do I tell them about the ethics
of what they're doing?
Sounds like something a teacher would worry about, doesn't it.
But it ties, for me, to a larger question that's implied in your post.
Namely, the humanities (read: English, art, music, history) have
traditionally been held as places individuals learn to become better
people, more 'virtuous' (if you will), more ethical. I'm not sure
that merely reading great literature, understanding movements in art
and music, learning historical trends does that much to advance ethical
behavior. Yet here I am, in a humanities department that *believes* in
the humanities as civilizing, ethical education, and I have to face
issues of 'ethical' editing (if you will).
What do you all think? Are the humanities civilizing or is it
mostly real world/on-the-job training that shows individuals basic
ethical problems and forces them to solve them? What does a teacher
do in the classroom with this issue? Duck it? Meet it head on?
Send students to the religion department? Get drunk?
I'd love to hear your responses.
And thanks again to all of you for the enormous help you've
given me so far. This has been (for me) a very challenging and
illuminating exchange.

/Lynn

Lynn Beene email: lbeene -at- unm -dot- edu
B & F Writers Albuquerque, New Mexico 87123

Is it not, then, better to be ridiculous and friendly than clever and hostile?
--Socrates


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