Summertime in London has definitely begun. There’s still rain on the roof this morning, but at least it’s kind of a warm, friendly rain. There’s a thick layer of cloud overhead, but the outside temperature is a fairly benign 18C. This is probably about as good as it’s going to get, if last year’s ‘summer’ is anything to go by. I found out last year that the ‘jet stream‘ had settled into a specific location going roughly west to east across Britain and had proceeded to suck cool wet weather from the Atlantic into northern Europe for the whole of the summer. This could be a consequence of global warming, and may herald a change for the worst in our summer weather for ever more. Time to up sticks and move on?*
And yet . . . London’s an interesting city.** Walking around Soho & the West End in the early evening, if it’s not raining, you see crowds of people outside every pub – smoking, drinking and chatting. Yesterday we found seats inside the Coach & Horses (opposite a house once lived in by Percy Bysshe Shelley***) The beer and food were good, but the music they were playing was loud, tasteless and pretty oppressive. Who the hell wants to listen to “Eye of the Tiger” (etc) played through hopelessly inadequate speakers? Ever? It seems Shelley used this pub frequently and wrote several of his greatest poems in it. Not with Eye of the Tiger driving him nuts he wouldn’t.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00t26zf The Dirty South
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00c4zvh How The West Was Lost
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bi1E7QLWy-w Stand Up Part 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yt2qt0sATz8&feature=relmfu Stand Up Part 2
Rich has spent the past 23 years living part time in London and part time back home in the States, in Livingston, Montana. He’s a guy who could live anywhere at all, so it says something for London that he has a permanent flat here. Having spent a short time in Montana myself I can see why he spends a chunk of his year there – in order to write, apparently.
Talking of writing, we came across this interesting post yesterday on the subject of blogging, written by a different Shelley:
Blogging is the New Persuasive Essay
by Shelley Wright
As an English teacher, I’ve had numerous conversations with college professors who lament the writing skills of their first year students. But not all writing. Most students are capable of solid expository writing. It’s their skill with persuasive writing that’s the problem. Specifically, they’re weak at writing a thesis statement that can be argued.
Part of the problem is that our current school systems — and not just in Canada — aren’t great at producing independent thinkers. Without this ability, it’s hard to create a great thesis statement, anticipate the arguments against it, and then compose your own argument in light of what you understand about the pros and cons of an issue.
Does the average person, once they leave school, spend a lot of time composing academic essays? Is this the best way for our students to show their learning? In some places, the academic 5 paragraph essay is hailed as the Holy Grail of non-fiction writing achievement. Yet even if a student can become a great persuasive essay writer, they’re still only semi-literate, at least according to the definition of 21st Century Literacies.
While traditional essay writing may not help alleviate this situation, I think blogging can.
The voice used in blogging needs to be rich, sharp and distinct, to gain an audience. And while some may argue that academic writing could stand to have a bit more color and flair, I’m not sure that’s currently the accepted norm (although I wish it was).
In a formal essay, I would never use a sentence fragment. Ever. In a blog, it provides emphasis. Nor would I use slang in an essay. But here? Yep. In one of my posts, I double-dog dared my readers. Could you imagine double-dog daring anyone in an academic essay? If you try it, let me know the result.
Blogging has the potential to reach and influence many. Furthermore, it has [great] potential for being a life-long skill. And isn’t that our goal in education? People from all walks and professions blog for the purpose of teaching, creating, and informing. A number of my recent Masters courses didn’t require papers; instead, they required blogging. Why?
Because blogging is the new persuasive essay.
If we’re trying to prepare our students to think critically and argue well, they need to be able to blog. It allows for interaction. It allows for ideas to be tested. And the best posts anywhere in cyberspace tend to have a point that can be argued.
I think blogging across the curriculum, not just in Language Arts, allows for both formative and summative assessment. Blogs allow us to see the progression in the development of both thinking and writing. It may actually take more talent and skill to create an interesting persuasive post (or series of posts) on the French Revolution than a traditional essay.
3Di’s comment –
Excellent post. Blogging (words, images, videos, links) should be recognised as an art form in its own right, and potentially a huge career & business asset. Self-publishing has amazing practical, spiritual and psychological benefits in enabling young and old alike to find their personal and public ‘voice’, Everyone becomes a good writer through writing regularly, and young people need valid personal reasons, aside from school demands, to organise their thoughts into frequent coherent writing that has a sense of audience (or even a private diary-like blog).
** One of our WordPress contacts – eduthusiast – spent three weeks in London recently and had a brilliant visit in spite of the dire weather. Catch up with her impressions and observations here:
*** Shelley was admired by Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde, Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, William Butler Yeats, Upton Sinclair and Isadora Duncan. Henry David Thoreau’s civil disobedience and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s passive resistance were apparently influenced and inspired by Shelley’s non-violence in protest and political action. – Wikipedia. One of Shelley’s most powerful poems was cited recently by a journalist commenting on the current banking and political scandals, and the Occupy movement.]
Just for laughs –
Rich Hall on QI.