One of my personal writing mantras is that to write East thought.
Writing involves both the expression and exploration of an idea, where the writing itself changes the shape of the original idea, ending up in a different, hitherto unknown place.
Being aware of when this is happening is one of the things I ask students to be on the lookout for when writing. It’s an indicator that they’re working from a deep and interesting place. If you make any discoveries in the process, these are probably the best parts.
But writing is not just thinking; It is also feeling. The act of writing is an emotional experience, and sometimes it is important, perhaps even necessary, to feel the emotions that attach to a particular piece of writing.
I know a lot of people in higher education know how the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education outsourced some of its messaging to students following the shooting in the State of Michigan to ChatGPT Algorithm.
Matt Roseau explain how he can see such things happening inside the bureaucratic apparatuses that make up a higher education institution and highlights how leaders must be able to recognize when the master key – especially the master key generated by the IA – not up to the task.
Amen. But why should people be reminded of this?
One of the main arguments of why they can’t write is that the writing that students are asked to do in schools has literally been dehumanized and replaced by an extremely narrow definition of what passes for writing skill, essentially superficial syntactic correctness governed by a number of prescriptive rules.
That’s what ChatGPT standard output does, and the fact that we’re so blown away by it says a lot about what we’ve allowed writing to become.
But writing is an embodied act, and there are occasions — like speaking to your community in the aftermath of a college mass shooting — where the human self must be brought to task. It’s not just because you’ll be called upon to outsource the work to an AI by the people who sought human communication, but because outsourcing our humanity to something non-human is an ethical failure.
Even if the Vanderbilt office had dropped the use of ChatGPT in the statement and no one had really known about it, it would have been a failure. That this isn’t immediately obvious to the people responsible for creating these communications suggests that something has gone terribly wrong in the way we think about what it means to write and what happens when we write.
I kinda die inside whenever I meet students who have been denied access to their own minds because of these narrow notions of what writing means in the school context. I won’t go so far as to say that what happened to schooling is the primary cause of increased levels of anxiety and depression in school-aged children, but I’m sure considering writing it as only meaningful in terms of the product causing the process to end, rather than valuing the process itself doesn’t help matters.
Writing is the best tool I have for maintaining my own sense of myself and believing in the power of my own agency. I don’t think there’s anything special about it other than the fact that I had the privilege of writing so much in my mind.
I don’t know why we’re making it something only privileged people can do when it’s not particularly difficult to provide those opportunities to anyone, especially in a school setting.
Writing that allows us to both think and feel is what sets us apart from algorithms.
Maybe I can illustrate.
My father passed away in 2005. The loss of a loved one is both quite ordinary and one of the most important things that will happen in your life. Along with the rest of my family, I was present when he died in palliative care. I knew I had witnessed something extraordinarily profound that I could not hope to process or understand either.
Four years later, I put that experience into my novel, The funny man, giving it to the titular character. The flood of emotions that came out as I wrote the scene was far beyond what I had displayed at any of the official moments of mourning after his death, the memorial service, or a year later when we scattered his ashes on a Colorado ski. slope.
Two years later, when the novel was published, I wrote an essay on the passage and my relationship with my father, a man of his day who often felt distant, even as we understood his devotion to his family. The essay is a mix of appreciation for the father I had and regret for what we failed to do for each other when he was still alive.
I learned something about love, grief, and regret while writing this essay, and now whenever convention compels me to express my condolences to others for their losses, I return to those thoughts. I can’t say if that makes the quality of my condolences any better than it otherwise would have been. Honestly, there are only so many things you can say on these occasions.
But I know that when I write on these occasions, I mean what I say. I feel he.
We cannot outsource things that should be experienced by humans to non-humans.
I mean, now we can, I guess, but we shouldn’t.
If you’re interested in a process that helps give students writing experiences, instead of writing assignments, please check out my new course: “Teaching writing in a world of artificial intelligence.”