Writing

Day 215 of 365

I have been thinking a lot this week about writing. A lot of people in my field of writing instruction are up in arms because of the new writing bot ChatGPT. I had heard about it a little bit, but, over the years, I have seen so many bots come and go. There is all kinds of media. Professors freak out. We find the bot’s flaws. And we say, “oh, yeah, that won’t work.”

But this one seems to be getting an extra amount of freaking out. There was an article yesterday, I think, in The Atlantic about the end of writing classes. I have only seen a little about what this bot can do, but the essays looked really good to me, better than a lot of my students. I haven’t seen a bot do that before. And, yesterday, I saw a former colleague who was talking about trying to learn a new skill–and he was half serious. Everyone is saying this is the end.

But I don’t think this is it because I think writing is really about thinking, and have a bot write for us won’t help our thinking, I think it won’t be the end for writing instruction. But maybe it can be different. In recent years, I think too much of education on writing, at all levels, has been missing the point. But writing benefits us so much as thinkers, and we are still going to need good thinkers. There are other ways to teach thinking, but writing is a really good way to do it. Maybe writing doesn’t have to be about the product. It’s about the process. I learned this deeply from watching my son learn to play cello.

Maybe we can make writing about the process. My students want to write and tell their stories. If we can keep findings ways to use that to lead to more thorough thinking, we could do some really good work. Hopefully, we can figure out how to make this bot an opportunity for good. Of course, academia doesn’t like to change too much, but it’s possible. There’s always a younger generation pushing against the older generation, right? In all things, I suppose. As I get older, I feel this in many ways.

I saw the bot was funded by Elon Musk, and I am like, of course. Because that’s what we need–one more way for humans to think less. There is so much I want to say, but I will not rant. I will remain hopeful that the smart writing professors I know will figure out a way to keep teaching writing because it’s so important to humans in so many ways. I will try to help figure it out too. I have seen writing help my students so much. I hope we hang in there.

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