The problem of writing in mass education

  • Deborah Brandt
Nyckelord: writing, reading, History of Education


What makes writing difficult to teach and learn? Why has writing been subordinated to reading in the context of literacy education? If more and more people are now expected to do more and more writing (at work, at school, and in the civic and social spheres) how do these demands pose challenges and opportunities for teachers and schools? This article explores writing as a craft skill that differs sharply from forms of book learning on which traditional liberal arts education is based. As a craft, writing develops in association with vocation, ambition, publicity, guild membership, and, most critically, apprenticeship to a master craftsperson. Development of craft requires time, repetition, experimentation, and embodied understanding—all of which are hard to come by in a crowded and lockstep school curriculum. When writing is understood as a craft, democratizing writing as part of public education is seen to require a radical departure from school traditions, including traditional social relations among students and teachers.