Using “You” in Composition

As an English professor, anytime a student employs the use of second person, I cringe.  How many times must I tell them not to use “you.”  I read lines in argument papers that crash into the concepts of Academic Discourse, “The character is unsettled because when you leave home you feel feelings of guilt.”  I do?  “Thank you for telling me what I feel,” I say in class.  They laugh; they appear to get the gist of why one should not use second person in an analytical argument essay.

They appear to. 

This “you” problem is facing me in bold font.  The past year and a half in particular, demonstrates an overuse of second person as well as a disregard for how unsophisticated it can sound and read in a paper. 

As a professor, “you” and I are in an on-going battle.  As a blogger, well, it’s a different story.  Since I created pinkcurlers.com, I myself have been using “you.”  When I write on the website, Pink Curlers & Post Scripts, I purposely entwine second person throughout.  This is a basic blogging technique.  Readers want to feel closer to the blogger’s voice.  The use of second person enhances the ties between the post and the reader.  The blog article emits qualities comparable to a friend.  As I strive to strengthen Pink Curlers & Post Scripts, I research effective blogging strategies; the use of “you” is encouraged and recommended.

So, if I can differentiate between my blogging voice and my academic voice, why can’t my students?

Recently, since the inception of the “pink” blog, I have had an epiphany.  So much writing online employs the use of “you” as a technique to engage and familiarize readers.  As students more avidly read material online, the use of second person comes naturally to the computer screen.  Why not help readers understand complex abstract concepts with the use of “you,” just as the internet explains so much to them with “you?”

Students are most familiar with familiarity.  Think of how intimate reality TV is, of online dating, of YouTube videos streamed from bedrooms, sexting, self-designed porn, advertisements claiming to make “you” better.  If this familiar voice is what a student connects with mostly, the student his/herself will use this “effective” method of expression and connection on a research or argument paper.  I imagine students must feel awkward, harsh, robotic when they eliminate their first and second person voices.

While I don’t want to enable the use of second person in Academic Discourse, I can at least try to understand why so many of my students find it acceptable and second nature. 

Now, however elementary my theory on the overuse of “you” is, I have an answer, a reason, context and empathy.  I can now explain to them that there is a place online for “you,” but there is no place for it on my desk. 

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Still, the Same Questions

I’m a jack of many trades. I’m a prism of personalities. An aficionado of all the challenges I’ve faced as as well as the ones coming. At my most primitive level, I am a survivor.

Though I carry the personal traits with pride (well, I’ll be honest, because being a survivor can also carry connotations of unsophistication, sometimes it makes me feel insecure), as a writer always hearing about “the writer’s voice,” I wonder and worry about the writer with “many voices.”

I’ve self published my piece, Tangled Up in Selves, on my two blogs, this one and Pink Curlers & Post Scripts, seeking answers and others’ thoughts without luck. The essay has now been published by Ezine, which I have convinced myself means it has some relevancy. So, I’m still hunting for some feedback on this concept of the writer with many voices.

You can view the article on Ezine. To view click here, EZINE.

Feedback is warmly welcome!!

The Oldest City– PS

Additional Illustrations of St. Augustine, FL.

For more on St. Augustine, enjoy the article, The Oldest City.

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The entrance into the US’s oldest library. St. Augustine, FL

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One of the less known, yet fascinating, US historical treasures.

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The oldest school “cafeteria,” aka The Oldest Schoolhouse’s kitchen.

All of the above photos are taken by Nicole Hospital-Medina, in simpler words, by me.

Images & Academia

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Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter etc all heavily rely on image to communicate. There are the aspects of visual stim and illustrated understanding.

Many colleagues complain about the student body’s over-reliance on images; I keep it in mind. The hesitation and many times resistance toward using image in Writing classes could produce two or more outcomes. One, it may challenge the students to compose one-dimensionally, which ironically, is actually more difficult for them in this bloom of multi-media. Two, it may create a thick, gloppy barrier between the Professor and his/her pupil. I use the adjective gloppy, instead of firm, because I observe that the students still retain the information but in a less defined way.

In the other direction, welcoming the use of image in Writing lessons could produce the following: students that document their communication in more than one medium/dimension, such as an illustrated essay, or students may learn only what they “have to” about writing, in order to pass the course, spending more focus on the use of vibrant images; in the same manner that they check their phones incessantly.

The fear in allowing the use of image in the Writing classroom stems from the fear of loss, the fear of degradation, decay. Is it that we will lose the art of complex, academic writing? Will thinking become less efficient with its reliance on image? If this fear or conveyance of resistance to youth culture is sensed in the classroom, students (as all other mammals might) react to as well as reflect the fear with anxiety and/or resistance.

As with most other intellectual conflicts, a pedagogy that is structured around both options could help– a rope of reassurance for the writing-only Composition professors and an overt validation for the multi-media Comp professors.

Today, it seems like our field is an intellectual battle between preserving the traditional sense of Composition and flowing alongside society’s evolutions. The fissure is exhausting not only for those on either side of it, but for the learners who feel unsure about the opposing strategies and techniques.

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My photos above are from the interior of the Oldest Schoolhouse in our oldest colony, St. Augustine, FL.

Mix & Mash

productiveprofessor

I first embodied the label, “poet activist,” after my victory in a local haiku contest, The Miami Herald Haiku Challenge 2011. I won with a haiku that exposed Florida’s pill mill industry and its connection to Kentucky’s number one cause of death: prescription pain pill overdose. The overdoses are the result of Florida’s I-75, nicknamed “Oxy Express.” Noticeably, I write on what concerns me about this world; remaining loyal to myself, the collection of poetry I currently dwell on huddles closely around the issues I carry in my hands and heart (to see a sample poem, click on the link below). The poetry book not only aims to represent the complexities of the individual in society, but also, it aims to display the relevance of unique, personal and creative expression. Essentially, this project illuminates the following themes: the role of the individual in the context of society and culture, the…

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