Truth in Genre

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“The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth.”

– John F. Kennedy

As a high school English teacher, I have more of an opportunity to write e-mails, letters of recommendations, and even a graphic organizer, but a lengthy, in depth paper is few and far between. I have an unusual take on writing because I don’t write–I teach it.  My goal then, when it comes to writing is to facilitate it and help students or most of them, for the next stage in life, which is college. I do not teach students to write just because the Common Core State Standards says so. I do not teach them to write because in the state of Wyoming the ACT requires them to write. I teach them for the very reason Mr. Kennedy says so. I feel it is my responsibility to to advance knowledge and help my students disseminate truth.  “Truth” is an interesting word; because I am an English teacher I love to look for word origins, and because I am a curious person, I like to see how other cultures view truth: etymologically speaking truth comes from the Proto-Germanic word treuwaz meaning having or characterizing good faith. In Hebrew it is emet, which is comprised of the first, middle, and last letter of the Hebrew alphabet; this implies that truth is how things were, are, and will be. It turns into a sense of “every when” as opposed to every where.  In Greek interestingly enough it is etymos (where the word etymology derives its own etymology) meaning true, real, actual.  In Latin truth is veritas who in Roman mythology gave birth to virtue.

Where am I going with this? Am I trying to show off my language skills? How does this relate to the John F. Kennedy quote? These are all fair questions.  What I hope to say relies purely upon this word study and a new way of looking at genre. In my profession it is my responsibility to teach my students to read, speak, write, or in summary recognize truth. When they write, I want them to say what is right. I want them to disseminate what is actually being said, and in all languages, in all corners of this great earth, truth means what is real, right, proper, even can I say eternal? There is truth out there. Authors much smarter than me have said and continue to say and give mind-blowing advice, insight, council to any who will seek the truth while they read. In the end, I tell my students to pretend that people 50 years down the line will see what they wrote in high school English–try to make an impact in the lives of those people. Try to display truth in relationship to the genre presented by that particular author and give help to them who read it.

I want my students to know what truth is before they write. I want them to dynamically create an analysis that does not concern itself with traditional genre, but a new, powerful outlook on what is right and true based on principles of genre. Amy Devitt says in her article “Generalizing About Genre” “If genre not only responds to but also constructs recurring situation, then genre must be a dynamic rather than static concept.” In other words, or as I have come to understand it, that genre needs to match situation and see each situation for what it truly is, and I feel genre to be exactly as defined by Gunther Kress: “I treat genre as that category which realizes the social relations of the participants involved in the text as interaction. So, genre, which is essential to understanding truth depends upon understanding genre or the interactions of the “players” within the literature.  They need to see as it actually is.

images courtesy of google images.
images courtesy of google images.

So, do I write in my profession? No. I do not necessarily write.  I need to know how to write. I need to be confident that what I am doing is correct. But in the end, as John D. Haeger, the president of Northern Arizona University declares, “As faculty, staff, and students engage in scholarly and creative activity, we can apply, and in some cases commercialize, our academic inventions.”

Truth is available to all people.  We just have to seek and become dynamic as we analyze and see things for what they truly are.  As we do so, we begin to trust in genre and the situations it invents, the interactions that follow, and see the mind-blowing advice, insight, and council the authors give; this will eventually lead to individuals improving their lives and creating positive genre between those they come in contact with and be truthful, crucial examples of what truth is and what truth can do.

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6 thoughts on “Truth in Genre”

  1. Eric,

    I love your concept of writing and finding the truth. If you have not already seen this, there is a TED Talk by Devdutt Pattanaik (http://www.ted.com/talks/devdutt_pattanaik?language=en#t-68520). His main goal is to explain why the East and the West have such different business practices, but he does this by describing myths of different cultures. Pattanaik has enlightening ideas on how a person creates their personal truth and universal truth.

    There was only one spot in your work that I got a bit confused on. Your second to last paragraph states that you do not necessarily after in the beginning you specifically state you do. I understand where you were going with the idea, but consider more explanation so the reader does not need to infer meaning (and possibly miss your good message).

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  2. Hi Eric,

    I really liked reading your ideas about writing the truth. Did you consider discussing the perception of writing one’s own truth? I think the Sandberg reading we had in the first module might tie in nicely with your post as well.

    I think it was effective to include your own personal twist on the amount of writing you tend to do in your profession. Even though you admit that you don’t do much writing because you are teaching others to write, I think your credibility is still established because of your explanation of writing the truth. It shows the reader that you don’t need to write often or lengthy documents to be able to know how to write. Having the fundamental knowledge of writing the truth for a particular genre can go much further than just having the experience of writing. Just because someone writes frequently it doesn’t mean that they write effectively. I especially liked your inclusion of the origin of the word truth. It makes the reader interested in the origins as well and is compelled to keep reading.

    Your advice to your students is compelling and I like what you tell them to motivate them to write more effectively. Perhaps consider expanding on this concept because I’d like to know more. Has this advice been successful in motivating students to put more effort in their work? What kinds of reactions do you get from your students when you say this? Are they more willing to open up and write “the truth”?

    My last comment about your post is that I think your last paragraph provides a strong ending to your overall message. It ties your concept of writing the truth all together with genre and I think it really solidifies the importance and power of truth. Nice job!

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  3. Hi Eric,

    I’m sure you cover this with your students, although you don’t here: can there be more than one truth? Of course the answer is yes, which depends on your point of view, etc.

    Your comment about telling the kids to think 50 years in the future is very interesting to me. We were reading something in our class (519) about how kids need to be engaged in the ‘now.’ I made the comment that the promises made to me in school (you’ll need this someday) may not be good enough for today’s kids. I’m not a high school teacher, but maybe you can shed some light on that idea. I can definitely see where you are going with that comment; look how this writing from 50-100 years ago applies to us today–that could be you, being quoted in a class. I just wonder if it’s TOO big a mental leap. It must not be, because it sounds like it works for you.

    Nice job!

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  4. Eric, I think your decision to base your argument off of John F. Kennedy’s quote is a great way to kick off your blog. Not only does this setup up your discussion, but it provides a context for your readers. In that sense, I am happy to say that your discussion of truth and your students is a great way to introduce your audience to discourse communities and how they interact with their audience. In addition to your analysis, I commend your active use of quotes and supplemental information from module three to support your argument.

    Some small things to consider when editing your blog is a look at what aids and furthers your argument, and that which might confuse your reader. For example, your definition of truth is largely based on western standards, but somebody unfamiliar with the American education system, including your educational lexicon (state standards, ACT, ect.) could confuse some readers. Yet, you are the authoritative figure in this genre and your writing clearly demonstrates your confidence. You certainly make readers feel comfortable and your message feels passionate. But, I feel like some of your concepts, especially those in your initial paragraph, provide context, yet complicate your argument even further. If this is a short blog, your audience might only want a shorter, more precise document where they can find the core concepts as quickly as possible. Look to module four for an explanation of this concept. A blog is essentially a form of social media and you want to leave your audience feeling like they are part of the discourse community. Relevance will definitely help your audience feel more inclined to your blogs in the future.

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  5. Hi Eric —
    I agree with the other commenters about the passion you bring to the topic and the way you shed light on the Kennedy quote with your own statement: “In my profession it is my responsibility to teach my students to read, speak, write, or in summary recognize truth.” Perhaps in another blog entry on the topic of truth, it might be interesting to analyze how you as a teacher can help students recognize truth through various readings, or at least see how famous authors have presented the things they are passionate about through their written work. It might help with students’ meta-cognition about the power of writing, as modeled in powerful readings. And it might spark discussion about the nature of truth as seen through many perspectives.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

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  6. Hi Eric,
    I thought “truth” was a great path to take with genres. I especially like your introduction. The quote was a perfect lead into your idea of truth. In all of your posts, I have always been able to identify with you as the writer from your introduction paragraphs. You have a way of catching my attention and making me want to read on. Great job, again!
    Suzanne

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