Donald Murray begins this article by describing the contradiction of the English teacher. “Fully trained in autopsy, we go out and are assigned to teach our students to write, to make language alive.” He further revealed his true sentiments by describing the frustration that both students and teachers feel because despite this “repetitive autopsy” the product doesn’t improve. Instead the blame falls on the student who is then passed along to the next teacher who more often than none is trained in the same manner. Murray asserted that “no matter how careful our criticisms, they do not help the student since when we teach composition we are not teaching a product, we are teaching a process.” He also offered advice on the process that we should teach and that is the process of discovery through language and the first step of that is by “placing the opportunity for discovery into the student’s hands.”
Murray further advised English teachers not to tell students what to say and how to say it when giving an assignment instead “we have to be quiet, listen, and respond because we are not the initiator or motivator we are the reader, the recipient.” Murray also emphasize that we must respect our students for their potential truth and potential voice. And again reminded the English teachers of their roles.
I actually enjoyed reading this article. I would say more so than the Fulkerson’s “Composition at the Turn of the Century.” Murray seems like an interesting writer. His emphasis on “discovery” and his focus on the inner reality of the writer makes me think of him as an expressionist. Although, his implications would be impractical in today’s classrooms, in many ways I agree with him. Too often students are not awarded the opportunity to explore and discover the process of writing for themselves. Instead of creating first then critiquing it’s the other way around. Structure in writing is very important, however it’s not a unique concept that has no possibility of being applied or discovered if not taught. Murray defined the teachers as “coaches, encouragers, and developers.” I thought that was a great statement because in a way that’s what they should be. Rather be the critics, writing teachers should create the proper environment so students can experience the writing process as well as their own truths. And I also found it very interesting how a person like Murray who probably was taught and trained in traditional composition given the time period of his article has developed such a contrary view on writing?