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Better writing through psychological growth

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Title:
Better writing through psychological growth
Creator:
Sher, Diana Lynn
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
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Language:
English
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vi, 47 leaves : ; 29 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
Creative writing -- Study and teaching ( lcsh )
English language -- Rhetoric -- Study and teaching ( lcsh )
Creative writing -- Study and teaching ( fast )
English language -- Rhetoric -- Study and teaching ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 46-47).
Thesis:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, English
General Note:
Department of English
Statement of Responsibility:
by Diana Lynn Sher.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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37366691 ( OCLC )
ocm37366691
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LD1190.E54 1996m .S44 ( lcc )

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Full Text
BETTER WRITING THROUGH PSYCHOLOGICAL GROWTH
by
Diana Lynn Sher
B.A., University of Colorado, 1971
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
English
1996


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Diana Lynn Sher
has been approved
by
13. lithe*
Date
11


Sher, Diana Lynn (M.A., English)
Better Writing Through Psychological Growth
Thesis directed by Professor Joanne Addison
ABSTRACT
I believe there is a relationship between psychological growth and better
writing and that classrooms where psychological growth is fostered are classrooms
where writing is improved. The qualities rhetoricians identify as components of
better writing and the qualities many psychologists attribute to self-actualized people
are so similar as to be virtually indistinguishable. The best writing is meaningful,
honest, marked by an individual voice, well-developed, cohesive, and clear. The
most psychologically mature people move toward greater personal meaning in their
lives, seek integrity, individuation, full development of their potential, independence,
and autonomy. They are spontaneous and retain a sense of simplicity. Self-
actualized people re-form the world in more harmonious and elegant ways. In the
same sense, better writers create more harmonious forms, more integrated and
coherent works of writing. Since the writer and her writing are intimately connected
there is a relationship between the harmonious forms of the self-actualizing person
and the harmonious forms of the written material.
The critical question is how to create classroom environments that nurture
personal growth. The relationship between teachers and students is of primary
importance. It must be genuine in its openness and in the teachers committment that
learning will flow both ways, from student to teacher and back again. It must be a
classroom where critical thinking and nonconformity are treasured. It is, most of all,
a place where what is brought out of the student is as important as what is put in.
Maslow calls this Taoistic in that the teachers goal is to uncover rather than re-make.
The teacher in such classrooms trusts the student to move toward positive revision of
his text and of himself. It is ultimately a very optimistic teaching philosophy.
The optimism of such a philosophy must be tempered with the knowledge that
significant, meaningful growth is almost always slow and difficult to measure. Also
the degree of self-actualization of the teacher may turn out to be more imperative in
the success of the theory than I have speculated. Still, the goal of psychological
growth and its relationship to better writing deserve continued exploration.
iii


This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.
Signed
IV


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
My thanks to Professor Joanne Addison for her gentle, timely, intelligent support
during the writing of this thesis. I was the first graduate student she advised, but her
work with me was so excellent I never knew until I asked.
v


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. Better Writing and Psychological Growth...................1
2. The Relationship Between The Two..........................9
3. A Classroom Environment That Nurtures Psychological Growth
And Better Writing........................................23
4. Limitations and Problems for Further Research............39
BIBLIOGRAPHY......................................................46
vi


CHAPTER 1
BETTER WRITING AND PSYCHOLOGICAL GROWTH
Once in a suburban middle school classroom at the beginning of my teaching
career the bell rang, but the discussion continued. For several minutes nobody left.
It's never really happened again, but I've thought about it off and on for twenty years
and it remains a symbol for me of the best that school can become. I realize it's an
ideal that none of us can expect to reach often. I'm a little embarrassed to admit I
myself am a student who watches the clock. Once during my first semester of
graduate school I risked being late to class to stop at a Walmart and replace a dead
battery in my watch. The thought of not knowing the time during class was
intolerable to me.
This is not a comment on my master's program. I teach writing at the same
university and often see students furtively glancing at their watches during some of
my not so stimulating classes. Once a young man whom I had severely graded down
because of poor attendance angrily told me school was overrated. I don't always feel
proud about what I believe is the necessity of strong-arm tactics on the subject of
attendance and I, sadly, nodded my head in agreement.
For a middle-aged woman who has been a teacher for many years and still
holds on to the idea that teaching can be a noble and joyous way to earn a living, I try
1


very hard to repress other thoughts about how often school seems tedious, irrelevant,
and meaningless. I try especially hard to repress certain fleeting thoughts about
teaching writing that slip into my mind when I'm tired or my guard is down. These
include thoughts about all the boring papers I have to read, all my vacuous lesson
plans, and all the students who clearly do not love my class. The desire to repress
these complaining thoughts is particularly intense when I believe some of the weak,
superficial thinking in my students papers, which often lack much creativity,
aliveness, integrity, or authority can at least partly be attributed to the failures of their
teacher. Sometimes I have a lot of trouble making a class work the way I want it to.
Sometimes I am painfully disappointed when I feel my students' work has fallen short
of their potential.
I am not alone. Anne Berthoff in The Making of Meaning said, "The prose I
get from my freshman is an adjective swamp with little hummocky Thesis
Statements" (27). William Coles writes in The Plural I. "There wasn't one student
who convinced me that he had a modicum of interest in anything he was saying" (18).
"Again I was facing a set of papers most of which were one sentence deep" (87). And
John T.Gage notes in The Teaching of Writing. "A stupid idea is no less stupid for
having been written correctly, or eloquently" (6).
These are descriptions of students who look at their watches and wait for class
to end. They do their assignments, chum them out, and wait for credits to appear on
2


their transcripts. Some are not interested in writing and never will be. But some are
actually tired of waiting and would welcome the chance to grow and be challenged.
They have interesting ideas and the potential for creativity and spontaneity in their
writing. They have imagination and the possibility of courageous, fresh thoughts
expressed with authority. Hemingway eloquently described prose as architecture, not
interior decoration (qtd.in Murray 89). If this is true we must look further than
language skills, grammar exercises, textbooks, or rules if we want to create
classrooms where watching the clock is not the main focus.
On some level I have always known that there is more to teaching than these
outward trappings. Writing teachers have little actual information to pass on to
students. Students must change and grow in sophisticated ways in order to become
better. I have had trouble identifying these sophisticated ways and classifying them.
I knew my students' papers reflected superficial thinking. I often saw a lack of critical
engagement, a fear of courageously either knowing what they thought or expressing
it. I saw that my students often had difficulty producing a text that had any sense of
aliveness. In other words their writing lacked creativity and spontaneity. Grading
their papers was boring. I felt it as much as thought it. I knew this problem was not
going to be resolved by a more exciting lesson plan. It extended to the tone of the
classroom and the very nature of the people in it. To me, helping students produce
papers that were more engaging and creative and alive, papers that had a voice of
3


authority and real personality was a necessity, not only for them, but for me. I
couldn't make a career as a writing teacher reading what I was reading. It was deadly.
I would bum out.
Truthfully, although I found bits and pieces of ideas that might help in
rhetorical theory, I believe the possibility for a more comprehensive answer to the
problem lies in psychology, as well as rhetoric. I came upon this accidentally when I
noticed that the qualities the great existential and humanistic psychologists prized in
healthier human beings were the same qualities that many writing teachers prized in
the best writing they received. As an example, here are some of the attributes
Abraham Maslow noticed in what he called "self-actualized" people. These were
people he believed were at the pinnacle of development as far as being able to achieve
a fuller use of their talents, capacities, and overall potentialities. They were more
spontaneous, less forced or contrived. They were more creative, less conforming.
This made their thinking richer, deeper, more critical. They were well-integrated.
They could combine thoughts and feelings. Their perception of reality was more
accurate. By this I mean they demonstrated a critical understanding of underlying
cause and effects. They were more autonomous, which goes along with non-
conformity, but they were also able to remain true to themselves in the face of
outside pressure. More self-actualized people were able to see the world freshly. They
didnt get stuck in old ways of thinking. They were less egocentric and therefore
4


could transcend their own culture, religion, country, political party, race, or socio-
economic group to see different perspectives ( even at the same time). The world was
interesting to them and they were interesting.
These were the qualities I looked for in the papers I graded. These were the
qualities that made a piece of writing meaningful, engaging, and interesting to read.
These were the qualities that would make teaching writing something I could enjoy
forever. Most of all these were the qualities needed in the people who wrote the
papers I would read. Nancy Welch, in her article "Revising A Writer's Identity" said,
"There exists a wealth of evidence that we can't separate writing from the person
doing the writing" (43). In Chapter Two of this thesis I will support my claims about
the importance of these qualities and explore their meaning for better writing.
I have begun to hypothesize that people who are further on a continuum of
embodying these traits are generally better writers, and further, that it is possible to
nurture these values in the classroom in order to produce better writers. Rollo May
agreed when he wrote in The Courage to Create. The creative process must be
explored not as the product of sickness, but as representing the highest degree of
emotional health, as the expression of normal people in the act of actualizing
themselves (38). Essentially what is needed is a therapeutic classroom. This
concept has little to do with the individual problems of students, but a lot to do with
creating more psychologically mature people. This thinking makes writing much
5


more than a skill. What it means is that writing is an expression of a whole person. It
is also much more than just discovery of self or becoming more yourself. It is about
becoming more as a self. This cannot be taught, but it can happen under the right
conditions. The challenge is to analyze how to create those conditions in the writing
classroom.
The creation of these conditions is critical because the qualities of the
self-actualized person which are analogous to qualities of good writing must extend to
the atmosphere of the classroom. The classroom needs to be a spontaneous and alive
place in order to allow for the kind of psychological growth that makes writing better.
I am starting to think that some of the issues we as writing teachers struggle with
every day can be ameliorated by greater concentration on the achievement of more
psychologically healthy classrooms. These include our problems with papers that
reflect weak thinking and general lack of writer engagement, but they also include
students who in one way or another rebel against the physical or intellectual confines
of the classroom, and the feeling that even many at least outwardly successful
students have that school is meaningless and irrelevant. Abraham Maslow, in his
most definitive study of psychological health, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature.
writes, "A higher order of persons can understand a higher order of knowledge; but
also a higher order environment tends to lift the level of the person, just as a lower
order of environment tends to lower it" (161). In Chapter Three I will investigate
6


how a teacher can create a higher order classroom environment, one that helps
students grow as people and as writers.
In Chapter Four I will to discuss some of the problems inherent in teaching
with the philosophy I have described. These issues raise possibilities for future
directions in research. The process of growth, especially using the theory I have
mentioned, is very slow and not clearly measurable. John T. Gage, in his essay,
"Why Write" says, "The rate at which they will become better writers will be just as
imperceptible as the rate at which they can be expected to become better thinkers; it
will happen slowly, in small increments of change, in intuitive stages of progress that
they may not even notice" (24). This would certainly be true in a classroom where
the teacher was hoping students would become better people in order to become
better writers. Another difficulty is measuring the quality of the environment in a
classroom, especially given the variable nature of classroom environments even when
the school and the teacher remain the same. Also, I believe there is reason to analyze
the degree of self-actualization of the teacher and its effect on the growth of students
and the classroom environment. This could be a very touchy issue for many teachers,
even for those who see teaching as a learning process/ My thesis itself will not touch
on this, but it certainly warrants further research. I am also aware that questions may
be raised about specific teaching methods or lessons and how they might work in the
context of the hypothesis. Since my thinking has been more concerned with the
7


exploration of building a theory, much work remains as far as testing and revising in
the classroom setting.
Before moving into a discussion of the type of environment I feel is necessary,
I will spend the next chapter analyzing the qualities of good writing and how they
relate to profiles of psychologically healthy people. I will include what other
rhetorical thinkers consider to be the qualities of good writing and I will support my
observations with a review of some of their thoughts. I will also review the work of
psychologists who have outlined their beliefs about what qualities more
psychologically healthy people demonstrate. Finally, I hope to show that many of
the qualities of psychologically healthy people and good writing are the same.
8


CHAPTER 2
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE TWO
It is important to begin this chapter with some definition of the qualities of
good writing followed by a brief summary of some of the qualities of a self-actualized
person. Although I will be discussing the work of several rhetoricians and
psychologists to support my thinking, I will be using as a framework Donald Murray's
definition of good writing and Abraham Maslow's concept of the self-actualized
person. These two well-respected thinkers will serve as the foundation for my
investigations. I chose Donald Murray's definition of the qualities of good writing
because he reflects an attitude about teaching writing that leads toward personal
growth in students. Murray, himself, is an excellent listener who trusts students to
eventually find their own way. Maslow would call Murray's style Taoistic in the
most complimentary sense. Robert Brooke, in his article "Lacan, Transference and
Writing Instruction says, "Murray describes the process of writing as an internal
journey of discovery the intrepid writer sets off, through language, on a journey into
meaning and chaos" (686). Murray lists six qualities and he briefly elaborates on
each one:
1 .Meaning
There must be content in an effective piece of writing. It must
add up to something. This is the most important element of good
writing, but although it must be listed first it is often discovered last
9


through the process of writing.
2. Authority
Good writing is filled with specific, accurate, honest
information. The reader is persuaded through authoritative
information that the writer knows the subject.
3. Voice
Good writing is marked by an individual voice. The writer's
voice may be the most significant element in distinguishing
memorable writing from good writing.
4. Development
The writer satisfies the reader's hunger for information. The
beginning writer almost always over- estimates the reader's hunger for
language and underestimate the reader's hunger for information.
5. Design
A good piece of writing is elegant in the mathematical sense. It
has form, structure, order, focus, coherence.. It gives the reader a
sense of completeness.
6. Clarity
Good writing is marked by a simplicity which is appropriate to
the subject. The writer has searched for and found the right word, the
effective verb, the clarifying phrase. The writer has removed Writer so
that the reader sees through the writer's style to the subject, which is
clarified and simplified (Murray 66-67).
Before discussing these qualities further, I would like to briefly quote
Maslows description of the qualities of self-actualized people. The reader may
notice similarities between Murray and Maslow immediately. Concepts like
authority, honesty, harmony, and development are listed by both Murray and Maslow:
Most (insight, uncovering, nonauthoritarian, Taoistic)
psychotherapists of whatever school, when they can be induced to
speak of the ultimate goals of psychotherapy, will even today, speak of
10


the fully human, authentic, self-actualizing, individuated person, or
some approximation thereof both in the descriptive sense and in the
sense of the ideal abstract concept. When teased out of the subdetails
this usually means some or all of the B-values; e.g. honesty, good
behavior, integration, spontaneity, movement toward fullest
development and maturing and harmonizing potentialities, being what
one fully is in essence, being all that one can be, effortlessness, ability
to play and enjoy, independence, autonomy, self-determination. I
doubt that any therapist would seriously object to any of these
although some might want to add (Maslow 133).
Maslow also describes the results that can be expected when a person moves toward
greater self-actualization. I am quoting these to show that one of the results would be
better writing. Maslow uses the word communication.
This more fully human, healthier person would then
epiphenomentally, generate and spark off dozens, hundreds, and
millions of differences in behaving, experiencing, perceiving,
communicating, teaching, working etc., which would all be more
creative. He would then simply be another kind of person who would
behave in a different way in every respect (Maslow 71).
Maslow believes self-actualization is an achievable state, although he admits
that it is only attained by less than one percent of the population (Sugarman 34). The
best writing, even if we define it by publication (which is not always that good), is
rarely achieved. However, using Murray's qualities all writing will appear
somewhere on a spectrum of worst to best in terms of each of the six qualities. I
would like to discuss in detail each of the six qualities including what other
rhetoricians have said and how they relate to elements of psychological growth as
11


outlined by Maslow and others.
Murray lists meaning first. He says, "Writing is an individual search for
meaning" (8). Arm Berthoff would agree. In her book outlining her theory of
teaching writing which is appropriately titled, The Making of Meaning. Berthoff
constantly refers to the subject of meaning. "Good writing is about making meanings
- it is the work of the active mind" (4). "To teach composition is to teach the process
of making meaning" (18). John T. Gage asks the most profound question on the
subject of writing and meaning. "Is it possible to succeed fully in this writing task
without having a good idea of one's own?" (Petrosky 19). What does making
meaning have to do with growth as a person? Maslow suggests that the
self-actualized person or the person who is further on a continuum would make
meanings that were more accurate, more independent, more moral, and more creative.
Let me analyze each of these separately. Maslow believes that
"self-actualized people perceive people and events accurately. Being good judges of
character, they are less influenced by their own wishes, hopes, fears, anxieties, their
own theories or beliefs, or those of their culture group" (qtd. in Sugarman 33). This
would make the ideas in their writing more independent. The meanings made would
be more their own, uninfluenced by others, and they would be more accurate. They
would have the power of truth behind them. Maslow goes on to say that
"self-actualized people live by firmly held, although sometimes unconventional
12


notions of right and wrong (qtd in Sugarman 33). History has shown that often what
people believe is moral at the moment may not hold up under the test of time. The
ethical standards of a self-actualized person would make the moral quality of the
meaning in their work generally of a higher standard. Finally, Maslow found that
"self-actualized people were, without exception, creative not necessarily in the sense
of being a genius, but rather in the sense that they had either regained or never lost the
naive and universal creativeness of unspoiled children" (qtd. in Sugarman 34). This
creativeness would give the meaning of their writing a sense of freshness and
integrity. Self-actualized people have more substance as human beings. It would be
expected that their writing would reflect this substance, that the meaning in their work
would have more courage and dignity, that the content would be more meaningful.
Brenda Ueland may have said it best in her book, If You Want To Write. "I have
come to think that the only way to become a better writer is to become a better
person" (129). I would interpret Uelands use of the word better as more self-
actualized. Donald Murray agrees. "A person cannot be one kind of person and be
another kind of writer" (Murray 131). A more shallow person cannot be expected to
find within as much worth expressing.
Closely tied to the quality of meaning in a student's writing is Murray's second
criteria for good writing which is authority. Author is the root word of authority.
And authority in writing is the power to influence thought or behavior. It puts the
13


writer in command. Murray believes the reader is persuaded when the writer knows
the subject. William Coles knew about students who write without authority. In his
book, The Plural I he tells his readers, "In the first few sets of papers of a term,
students sound the way they think English teachers want them to sound, the way they
think they have been taught to sound" (17). This problem in student writing prevents
any voice of authority. The student abdicates the responsibility of authorship. In the
same book Coles tells his students,
"Please bear in mind that the issue in this paper is what you think,
where you stand, what you have to say. Please don't turn yourself into
a Board of Directors. Please don't tell me about Man, or about a view
of Him that by some has been contended. Please dont speak with a
megaphone. Please don't write a Theme (17).
Eric Fromm believes that, "the experience of separateness arouses anxiety; it is indeed
the source of all anxiety" (Fromm 7). This is one important reason students do not
speak for themselves. One of the components of psychological separation is
speaking for yourself. Many students are unable to even think for themselves which
certainly precludes speaking for themselves. Nancy Welch discusses the problem in
the realm of teaching writing in her article, "Revising a Writer's Identity". She
analyzes a student who moves from one master (teacher) to the next never having
enough confidence to go on her own. The student only knows what the teacher
wants, but never what she herself would like to express.
One of the problems students have with authority in their writing is the
14


inability to become their own authority, to speak for themselves. Donald Murray
knew how scary it can feel to say what you really think with a sense of authority. He
wrote, "At the moment of writing the writer has a fundamental aloneness" (Murray 8).
For many this aloneness is so unbearable it never really happens in a psychological
sense. "Maslow characterizes self-actualized people as autonomous" (Sugarman 32).
They are not afraid to say what they think. Maybe more importantly, they are not
afraid to know what they think. He also says, "they hate phoniness" (Maslow 299).
Authority in a student's writing is authentic, the antithesis of phoniness. A person
who is closer to self-actualization would find it impossible to write without authority.
William Zinsser, in his book On Writing Well, is talking about authority when he
says, "The longer I work at the craft of writing, the more I realize that there's nothing
more interesting than the truth" (235). He describes it in another way earlier in the
book when he writes, "The reader will usually notice if you are putting on airs. He
wants the person who is talking to him to sound genuine. Therefore a fundamental
rule is: Be yourself' (21-2). Murray uses the word honest to describe what he means
by authority in writing. Maslow uses the word four times in his definition of qualities
that characterize self-actualized people. The word appears in his definitions of truth,
goodness, beauty, and simplicity (Maslow 128-9).
Honesty is also a concomitant of Murray's third requirement for good writing -
voice. If authority in writing comes from what is said then voice comes from how it
15


is said. Murray says, "We admire people who are natural, who are themselves
(Murray 7). Voice distinguishes one writer from another. It brings a piece of writing
to life because clearly a unique personality comes through. William Coles describes
the problem of lack of voice when he writes in The Plural I. "Not many students
wrote more than a page for the assignment; most were indistinguishable from each
other" (Coles 35). Liberating the imagination often also liberates the students voice.
Berthoff believes in teaching the composition process by liberating the imagination
(Making 74). She trusts the student to liberate his own imagination when the teacher
stands back and refuses to interfere in the natural workings of the mind. Berthoff
would never give the student a thesis statement or demand an outline. She says in
The Making of Meaning. "The motto of every composition class should be, "How do
I know what I mean until I hear what I say?" (77). Berthoff sees the relationship
between self-actualization and voice when she says in Reclaiming the Imagination.
"Emotional growth allows for less familiarity more freshness" (41).
Maslow describes the self-actualized person using words that are reminiscent
of rhetorical vocabulary describing voice in writing. Self-actualized people are "alive
and unique" (Maslow 129). They are idiosyncratic and reflect individuality (Maslow
129). They have a clear identity (Maslow 129). Self-actualized people have a voice.
Murray says, "The student frequently lacks self respect, and no one will write without
some respect for his own voice" (Murray 131). A cornerstone of healthy human
16


growth and self-actualization is self-acceptance and respect. (Sugarman 31). Maslow
makes it clear that full self-actualization also involves a loss of self-consciousness and
a natural spontaneity. This is also true for self expression. As a writing teacher, all
the papers I remember have a strong voice. There was a real live person speaking.
Usually it was the voice of a likeable person because the person was confident,
spontaneous, unique, and alive. It was the voice of self-actualization expressing
itself.
A strong voice is not possible without a clear focus as to how the ideas the
student has will work together. Murray lists development as the fourth criteria for
good writing. He wisely says the beginning writer has a tendency to overestimate the
reader's hunger for language while underestimating his hunger for information. Ann
Berthoff believes that "composing means naming, differentiating, comparing,
classifying, selecting, and thus defining; that composing means getting it together"
(Meaning 77). Getting it together is what development is about. I have read many
papers where it is painfully clear the writer slaved over picking the right words, but
the composition itself had no clear focus. Peter Elbow writes in Embracing
Contraries. "Students often write essays asserting things they really don't believe and
defending them with wooden reasoning they wouldn't dream of using if they were just
talking thoughtfully with a friend" (56). Janice Hays, in her introduction to The
Writer's Mind, quoted the results of a study on the writing of regularly admitted
17


freshman at the State University of New York in Buffalo, "The study revealed that
these freshman wrote in ways that were almost entirely correct in usage and grammar
but revealed a banality, superficiality, and triviality suggestive of fundamental
inabilities to think analytically about complex phenomena" (ix). Thinking
analytically is often what leads to clear, cohesive development. The writer not only
knows what she wants to say, but she knows the best way to get it together as
Berthoff would say. Good development intensifies meaning in writing. It makes
writing clearer and more focused. Good development in a composition makes it
convincing.
The word development is also critical in Maslow's definition of
self-actualization. He describes a self-actualized person as representing "completion
of growth and development" (Maslow 129). That person, he says, would be defined
by the work "completion: nothing missing or lacking" (Maslow 129). This is also
how a well developed piece of writing might be described. John T. Gage says,
Sentence structure, grammar, mechanics, organizational forms, heuristic procedures
- these are teachable. Having ideas, being sensitive to issues, caring about whether
one is right, taking responsibility for finding good reasons these are not teachable"
(Petrosky 14). If these issues, which relate to effective development, are not
teachable, perhaps the underlying issue, the development of the person, could be the
critical factor in improving development in the text.
18


The second to the last of Murray's qualities of good writing and in my
experience one of the most important, is design. James Moffett in Teaching the
Universe of Discourse wrote, "Good art, as we all know, weds form to content, either
through the dissonance of irony or the consonance of harmony" (149). William
Zinsser uses the word unity instead of harmony. "Unity is the anchor of good writing.
It not only keeps the reader from straggling off in all directions; it satisfies the
reader's subconscious need for order and gives reassurance that all is well at the helm"
(60). I believe Sondra Perl, in her essay "Understanding Composing" relates design
to what she calls "felt sense". She says, "Once a felt sense forms we match words to
it. As we begin to describe it, we get to see what is there for us. We get to see what
we think, what we know. If we are writing about something that truly interests us, the
"felt sense" deepens. We know that we are writing out of a "centered" place (Tate
152). It is this "felt sense" that causes the writer to integrate form and content. The
writer may not even be conscious of her intent at first. Sometimes when I question
students about their very effective extended metaphors and word choices they are not
even aware of how well the form and content of their paper work together. I believe
this is because they have matched the words to a deepening "felt sense." Murray uses
the words, form, structure, order, focus, coherence, and completeness to describe a
piece of writing that has effective design (Murray 67).
Maslow uses the words beauty, form, completeness, wholeness, organization,
19


structure, order, and perfectly arranged to describe a self-actualized person (Maslow
128-9). The words are so similar, they are practically interchangeable. Rollo May, in
his book, The Courage to Create, has a chapter titled "Passion for Form". He believes
that the "mind is an active process of forming and re-forming the world" (160). More
self-actualized people re-form the world in more harmonious and elegant ways. In
the same sense, better writers create more harmonious forms, more integrated and
coherent works of writing. I believe there is a relationship between the harmonious
forms of the self-actualizing person and the harmonious forms of the written material.
These forms also rise out of the personal integration of the writer and his encounter
with the material. This integration involves numerous parts of a human being, but the
act of encounter creates the design of the piece. Rollo May has outlined the moment
of creativity as being characterized by encounter, or engagement, intensity, and
vividness or heightened consciousness (Courage 33-56). I would speculate any piece
of writing worth reading would have been written by a person in this state. It would
be similar to Sondra Perl's description of "felt sense" and would produce a design
Donald Murray might call "elegant in a mathematical sense" (Murray 67).
Finally, good design is not possible without clarity, which is Murray's final
criterion for good writing. He defines clarity with the word simplicity. Simplicity is,
not surprisingly, one of the values Maslow identifies in self-actualized people. He
says in Farther Reaches of Human Nature that simplicity in a person is characterized
20


by "honesty, nakedness, essentiality, unmistakability; essential skeletal structure; the
heart of the matter; bluntness; only that which is necessary; without ornament,
nothing extra or superfluous" (129). William Zinsser titles the first chapter of his
book, On Writing Well. "Simplicity". He says, "Clutter is the disease of American
writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions,
pompous frills and meaningless jargon" (7). James Moffett relates clarity in writing
to emotional awareness when he says, "Usually the student thinks he has made a
logical transition or a narrative point which means again, he is deceived by his
egocentricity. What he needs is not rules, but awareness" (Teaching 202). He also
expresses the value of clarity in Detecting Growth in Language when he writes that
language growth should be, "toward vocabulary that precisely fits the generality level
of the concept the user actually has in mind" (34). It may be worth noting here that
students often use vocabulary that does not fit because they are trying to impress the
teacher. Maslow would call this a problem of autonomy. Self-actualized people
"may value the good opinion and affection of others, but they are not dependent on it"
(Sugarman 34). Also, since self-actualized people have a "more accurate perception
of reality" (Sugarman 31), they see the world more clearly and are able to write about
it that way.
If it is true that self-actualization and good writing share the same qualities,
we must ask ourselves if fostering both can lead to better writing in our classrooms.
21


William Coles said, "When things went wrong in a paper, the difficulty could
generally be traced to the writer's misconception of his audience, but the real source
of such trouble generally lay deeper in the shakiness of the writer's relationship to
himself as a writer" (157). The question that needs to be addressed is how we can
nurture positive self-actualizing qualities in the classroom. What environment will
create a more self-actualizing classroom? In the next chapter I will investigate the
possibilities for classrooms that create people who can grow. Obviously these are
qualities people work a lifetime to achieve. There is no end to the struggle to be
better or to write better, but we can, as Maslow believes, create environments that are
better for people. Certainly, every classroom should be one of these.
22


CHAPTER 3
A CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT THAT NURTURES PSYCHOLOGICAL
GROWTH AND BETTER WRITING
Here at the University of Colorado at Denver where I teach composition we
use a portfolio system. All freshman composition students turn in three polished
papers along with an essay reflecting on their own growth as a writer. At the end of
the semester a percentage of their grade for the course is given by an instructor other
than their own who has read their portfolio. I love the portfolio system. It has many
benefits for students, but the main reason I have grown to appreciate it so much is not
for them, but for me. Being the outside grader for a class other than my own has
taught me more about teaching writing than any single class I've taken. After
teaching composition for four semesters I have been an outside reader for several
instructors. It's easy to see from their students' papers how classroom environments
and the emphasis of individual instructors differs. I truly believe that teachers who
have a more holistic view on the growth of their students receive portfolios that are
written better.
Let me give a couple of examples of what I'm thinking here. I had a student
who was writing some very, very boring responses to professional essays in our
textbook. Her papers reminded me of someone who is terrified to stray from the party
23


line. In one response to an essay titled, "Soul Food," she went on and on about how
nice it is for every culture to have its own food, clothing, holidays, etc. When I
returned the paper I asked her if her last name was Greek. We got to talking about her
trip to Greece and the beauty of the country and her culture. I asked if she would
re-write the response telling me about three Greek foods, how they are prepared, and
how they taste. This response was her best. For once she was engaged in the
assignment. Her writing had meaning, authority, voice, and clarity. The work was
truly hers. More importantly, she suddenly got the idea of what it meant to write
from inside herself, her own experience. She began to understand what a difference it
makes.
In a similar example another student had written a personal narrative
describing her feelings when her mother left her for three months to go on an
extended honeymoon. It was the best work this student had done. I made a point of
stopping her before class to tell her how much I enjoyed reading the paper and to ask
more about her relationship with her mother and how it was going. After this short
conversation this young woman's writing improved considerably. She seemed to feel
she had an audience who was interested in what she had to say and who she was. It is
a fascinating irony that when a teacher helps a student to feel less alone, the student is
able to write from a more alone place as an individual becoming more in touch with
themselves and more self-actualized. In a more sophisticated psychological
24


interpretation the student is clearly encouraged to pursue their own agenda instead of
the teacher's. This is what psychological separation and self-actualization are about.
In this chapter I would like to explore further how a teacher might create a
classroom that nurtures self-actualization as a primary goal in hopes that better
writing would be a concomitant. I would also speculate that this type of environment
would be better for many other types of learning, but given the possibility of a special
relationship between better writing and self-actualization the results in a writing class
would be more profound.
Most writing teachers would agree that some of the best writing shows an
integration of form and content. Form and content work together to create an
integrated and more powerful effect. Marshall McLuan said, "The media is the
message." In the same way I believe that the tone of the writing class must reflect or
mirror the qualities of the best writing. The thinking here is that there would be more
meaning, authority, voice, development, design, and clarity in papers produced in
classrooms whose environments contained these elements, as well as nurtured them.
The task of this chapter will be to describe what it might mean for a classroom to
reflect these elements and to nurture them. Since I believe that self-actualization and
better writing contain the same qualities, nurturing these qualities in the person or in
the writing would yield better writing and greater personal growth.
Perhaps the most critical quality in any classroom is meaning. Murray says
25


meaningful writing has content. This is also true of a meaningful classroom. The
student must leave feeling she has more than when she came. If the classroom is a
meaningful place, the foundation for authority, voice, development, design and clarity
has been laid. The challenge to the teacher is not to somehow give the student
meaning because this is impossible. The role of the teacher is to create a classroom
where the responsibility for meaningful thoughts and ideas rests with the student.
Patrick McGee in his article "Truth and Resistance: Teaching As A Form of
Analysis," writes:
A teacher who would teach his or her student a relation to
language must come before them not as a master, even though he or
she knows and even uses their presumption of the teacher's knowledge.
He or she comes before them as the learner, the analysand, the subject
who speaks more than it knows. Since students usually assume
themselves to be the analysand vis-a-vis the teacher, the teacher must
reverse the situation and hand their questions back to them in a way
that reveals a rhetorical function (676).
Students often come to class expecting the teacher to fill them with
knowledge. They essentially want to be given meaning. Paulo Freire writes,
"Liberating education consists of acts of cognition, not transferals of information"
(60). For most of us, the majority of our education has been a transfer of information.
A classroom that has as its primary goal personal growth can be revolutionary. For
example if a teacher in a writing class puts a paper on a transparency for a class to
analyze she would not be enhancing the personal or writing growth of her students by
26


telling them the problems inherent in the paper. She would not be directive,
especially at first. Instead she would ask open- ended questions designed to help
students think. She herself would not know the answers. She might ask how the
conclusion might be improved or what grade the paper deserved and why. These are
not questions that have clear right or wrong answers. The student would be forced
into a kind of cognitive chaos by the teacher's refusal to be simply a conduit of
information. Gregory Jay, in his article, "The Subject of Pedagogy: Lessons in
Psychoanalysis and Politics" believes that the "teacher must seek to make the student
ill- unsettle complacency" (790). He goes on to write, "Our job in the classroom,
then, is to teach criticism, and this ought to be the fundamental principle underlying
the construction of the syllabus, the arrangement of readings, the direction of
discussion, and the assignment of papers" (799). In the same article Jay writes about
the student's superb ability to ferret out what the teacher wants.
Constance Penley, in her recent work in psychoanalysis and
feminism, observes that, "the student, like the child with the parent, is
almost clairvoyant when it comes to understanding the desire of the
Other and how best narcissistically to mirror what the Other desires.
This transference effectively stymies critical thinking by inculcating a
relationship of identification instead of analysis. It fixes the position
of knowledge rather than questioning assumptions or displacing
privileges" (785).
As long as the student feels he is giving the teacher what she wants, the classroom
will be devoid of meaning for either student or teacher.
27


Eric Fromm defined the necessary relationship between student and teacher
that best serves personal growth in The Art of Loving. It is interesting to note that
personal growth for the student must also mean growth for the teacher. Real
education is a win-win proposition for both student and teacher. He says, "The
teacher is taught by his students, the actor is stimulated by his audience, the
psychoanalyst is cured by his patient provided they do not treat each other as
objects, but are related to each other genuinely and productively" (21). In meaningful
classrooms the teacher is not just listening to her students because that is what good
teachers do. She is listening to her students because she truly likes to learn from them
and has no doubt she will. Her genuine openness to her students can be unsettling to
them, but also refreshing. In its most ideal form it serves the process of their creation
of meaning, not only in the classroom, but in the text of their writing. The meaning
they are forced to create in their own minds by a teacher who consistently refuses to
do it for them is transferred to the text.
This issue of genuineness or integrity is very important as we move into
Murray's second quality of good writing, authority. Our students cannot write with
authority unless they are able to say what they really think. Murray uses the words
honesty, integrity, commitment, and non-conformity to describe authority in writing.
Eric Fromm writes in The Art of Loving. "Most people are not even aware of their
need to conform. They live under the illusion that they follow their own ideas and
28


inclinations, that they are individualists, that they have arrived at their own opinions
as the result of their own thinking" (11).
Classrooms that nurture personal growth simmer with conflicting ideas. The
teacher in such a classroom is able herself to see meaning in opposite points of view
and encourage her students to do so. The creative act is rebellious. Authority in
writing takes personal power. To write with authority a student must be able to see
the cracks in the authorities he has previously either admired or followed
unquestioningly. Rollo May writes in The Courage to Create. "To create a person
must fight conformity, apathy, material success, and exploitive power" (26). The
most self-actualizing classrooms must provide students with a refuge so they are not
afraid to articulate ideas that may seem dangerous or stupid or simply different.
Ronald Schleifer writes, "the job of the teacher is to make ignorance present in the
surface of discourse in order to effect an interplay of meanings constructed, formed,
realized somewhere else, in students, in silence, in the fact that the received ideas of
students are different from those of the teacher" (812). It is worth noting here that all
rebellious ideas, all questioning of authority does not turn out to be sensible or
meaningful, but in classrooms where greater self-actualization is the goal, every idea
offers an opportunity for expanded consciousness and discussion. This is why the
teacher must want, more than anything else, the student to think. Let's say a teacher
gives students two sample essays to read. Both essays are excellent. The teacher asks
29


students which one is better and why. The teacher and students will learn new
perspectives from what anyone says about the essays. The classroom becomes not a
place to say what pleases the teacher because the teacher is not looking for any
specific answers, but rather for evidence of critical thinking on the part of students.
Whenever I ask a question in my classroom that I know the answer to I feel
instinctively that I have asked a lousy question. There is no room for me to learn.
There is no room for my students to think critically. A weak comment is not so much
a mistake as an opportunity. We've all said, thought, and written things we later
regret. Authority in writing is not found in the assurance that we are finally right, but
in our commitment to be honest with ourselves at any given moment. What this
means is that we say what we are really thinking rather than what we think someone
else wants to hear. In self-actualizing classrooms this is a central requirement.
I once heard Jim Lehrer, a well-respected PBS journalist say he tried to help
his guests express their ideas in the best, most convincing light. This is in contrast to
many journalists who interview someone with the goal of showing their weakness or
stupidity. In classrooms where self-actualization is the goal, the teacher believes in
the logic of the student asking her to further explain her thinking rather than showing
her why it's wrong. The worst thing we can do is silence our students. I once told a
student I felt his paper was beautifully written as far as the metaphors he chose and
the words he used, but, in my opinion, it just didn't say very much. He disagreed
30


vehemently and explained why he believed the paper deserved an A instead of the B I
had given him. I repeated what he said so he would know I heard him and understood
and then I changed his grade to an A. I told him I stood by my original feelings and
asked him to continue thinking about my position on the subject. The openness and
nondefensiveness of the exchange caused him to seriously analyze what I said. Later
he told me he agreed and would show me more content and stronger ideas in his next
paper, which was also beautifully written AND had an important point. Essentially, I
helped him find a way to be more honest with himself.
Being honest with yourself is a concomitant of being yourself and no writer
can have a distinctive voice unless she is being herself. Murray believes a "writer's
voice may be the most significant element in distinguishing memorable writing from
good writing" (66). Earlier in his book, Learning bv Teaching, he says, "Our
students want to be seen and understood some of them never have been" (44).
Classrooms where students are truly seen and understood are classrooms where
individual voices are nurtured. Being seen nurtures confidence. It is very
self-actualizing. A voice truly heard in the classroom becomes a stronger voice in the
text. Murray also uses the words "aliveness" and "spontaneity" to describe voice.
These attributes are the antithesis of Paulo Freire's "banking" concept of education,
which he believes kills any real learning. He says, "The narrative character of
education causes it to become lifeless. The idea of filling the students causes the
31


contents to become detached from reality" (52). In classrooms where spontaneity is
lacking either because the teacher talks the whole time or the lessons are to heavily
planned and prescribed, students cannot develop a voice. There is no room for a
sense of aliveness. For teachers who are terrified of surprises, these classrooms
eliminate the possibility. However the possibility for students to find their individual
voice is also greatly reduced. Students lacking in confidence do what Nancy Welch
describes in her article, "Revising A Writer's Identity". They write not only what the
teacher wants to hear, but with the tone and voice that's expected of them that is,
until they move on to the next teacher. Then the process begins anew. The voice in
their papers changes, but it is never natural because it is never their own. The
classroom environment that lends itself to the development of voice is what Maslow
calls Taoistic. He writes about this type of teaching in The Farther Reaches of
Human Nature.
In the first place, unlike the current model of teacher as lecturer,
conditioner, reinforcer, and boss, the Taoistic helper or teacher is
receptive rather than intrusive. I was told once that in the world of
boxers, a youngster who feels himself to be good and who wants to be
a boxer will go to a gym, look up one of the managers, and say,"I'd
like to be a pro, and I'd like to be in your stable. I'd like you to manage
me." In this world what is then done characteristically is to try him
out. The good manager will select one of his professionals and say,
"Take him into the ring. Stretch him. Strain him. Let's see what he can
do. Just let him show his very best. Draw him out." If it turns out the
boxer has promise, if he's a natural, then what the good manager does
is to take that boy and train him to be, if this is Joe Dokes, a better Joe
Pokes. That is he takes his style as given and builds on that. He does
not start all over again, and say, "Forget all you've learned, and do it
32


this new way, which is like saying, "Forget what kind of body you
have or forget what you are good for." He takes him and builds upon
his own talents and builds him up into the very best Joe Dokes -type
boxer that he possibly can. (181-2).
The teacher's goal is to uncover and then help. One of the ways a teacher can tell how
well she's doing is how different individual portfolios are.. If the subjects, styles, and
voices of her paper are very distinctive she can take heart. The student feels
comfortable becoming more herself. This is why Murray's philosophy of accepting
the individual is so important to the writer as well as to the psychological growth of
the individual.
This is also why the idea of being receptive to the student and accepting of
him contributes to the development of the text, as well as the development of the
students. Robert Brooke, in his article, "Lacan, Transference and Writing Instruction"
says, "The sequence of connections I draw as I explore an idea, as I meditate, is a
sequence which changes me" (688). As the student changes so will the text. The
more the student writes, the more she elaborates, the more the text develops, deepens,
and changes. The revision of the text and the revision of the writer occur
simultaneously. Both the text and the writer begin the process in chaos. The empty
page creates a sense of anxiety in the student. Students often say they don't know
what to write about or how to show what they think. Teachers who care about
personal growth may ask students about their interests or feelings but never give them
33


ideas. I once asked a student to make a list of all the things she loved to do with her
grandmother. It was all I said, but it served to help her create a very powerful paper.
The teacher should not try too hard to illuminate the anxiety. It serves as motivation
for the student to find herself as well as her text. In every assignment the process
begins anew, but hopefully the student and the text reach higher levels of integration
and more profound levels of meaning. Ann Berthoff knew the importance of
beginning in chaos. She quotes I.A. Richards who said that "ambiguities are the
hinges of thought" (Making of Meaning 75). He also described a "model that does not
oppose skills and personal growth but makes them contingent upon one another" (58).
Teachers who contribute to the development of the student along with the
development of the text "do not expect the student to know what he means until he
hears what he says" (Making of Meaning 57). The text develops slowly through
thinking, revising and talking to others. The journey in such a classroom is towards
greater meaning and coherence in the text as the journey to self-actualization is
toward greater meaning and coherence in the person. In school as in life there is
never enough time, but the brief camaraderie of the classroom does offer the student
others who will help him refine and develop his ideas. Rollo May wrote in The
Courage to Create. "Both solitude and solidarity are essential if the artist is to produce
works that are not only significant to his or her age, but that will speak to future
generations" (12). Also, the opportunity to work with peers ameliorates some of the
34


teacher's power, a problem in any journey of self-actualization that was discussed in
detail earlier in this chapter.
We cannot discuss the development or substance of a text without also
commenting on form. Ann Berthoff in The Making of Meaning said, "Whatever
research has been done corroborates what every experienced writer knows, that the
form of what is being written helps discover the substance; that intention and
representation are mutually contingent" (55). In classrooms where personal growth
is a priority, the goal is not to help the student create order immediately in the design
of the text but to let order emerge from the limits the substance of the text imposes on
the writer. If this sounds magical perhaps in some ways it is because so much of the
writing process is unconscious and inexplicable. Sometimes the teacher must create
chaos in the student's mind in order to help them write a better paper. A student once
asked me how she should approach a paper on the evils of procrastination. I told her
that whole approach to the subject was overdone. There were great advantages to
procrastinating and she should think about them. Often we must destroy
predictability to encourage spontaneity. For this student that comment was enough.
Rollo May in The Courage to Create tells us that, "creativity arises out of the tension
between spontaneity and limitations" (137). Peter Elbow also knew this when he
commented that, "logic and order do not create anything new" (31). In the taoistic
sense Maslow described, the teacher's responsibility is to let the student struggle with
35


design in the text in hopes that some elegance will emerge. Even though the student
has been taught the fundamental design of academic forms, struggling to create the
form for themselves will produce anxiety. May knew that "anxiety is understandably
a concomitant of the shaking of the self-world relationship that occurs in the creative
encounter" (107). Anxiety is also a concomitant of achieving higher, more elegant
levels of personal integration.
James Moffett, in his book, Teaching the Universe of Discourse saw the
relationship between language and growth. He said, "Intellectual stimulation is far
more likely to accelerate syntactic growth than grammar knowledge" (163). A
classroom based on a belief in the value of personal growth is a place where time is
not spent on grammar exercises. Basically, the goal is to free the student as much as
possible to complete his paper and himself. There is a very high level of trust evident
in such classrooms. Certainly when the teacher believes an appropriate text design
does emerge the credit will go to the student. This type of thinking emphasizes a
philosophy of education where truth and knowledge are believed to be brought out of
the student rather than put into him. Maslow's belief in "uncovering" as a primary
responsibility of the teacher and the therapist is germane here. It is ultimately a very
optimistic teaching philosophy.
The optimism, however, must be tempered by patience. Growth is slow and
painful. This includes growth as a person as well as growth as a writer. The teacher
36


trusts that meaning, design, and clarity will eventually be revealed to the student.
However, the cycle is repeated in the next assignment. Robert Brooks compared the
writing process to the talking cure in, perhaps, the best article I have read on the
subject of psychological growth and better writing. The similarities between writing
and psychoanalysis were graphically revealed. He said in his article titled "Lacan,
Transference, and Writing Instruction" that both involve language. He compared free
writing to free association. Both are the chaos and ambiguity from which we trust
meaning and form will appear. He describes both as a search for truth. In the
therapeutic process the cornerstone is the idea that the truth will set you free. There is
no truly excellent writing that does not have a quality of integrity, a voice of
authority. Brooke goes on to characterize both writing and psychological growth as a
movement from darkness to light, a journey towards greater meaning and coherence.
For those of us who encourage our students to revise, both are a journey without a
destination. Brooke believes the teacher and the analyst share similar goals. Both are
interested in helping others explore the self. Both should be receptive rather than
intrusive. Perhaps composing is a method of forming the self. And, finally, Brooke
believes writing is like analysis because both are long term efforts. Maybe the most
gratifying example of success for those of us who teach writing is knowing our
students continue to want to do it. Abraham Maslow wrote in The Farther Reaches of
Human Nature. "Ultimately the best way of teaching is to make students aware of the
37


beauties involved" (183). For that, we have to be aware of them ourselves. That
awareness clearly involves humbling ourselves to the mystery of the writing process.
Berthoff quotes Ingmar Bergman in her book Reclaiming the Imagination. "Such an
awful lot of things go on between me and the actors, on a level which defies analysis"
(274). For those of us who believe our students' growth as people is critical if they
are to become better writers, that mystery is an important part of the beauty. One of
the keys is to get out of the way and let it work.
38


CHAPTER 4
LIMITATIONS AND PROBLEMS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
Over the many months, perhaps years, that I have considered the relationship
between personal growth and better writing there have not been many times when I
believed that the whole idea was ridiculous and not worth the time and effort of
studying it. However, there have been many, many times that I recognized, with
despair, how slowly students do grow (as people and as writers), how difficult growth
is to measure, and how much skill it takes to be a teacher who furthers
self-actualization and writing improvement in students.
We would all like to believe that our students will write their weakest paper
first and their strongest paper last with only steady consistent improvement in
between. But we know this type of linear growth rarely happens. Instead our
students falter and stumble. It is not uncommon for the worst paper of the semester to
appear AFTER the best paper. Students have left my class at the end of the semester
feeling like worse writers than they were when they came. Sometimes, I'm
embarrassed to say I agree with them. I hope I'm not just deluding myself when I
believe all of this is not necessarily bad news. James Moffett wrote in Teaching the
Universe of Discourse. "Nothing less than the growth of the whole human being
requires a new integration of learning" (215). This new integration, this change in a
39


whole person that I have advocated in this thesis is not easy or smooth. It's downright
painful and unsettling. Sometimes it requires that students temporarily take a step
backward before there is a noticeable improvement. We must be patient. This is part
of the problem with adopting a strategy that tries to avoid filling the student with our
pointers and hints and ideas and knowledge. We feel so helpless and useless. It's
almost un-American. In a country where profit is the motive and it can be easily
measured, we look for quick results. Our government, our corporations, the families
who send us their members ask for and expect immediate results. We are conditioned
to the speed of microwaves, computers, and space modules. We always look for
better, which often means faster. In education that means new methods, new
technologies. I am not totally unsympathetic to this. In school as in life the one thing
we are shortest on is time. H. Douglas Brown criticizes Carl Rogers, whose theories
on education are similar to mine.
Rogers theory is not without its flaws. The educator may be
tempted to take the nondirective approach too far, to the point that
valuable time is lost in the process of allowing students to "discover"
facts and principles for themselves. Also a non- threatening
environment may become so nonthreatening facilitative tension needed
for learning is removed. There is ample research documenting the
positive effects of competitiveness in a classroom as long as that
competitiveness does not damage self-esteem and hinder motivation to
learning (86).
Society has every right to hold us accountable. I believe that further research into
ways that expedite the process of learning to write as well as learning to grow are in
40


order. Faster is not always better, but too slow will not accomplish our goals
effectively either. In the last chapter I made some comparisons between the
psychoanalytic process and the writing process. I said at one point that both go on
over a lifetime. Although this is true, it is also true that I want my students to be able
to write a basic, clear, cohesive essay when they leave my class. It is not too much to
ask. The accomplishment of this goal is questionable for some students. I believe
that this is unacceptable. For some students the thesis here may not be enough or
may not solve the problems. Certainly one of the most critical issues inherent in
trying to improve student writing by linking it to psychological growth is the slow
pace of progress. In teaching writing we must continually look to speed the process
without creating other more serious problems. While keeping self-actualization and
creativity in the forefront we may also identify other areas in the process that are
imperative for more speedy results. These include, but are not limited to, ways of
working on basic skills.
The emphasis on the self-actualization of the student, the importance of
creativity, the slowness of real growth and the possibility of stepping backward before
significant growth as a writer and a person raises the greatest problem in my
investigation. How will we measure growth as a person, growth as a writer and the
possibility of a connection between the two? Can any of this be measured at all, let
alone in the course of one semester? Does the possibility that some or all of my
41


theory is untestable make it worthless? These questions are very disturbing to me. I
am not the first person to concern myself with the difficulties inherent in teacher
research. Ann Berthoff wrote in The Making of Meaning. "To speak of mind could
represent an unembarrassed recognition of the fact that everything we deal with in
composition theory is fundamentally and unavoidably philosophical" (60).
Philosophical theories can never be totally proven. Moffett tries to illuminate the
problems of proving educational theory when he writes, "If someone were to describe
lovemaking by charting relations of heartbeat, electrical potential, skin temperature,
and brain waves I would not therefore classify this description as humanistic,
however dear the activity may be to human practitioners" (Discourse 182). Finally,
the best response to the problem may be Lous Heshusius in a recent edition of
Educational Researcher. "Given the inseparability of ourselves as researchers and as
persons, the questions we must ask are no longer on the order of epistemological ones
like, Are my results correct in the sense of accurate? but rather on the order of moral
ones like, What kind of person am I or do I become? or What kind of society do we
have or are we constructing? (20). I honestly believe that my thoughts about the
importance of personal growth to better writing, as well as to education in general,
hold up under ethical scrutiny.
But Heshusius also asks the last and perhaps most pressing question my
investigation has raised for me. When she asks, "What kind of person am I or do I
42


become? (20) that becomes perhaps the most central question to be directed to the
teacher. John T. Gage writes, "Socrates condemned the art of rhetoric, then, as a false
version of dialectic, because even though it seemed to use the same techniques of
argumentation, it disregarded the thing that mattered most: a desire to "know oneself'
(Petrosky 10). H. Douglas Brown emphasizes the same precept in his book,
Principles of Language Learning and Teaching, when he discusses Carl Rogers
views on education.
Teachers, to be facilitators, must first of all be real and genuine,
discarding masks of superiority and omniscience. Second, teachers
need to have genuine trust, acceptance, and a prizing of the other
person the student as a worthy, valuable individual. And third,
teachers need to communicate openly and empathically with their
students and vice versa. Teachers with these characteristics will not
only understand themselves better but will also be effective teachers"
(86).
Finally Maslow points out in The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. "Since the
children imitate the attitudes of the teacher, the teacher can be encouraged to become
a joyful and self-actualizing person" (181). I have written a great deal about the
importance of the self-actualization of the student. But in the end the question that
returns to haunt me is, do I know myself? Can I expect to help anyone else become
more self-actualized if it is not my own priority? How important is the degree of
self-actualization demonstrated by the teacher? This raises many other peripheral
questions. Do older teachers who have had more time to grow as people make better
43


teachers? Does method or technique of teaching matter as much as the basic maturity
of the teacher which may appear in the classroom more powerfully than any method?
Are we entering dangerous psychological territory in education to even ask these
questions? Even if we could measure the degree of self-actualization of the teacher
would it be wise or even ethical?
The ethical, moral, psychological, educational, and even spiritual implications
of positing a relationship between self-actualization and better writing are daunting.
There is a viable argument that composition is a skill that takes much practice and
drill and any emphasis on the individual personality of students is more of the fleeting
fashion in psycho babble. Once we pursue a line of thinking that speculates on any
relationship between psychology and writing we leave firm ground and veer off into
what some rhetoricians believe is risky and unprovable. Education, however, is not
an exact science. We have always been forced by its very nature to study the student
and teacher, as well as the subject. The thesis here would force rhetoricians to unite
with psychologists. Some of us would run from the idea. Given the state of some of
the most specious reasoning in psychology today this would not be surprising. But
neither psychology nor composition have a monopoly on questionable research. We
see it everywhere. Certainly some of our students or their parents will question the
connection between better writing and self-actualization. We can tell them we
question it too, but our questions, rather than precluding further research, demand it.
44


There was a time when I believed I would get better and better as a teacher
until I thought of myself as a master with nowhere to go. Instead the questions and
possibilities for improvement have become more and more complex and feel less and
less possible. I do believe that increased self-actualization is a worthy goal in any
classroom, particularly a writing classroom. When I say this I am thinking of
self-actualization for both teacher and student. I do not believe the promise of
education can begin to be realized without an emphasis on psychological growth, as
well as intellectual and academic growth. The responsibilities of being a teacher
weigh heavier on me every year, but their burden is greatly lightened by the rewards.
I still dream of running a classroom so challenging, so hard, so invigorating that time
is transcended and in the end my students and I will be better writers and better
people. I still believe there is a direct relationship between the two. I also have
grown to trust my students more and more to find the way. In psychologically
healthy classrooms teachers and students find the way together. That is really the
only possibility for everyone to grow in significant ways. The task is not fast or easy.
Success is never guaranteed and some failure is inevitable. But sometimes for a brief
shining moment the classroom works the way you want it to. Abraham Maslow
would call it a peak experience. I'm a poet, so I would say sometimes teaching
becomes a poem. When that happens we're all more self-actualized.
45


BIBLIOGRAPHY
Berthoff, Ann E. The Making of Meaning. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1981.
Berthoff, Ann E. ed. Reclaiming the Imagination. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook,
1984.
Brooke, Robert. "Lacan, Transference, and Writing." College English. 49.6
(1987):679-690.
Brown, H. Douglas. Principles of Language Learning and Teaching Englewood
Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1994
Coles, William, Jr. The Plural I And After. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1988.
Davis, Robert Con. "Freud's Resistance to Reading and Teaching." College
English. (1987):621-627.
Davis, Robert Con. "Pedagogy, Lacan, and the Freudian Subject." College
English. 49:7 (1987) 749-755.
Elbow, Peter. Embracing Contraries. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 1970.
Fromm, Erich. The Art of Loving. New York: Harper Row. 1956.
Hays, Janice, ed. et al. The Writer's Mind. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of
English, 1984.
Heshusius, Lous. "Freeing Ourselves From Objectivity: Managing Subjectivity or
Turning Toward a Participatory Mode of Consciousness?" Educational
Researcher 23:3 (1994) 15-21.
Jay, Gregory. "The Subject of Pedagogy:Lessons in Psychoanalysis and Politics."
College English. 49.7 (1987) : 785-799.
Maslow, A. H. The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. New York: Penguin, 1971.
46


May, Rollo. Man's Search For Himself. New York: Dell, 1953.
May, Rollo. Psychology and the Human Dilemna. New York: Rheinhold, 1967.
May, Rollo. The Courage to Create. New York: Bantam, 1975.
McGee, Patrick. "Truth and Resistance: Teaching As a Form of Analysis". College
English. 49.6 (1987) 667-677.
Moffett, James. Detecting Growth In Language. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1992.
Moffett, James. Teaching the Universe of Discourse. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1968.
Murray, Donald. Learning bv Teaching. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1982.
Petrosky, Anthony R. and David Bartholomae, ed. The Teaching of Writing.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.
Rogers, Carl. On Becoming A Person. Boston Houghton Mifflin, 1961.
Schleifer, Ronald. "Lacan's Enunciation and the Cure of Mortality: Teaching,
Transference, and Desire." College English 49:7 (1987).
Sugarman, Leonie, ed. Life-Span Development. New York: Routledge, 1986.
Tate, Gary ed, et al. The Writing Teacher's Sourcebook. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1994.
Ueland, Brenda, If You Want To Write. Saint Paul: Gray wolf Press, 1938.
Ulmer, Gregory. "Textshop for Psychoanalysis: On De-programming Freshman
Platonists". College English 49.7 (1987) 756-769.
Welch, Nancy. "Revising A Writer's Identity: Reading and Remodeling In A
Composition Class." College Composition and Communication 47.1 ('19961
41-59.
Zinsser, William. On Writing Well. New York: Harper Perennial, 1990.
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Full Text

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BETTER WRITING THROUGH PSYCHOLOGICAL GROWTH by Diana Lynn Sher B.A., University of Colorado, 1971 A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts English 1996 @

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This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Diana Lynn Sher has been approved by Date 11

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Sher, Diana Lynn (M.A., English) Better Writing Through Psychological Growth Thesis directed by Professor Joanne Addison ABSTRACT I believe there is a relationship between psychological growth and better writing and that classrooms where psychological growth is fostered are classrooms where writing is improved. The qualities rhetoricians identify as components of better writing and the qualities many psychologists attribute to self-actualized people are so similar as to be virtually indistinguishable. The best writing is meaningful, honest, marked by an individual voice, well-developed, cohesive, and clear. The most psychologically mature people move toward greater personal meaning in their lives, seek integrity, individuation, full development of their potential, independence, and autonomy. They are spontaneous and retain a sense of simplicity. Self actualized people re-form the world in more harmonious and elegant ways. In the same sense, better writers create more harmonious forms, more integrated and coherent works of writing. Since the writer and her writing are intimately connected there is a relationship between the harmonious forms of the self-actualizing person and the harmonious forms of the written material. The critical question is how to create classroom environments that nurture personal growth. The relationship between teachers and students is of primary importance. It must be genuine in its openness and in the teacher's committment that learning will flow both ways, from student to teacher and back again. It must be a classroom where critical thinking and nonconformity are treasured. It is, most of all, a place where what is brought out of the student is as important as what is put in. Maslow calls this Taoistic in that the teacher's goal is to uncover rather than re-make. The teacher in such classrooms trusts the student to move toward positive revision of his text and of himself. It is ultimately a very optimistic teaching philosophy. The optimism of such a philosophy must be tempered with the knowledge that significant, meaningful growth is almost always slow and difficult to measure. Also the degree of self-actualization ofthe teacher may tum out to be more imperative in the success of the theory than I have speculated. Still, the goal of psychological growth and its relationship to better writing deserve continued exploration. 111

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This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication. Signed lV

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT My thanks to Professor Joanne Addison for her gentle, timely, intelligent support during the writing of this thesis. I was the first graduate student she advised, but her work with me was so excellent I never knew until I asked. v

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CONTENTS CHAPTER I. Better Writing and Psychological Growth .................... ... ....................... 2. The Relationship Between The Two ....................................................... 9 3. A Classroom Environment That Nurtures Psychological Growth And Better Writing ................................................................................ 23 4. Limitations and Problems for Further Research ................................... 39 BIBLIOGRAPHY ................................................................................................ 46 Vl

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CHAPTER 1 BETTER WRITING AND PSYCHOLOGICAL GROWTH Once in a suburban middle school classroom at the beginning of my teaching career the bell rang, but the discussion continued. For several minutes nobody left. It's never really happened again, but I've thought about it off and on for twenty years and it remains a symbol for me of the best that school can become. I realize it's an ideal that none of us can expect to reach often. I'm a little embarrassed to admit I myself am a student who watches the clock. Once during my first semester of graduate school I risked being late to class to stop at a Walmart and replace a dead battery in my watch. The thought of not knowing the time during class was intolerable to me. This is not a comment on my master's program. I teach writing at the same university and often see students furtively glancing at their watches during some of my not so stimulating classes. Once a young man whom I had severely graded down because of poor attendance angrily told me school was overrated. I don't always feel .'!'# proud about what I believe is the necessity of strong-arm tactics on the subject of attendance and I, sadly, nodded my head in agreement. For a middle-aged woman who has been a teacher for many years and still holds on to the idea that teaching can be a noble and joyous way to earn a living, I try 1

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very hard to repress other thoughts about how often school seems tedious, irrelevant, and meaningless. I try especially hard to repress certain fleeting thoughts about teaching writing that slip into my mind when I'm tired or my guard is down . These include thoughts about all the boring papers I have to read, all my vacuous lesson plans, and all the students who clearly do not love my class. The desire to repress these complaining thoughts is particularly intense when I believe some of the weak, superficial thinking in my students' papers, which often lack much creativity, aliveness, integrity, or authority can at least partly be attributed to the failures of their teacher. Sometimes I have a lot of trouble making a class work the way I want it to. Sometimes I am painfully disappointed when I feel my students' work has fallen short of their potential. I am not alone. Anne Berthoff in The Making of Meaning said, "The prose I get from my freshman is an adjective swamp with little hummocky Thesis Statements" (27). William Coles writes in The Plural I, "There wasn't one student who convinced me that he had a modicum of interest in anything he was saying" (18). "Again I was facing a set of papers most of which were one sentence deep" (87). And r-;. John T.Gage notes in The Teaching of Writing, "A stupid idea is no less stupid for having been written correctly, or eloquently" (6). These are descriptions of students who look at their watches and wait for class to end. They do their assignments, chum them out, and wait for credits to appear on 2

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their transcripts. Some are not interested in writing and never will be. But some are actually tired of waiting and would welcome the chance to grow and be challenged. They have interesting ideas and the potential for creativity and spontaneity in their writing. They have imagination and the possibility of courageous, fresh thoughts expressed with authority. Hemingway eloquently described prose as architecture, not interior decoration (qtd.in Murray 89). If this is true we must look further than language skills, grammar exercises, textbooks, or rules if we want to create classrooms where watching the clock is not the main focus. On some level I have always known that there is more to teaching than these outward trappings. Writing teachers have little actual information to pass on to students. Students must change and grow in sophisticated ways in order to become better. I have had trouble identifying these sophisticated ways and classifying them. I knew my students' papers reflected superficial thinking I often saw a lack of critical engagement, a fear of courageously either knowing what they thought or expressing it. I saw that my students often had difficulty producing a text that had any sense of aliveness. In other words their writing lacked creativity and spontaneity. Grading their papers was boring. I felt it as much as thought it. I knew this problem was not going to be resolved by a more exciting lesson plan. It extended to the tone of the classroom and the very nature ofthe people in it. To me, helping students produce papers that were more engaging and creative and alive, papers that had a voice of 3

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authority and real personality was a necessity, not only for them, but for me. I couldn't make a career as a writing teacher reading what I was reading. It was deadly. I would bum out. Truthfully, although I found bits and pieces of ideas that might help in rhetorical theory, I believe the possibility for a more comprehensive answer to the problem lies in psychology, as well as rhetoric. I came upon this accidentally when I noticed that the qualities the great existential and humanistic psychologists prized in healthier human beings were the same qualities that many writing teachers prized in the best writing they received. As an example, here are some of the attributes Abraham Maslow noticed in what he called "self-actualized" people. These were people he believed were at the pinnacle of development as far as being able to achieve a fuller use of their talents, capacities, and overall potentialities. They were more spontaneous, less forced or contrived. They were more creative, less conforming. This made their thinking richer, deeper, more critical. They were well-integrated. They could combine thoughts and feelings. Their perception of reality was more accurate. By this I mean they demonstrated a critical understanding of underlying cause and effects. They were more autonomous, which goes along with nonconformity, but they were also able to remain true to themselves in the face of outside pressure. More self-actualized people were able to see the world freshly. They didn't get stuck in old ways of thinking. They were less egocentric and therefore 4

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could transcend their own culture, religion, country, political party, race, or socio economic group to see different perspectives (even at the same time). The world was interesting to them and they were interesting. These were the qualities I looked for in the papers I graded. These were the qualities that made a piece of writing meaningful, engaging and interesting to read. These were the qualities that would make teaching writing something I could enjoy forever. Most of all these were the qualities needed in the people who wrote the papers I would read. Nancy Welch, in her article "Revising A Writer's Identity" said, "There exists a wealth of evidence that we can't separate writing from the person doing the writing" (43). In Chapter Two ofthis thesis I will support my claims about the importance of these qualities and explore their meaning for better writing. I have begun to hypothesize that people who are further on a continuum of embodying these traits are generally better writers, and further, that it is possible to nurture these values in the classroom in order to produce better writers. Rollo May agreed when he wrote in The Courage 1Q. Create, "The creative process must be explored not as the product of sickness, but as representing the highest degree of emotional health, as the expression of normal people in the act of actualizing themselves" (3 8). Essentially what is needed is a therapeutic classroom. This concept has little to do with the individual problems of students, but a lot to do with creating more psychologically mature people. This thinking makes writing much 5

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more than a skill. What it means is that writing is an expression of a whole person. It is also much more than just discovery of self or becoming more yourself. It is about becoming more as a self. This cannot be taught, but it can happen under the right conditions. The challenge is to analyze how to create those conditions in the writing classroom. The creation ofthese conditions is critical because the qualities of the self-actualized person which are analogous to qualities of good writing must extend to the atmosphere of the classroom. The classroom needs to be a spontaneous and alive place in order to allow for the kind of psychological growth that makes writing better. I am starting to think that some of the issues we as writing teachers struggle with every day can be ameliorated by greater concentration on the achievement of more psychologically healthy classrooms. These include our problems with papers that reflect weak thinking and general lack of writer but they also include students who in one way or another rebel against the physical or intellectual confines of the classroom, and the feeling that even many at least outwardly successful students have that school is meaningless and irrelevant. Abraham Maslow, in his most definitive study of psychological health, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, writes, "A higher order of persons can understand a higher order of knowledge; but also a higher order environment tends to lift the level of the person, just as a lower order of environment tends to lower it" (161). In Chapter Three I will investigate 6

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how a teacher can create a higher order classroom environment, one that helps students grow as people and as writers. In Chapter Four I will to discuss some of the problems inherent in teaching with the philosophy I have described. These issues raise possibilities for future directions in research. The process of growth, especially using the theory I have mentioned, is very slow and not clearly measurable. John T. Gage, in his essay, "Why Write" says, "The rate at which they will become better writers will be just as imperceptible as the rate at which they can be expected to become better thinkers; it will happen slowly, in small increments of change, in intuitive stages of progress that they may not even notice" (24). This would certainly be true in a classroom where the teacher was hoping students would become better people in order to become better writers. Another difficulty is measuring the quality of the environment in a classroom, especially given the variable nature of classroom environments even when the school and the teacher remain the same. Also, I believe there is reason to analyze the degree of self-actualization of the teacher and its effect on the growth of students and the classroom environment. This could be a very touchy issue for many teachers, even for those who see teaching as a learning My thesis itself will not touch on this, but it certainly warrants further research. I am also aware that questions may be raised about specific teaching methods or lessons and how they might work in the context of the hypothesis. Since my thinking has been more concerned with the 7

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exploration of building a theory, much work remains as far as testing and revising in the classroom setting. Before moving into a discussion of the type of environment I feel is necessary, I will spend the next chapter analyzing the qualities of good writing and how they relate to profiles of psychologically healthy people. I will include what other rhetorical thinkers consider to be the qualities of good writing and I will support my observations with a review of some of their thoughts. I will also review the work of psychologists who have outlined their beliefs about what qualities more psychologically healthy people demonstrate. Finally, I hope to show that many of the qualities of psychologically healthy people and good writing are the same. -I';. 8

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CHAPTER2 THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE TWO It is important to begin this chapter with some definition of the qualities of good writing followed by a brief summary of some of the qualities of a self-actualized person. Although I will be discussing the work of several rhetoricians and psychologists to support my thinking, I will be using as a framework Donald Murray's definition of good writing and Abraham Maslow's concept of the self-actualized person. These two well-respected thinkers will serve as the foundation for my investigations. I chose Donald Murray's definition of the qualities of good writing because he reflects an attitude about teaching writing that leads toward personal growth in students. Murray, himself, is an excellent listener who trusts students to eventually find their own way. Maslow would call Murray's style Taoistic in the most complimentary sense. Robert Brooke, in his article "Lacan, Transference and Writing Instruction says, "Murray describes the process ofwriting as an internal j oumey of discovery the intrepid writer sets off, through language, on a j oumey into ; meaning and chaos" (686). Murray lists six qualities and he briefly elaborates on each one: !.Meaning There must be content in an effective piece of writing. It must add up to something. This is the most important element of good writing, but although it must be listed first it is often discovered last 9

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through the process of writing. 2. Authority Good writing is filled with specific, accurate, honest information. The reader is persuaded through authoritative information that the writer knows the subject. 3. Voice Good writing is marked by an individual voice. The writer's voice may be the most significant element in distinguishing memorable writing from good writing. 4. Development The writer satisfies the reader's hunger for information. The beginning writer almost always overestimates the reader's hunger for language and underestimate the reader's hunger for information. 5. Design A good piece of writing is elegant in the mathematical sense. It has form, structure, order, focus, coherence. It gives the reader a sense of completeness. 6. Clarity Good writing is marked by a simplicity which is appropriate to the subject. The writer has searched for and found the right word, the effective verb, the clarifying phrase. The writer has removed writer so that the reader sees through the writer's style to the subject, which is clarified and simplified (Murray 66-67). Before discussing these qualities further, I would like to briefly quote Maslow's description of the qualities of self-actualized people. The reader may ,, notice similarities between Murray and Maslow immediately Concepts like authority, honesty, harmony, and development are listed by both Murray and Maslow: Most (insight, uncovering, nonauthoritarian, Taoistic) psychotherapists of whatever school, when they can be induced to speak ofthe ultimate goals of psychotherapy, will even today, speak of 10

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the fully human, authentic, self-actualizing, individuated person, or some approximation thereof both in the descriptive sense and in the sense of the ideal abstract concept. When teased out of the sub details this usually means some or all of the B-values; e.g. honesty, good behavior, integration, spontaneity, movement toward fullest development and maturing and harmonizing potentialities, being what one fully is in essence, being all that one can be, effortlessness, ability to play and enjoy, independence, autonomy, self-determination. I doubt that any therapist would seriously object to any of these although some might want to add (Maslow 133). Maslow also describes the results that can be expected when a person moves toward greater self-actualization. I am quoting these to show that one of the results would be better writing. Maslow uses the word communication. This more fully human, healthier person would then epiphenomentally, generate and spark off dozens, hundreds, and millions of differences in behaving, experiencing, perceiving, communicating, teaching, working etc., which would all be more creative. He would then simply be another kind of person who would behave in a different way in every respect (Maslow 71 ). Maslow believes self-actualization is an achievable state, although he admits that it is only attained by less than one percent of the population (Sugarman 34). The best writing, even if we define it by publication (which is not always that good), is A;. rarely achieved. However, using Murray's qualities all writing will appear somewhere on a spectrum of worst to best in terms of each of the six qualities. I would like to discuss in detail each of the six qualities including what other rhetoricians have said and how they relate to elements of psychological gr0\\1h as 11

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outlined by Maslow and others. Murray lists meaning first. He says, "Writing is an individual search for meaning" (8). Ann Berthoffwould agree. In her book outlining her theory of teaching writing which is appropriately titled, The Making of Meaning, Berthoff constantly refers to the subject of meaning. "Good is about making meanings -it is the work ofthe active mind" (4). "To teach composition is to teach the process of making meaning" (18). John T. Gage asks the most profound question on the subject of writing and meaning. "Is it possible to succeed fully in this writing task without having a good idea of one's own?" (Petrosky 19). What does making meaning have to do with growth as a person? Maslow suggests that the self-actualized person or the person who is further on a continuum would make meanings that were more accurate, more independent, more moral, and more creative. Let me analyze each of these separately. Maslow believes that "self-actualized people perceive people and events accurately. Being good judges of character, they are less influenced by their own wishes, hopes, fears, anxieties, their own theories or beliefs, or those of their culture group" (qtd. in Sugarman 33). This would make the ideas in their writing more independent. The meanings made would be more their own, uninfluenced by others, and they would be more accurate. They would have the power of truth behind them. Maslow goes on to say that "self-actualized people live by firmly held, although sometimes unconventional 12

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notions of right and wrong" (qtd in Sugarman 33). History has shown that often what people believe is moral at the moment may not hold up under the test of time. The ethical standards of a self-actualized person would make the moral quality of the meaning in their work generally of a higher standard. Finally, Maslow found that "self-actualized people were, without exception, creativenot necessarily in the sense of being a genius, but rather in the sense that they had either regained or never lost the naive and universal creativeness ofunspoiled children" (qtd. in Sugarman 34). This creativeness would give the meaning of their writing a sense of freshness and integrity. Self-actualized people have more substance as human beings. It would be expected that their writing would reflect this substance, that the meaning in their work would have more courage and dignity, that the content would be more meaningful. Brenda Ueland may have said it best in her book If You Want To Write, "I have come to think that the only way to become a better writer is to become a better person" (129). I would interpret Ueland's use of the word "better" as more self actualized. Donald Murray agrees. "A person cannot be one kind of person and be another kind ofwriter"(Murray 131). A more shallow person cannot be expected to find within as much worth expressing. Closely tied to the quality of meaning in a student's writing is Murray's second criteria for good writing which is authority. Author is the root word of authority. And authority in writing is the power to influence thought or behavior. It puts the 13

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writer in command. Murray believes the reader is persuaded when the writer knows the subject. William Coles knew about students who write without authority. In his book, The Plural I he tells his readers, "In the first few sets of papers of a term, students sound the way they think English teachers want them to sound, the way they think they have been taught to sound" (17). This problem in student writing prevents any voice of authority. The student abdicates the responsibility of authorship. In the same book Coles tells his students "Please bear in mind that the issue in this paper is what you think, where you stand, what you have to say. Please don't tum yourself into a Board of Directors. Please don't tell me about Man, or about a view of Him that by some has been Please don't speak with a megaphone Please don't write a Theme (17). Eric Fromm believes that, "the experience of separateness arouses anxiety; it is indeed the source of all anxiety" (Fromm 7). This is one important reason students do not speak for themselves One of the components of psychological separation is speaking for yourself. Many students are unable to even think for themselves which certainly precludes speaking for themselves. Nancy Welch discusses the problem in the realm of teaching writing in her article "Revising 1:J. Writer's Identity". She ..-;. analyzes a student who moves from one master (teacher) to the next never having enough confidence to go on her own. The student only knows what the teacher wants, but never what she herself would like to express. One of the problems students have with authority in their writing is the 14

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inability to become their own authority, to speak for themselves Donald Murray knew how scary it can feel to say what you really think with a sense of authority. He wrote, "At the moment of writing the writer has a fundamental aloneness" (Murray 8). For many this aloneness is so unbearable it never really happens in a psychological sense. "Maslow characterizes self-actualized people as autonomous" (Sugarman 32). They are not afraid to say what they think. Maybe more importantly, they are not afraid to know what they think. He also says, "they hate phoniness" (Maslow 299). Authority in a student's writing is authentic, the antithesis of phoniness A person who is closer to self-actualization would find it impossible to write without authority. William Zinsser, in his book On Writing Well, is talking about authority when he says, "The longer I work at the craft of writing, the more I realize that there's nothing more interesting than the truth" (235) He describes it in another way earlier in the book when he writes "The reader will usually notice if you are putting on airs. He wants the person who is talking to him to sound genuine. Therefore a fundamental rule is: Be yourself' (21-2) Murray uses the word honest to describe what he means by authority in writing Maslow uses the word four times in his definition of qualities that characterize self-actualized people. The word appears in his definitions of truth, goodness, beauty, and simplicity (Maslow 128-9). Honesty is also a concomitant of Murray's third requirement for good writing voice. If authority in writing comes from what is said then voice comes from how it 15

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is said. Murray says, "We admire people who are natural, who are themselves" (Murray 7). Voice distinguishes one writer from another. It brings a piece of writing to life because clearly a unique personality comes through. William Coles describes the problem oflack of voice when he writes in The Plural I, "Not many students wrote more than a page for the assignment; most were indistinguishable from each other" (Coles 35). Liberating the imagination often also liberates the student's voice. Berthoff believes in teaching the composition process by liberating the imagination (Making 74). She trusts the student to liberate his own imagination when the teacher stands back and refuses to interfere in the natural workings of the mind. Berthoff would never give the student a thesis statement or demand an outline. She says in The Making of Meaning, "The motto of every composition class should be, "How do I know what I mean until I hear what I say?" (77). Berthoff sees the relationship between self-actualization and voice when she says in Reclaiming the Imagination, "Emotional growth allows for less familiarity more freshness" ( 41 ). Maslow describes the self-actualized person using words that are reminiscent of rhetorical vocabulary describing voice in writing. Self-actualized people are "alive -and unique" (Maslow 129). They are idiosyncratic and reflect individuality (Maslow 129). They have a clear identity (Maslow 129). Self-actualized people have a voice. Murray says, "The student frequently lacks self respect, and no one will write without some respect for his own voice" (Murray 131 ). A cornerstone of healthy human 16

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growth and self-actualization is self-acceptance and respect. (Sugarman 31 ). Maslow makes it clear that full self-actualization also involves a loss of self-consciousness and a natural spontaneity. This is also true for self expression. As a writing teacher, all the papers I remember have a strong voice. There was a real live person speaking. Usually it was the voice of a likeable person because the person was confident, spontaneous, unique, and alive. It was the voice of self-actualization expressing itself. A strong voice is not possible without a clear focus as to how the ideas the student has will work together. Murray lists development as the fourth criteria for good writing. He wisely says the beginning writer has a tendency to overestimate the reader's hunger for language while underestimating his hunger for information. Ann Berthoff believes that "composing means naming, differentiating, comparing, classifying, selecting, and thus defining; that composing means getting it together" (Meaning 77). Getting it together is what development is about. I have read many papers where it is painfully clear the writer slaved over picking the right words, but the composition itself had no clear focus. Peter Elbow writes in Embracing Contraries, "Students often write essays asserting they really don't believe and defending them with wooden reasoning they wouldn't dream of using if they were just talking thoughtfully with a friend" (56). Janice Hays, in her introduction to The Writer's Mind, quoted the results of a study on the writing of regularly admitted 17

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freshman at the State University of New York in Buffalo, "The study revealed that these freshman wrote in ways that were almost entirely correct in usage and grammar but revealed a banality, superficiality, and triviality suggestive of fundamental inabilities to think analytically about complex phenomena" (ix). Thinking analytically is often what leads to clear, cohesive development. The writer not only knows what she wants to say, but she knows the best way to get it together as Berthoffwould say. Good development intensifies meaning in writing. It makes writing clearer and more focused. Good development in a composition makes it convmcmg. The word development is also critical in Maslow's definition of self-actualization. He describes a self-actualized person as representing "completion of growth and development" (Maslow 129). That person, he says, would be defined by the work "completion: nothing missing or lacking" (Maslow 129). This is also how a well developed piece of writing might be described. John T. Gage says, "Sentence structure, grammar mechanics, organizational forms, heuristic procedures these are teachable. Having ideas, being sensitive to issues, caring about whether one is right, taking responsibility for finding good reasons these are not teachable" (Petrosky 14). If these issues, which relate to effective development, are not teachable, perhaps the underlying issue, the development of the persot:J., could be the critical factor in improving development in the text. 18

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The second to the last of Murray's qualities of good writing and in my experience one of the most important is design. James Moffett in Teaching the Universe of Discourse wrote, "Good art as we all know, weds form to content, either through the dissonance of irony or the consonance ofharmony" (149). William Zinsser uses the word unity instead of harmony. "Unity is the anchor of good writing. It not only keeps the reader from straggling off in all directions; it satisfies the reader's subconscious need for order and gives reassurance that all is well at the helm" (60). I believe Sondra Perl, in her essay "Understanding Composing" relates design to what she calls "felt sense". She says, "Once a felt sense forms we match words to it. As we begin to describe it, we get to see what is there for us. We get to see what we think, what we know. If we are writing about something that truly interests us the "felt sense" deepens We know that we are writing out of a "centered" place (Tate 152). It is this "felt sense" that causes the writer to integrate form and content. The writer may not even be conscious of her intent at first. Sometimes when I question students about their very effective extended metaphors and word choices they are not even aware ofhow well the form and content of their paper work together. I believe this is because they have matched the words to a deepening "felt sense." Murray uses the words, form, structure, order, focus, coherence, and completeness to describe a piece of writing that has effective design (Murray 67). Maslow uses the words beauty form, completeness wholeness, organization, 19

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structure, order, and perfectly arranged to describe a self-actualized person (Maslow 128-9). The words are so similar, they are practically interchangeable. Rollo May, in his book, The Courage to Create, has a chapter titled "Passion for Form". He believes that the "mind is an active process of forming and re-forming the world" (160). More self-actualized people re-form the world in more harmonious and elegant ways. In the same sense, better writers create more harmonious forms, more integrated and coherent works of writing. I believe there is a relationship between the harmonious forms of the self-actualizing person and the harmonious forms of the written material. These forms also rise out of the personal integration of the writer and his encounter with the material. This integration involves numerous parts of a human being, but the act of encounter creates the design of the piece. Rollo May has outlined the moment of creativity as being characterized by encounter, or engagement, intensity, and vividness or heightened consciousness (Courage 33-56). I would speculate any piece of writing worth reading would have been written by a person in this state. It would be similar to Sondra Perl's description of "felt sense" and would produce a design Donald Murray might call "elegant in a mathematical sense" (Murray 67). Finally, good design is not possible without Clarity, which is Murray's final criterion for good writing. He defines clarity with the word simplicity. Simplicity is, not surprisingly, one ofthe values Maslow identifies in self-actualized people. He says in Farther Reaches of Human Nature that simplicity in a person is characterized 20

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by "honesty, nakedness, essentiality, unmistakability; essential skeletal structure; the heart of the matter; bluntness; only that which is necessary; without ornament, nothing extra or superfluous" (129). William Zinsser titles the first chapter of his book, On Writing Well, "Simplicity". He says, "Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon" (7). James Moffett relates clarity in writing to emotional awareness when he says, "Usually the student thinks he has made a logical transition or a narrative point which means again, he is deceived by his egocentricity. What he needs is not rules, but awareness" (Teaching 202). He also expresses the value of clarity in Detecting Growth in Language when he writes that language growth should be, "toward vocabulary that precisely fits the generality level of the concept the user actually has in mind" (34). It may be worth noting here that students often use vocabulary that does not fit because they are trying to impress the teacher. Maslow would call this a problem of autonomy. Self-actualized people "may value the good opinion and affection of others, but they are not dependent on it" (Sugarman 34). Also, since self-actualized people have a "more accurate perception of reality" (Sugarman 31 ), they see the world more clearly and are able to write about it that way. If it is true that self-actualization and good writing share the same qualities, we must ask ourselves if fostering both can lead to better writing in our classrooms. 21

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William Coles said, "When things went wrong in a paper, the difficulty could generally be traced to the writer's misconception of his audience, but the real source of such trouble generally lay deeperin the shakiness of the writer's relationship to himself as a writer" (157) The question that needs to be addressed is how we can nurture positive self-actualizing qualities in the classroom. What environment will create a more self-actualizing classroom? In the next chapter I will investigate the possibilities for classrooms that create people who can grow. Obviously these are qualities people work a lifetime to achieve There is no end to the struggle to be better or to write better, but we can, as Maslow believes, create environments that are better for people. Certainly, every classroom should be one of these. 22

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CHAPTER3 A CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT THAT NURTURES PSYCHOLOGICAL GROWTH AND BETTER WRITING Here at the University of Colorado at Denver where I teach composition we use a portfolio system. All freshman composition students tum in three polished papers along with an essay reflecting on their own growth as a writer. At the end of the semester a percentage of their grade for the course is given by an instructor other than their own who has read their portfolio. I love the portfolio system. It has many benefits for students, but the main reason I have grown to appreciate it so much is not for them, but for me. Being the outside grader for a class other than my own has taught me more about teaching writing than any single class I've taken. After teaching composition for four semesters I have been an outside reader for several instructors. It's easy to see from their students' papers how classroom environments and the emphasis of individual instructors differs. I truly believe that teachers who have a more holistic view on the growth of their students receive portfolios that are written better. Let me give a couple of examples of what I'm thinking here. I had a student who was writing some very, very boring responses to professional essays in our textbook. Her papers reminded me of someone who is terrified to stray from the party 23

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line. In one response to an essay titled, "Soul Food," she went on and on about how nice it is for every culture to have its own food, clothing, holidays, etc. When I returned the paper I asked her if her last name was Greek. We got to talking about her trip to Greece and the beauty of the country and her culture. I asked if she would re-write the response telling me about three Greek foods, how they are prepared and how they taste. This response was her best. For once she was engaged in the assignment. Her writing had meaning, authority, voice, and clarity. The work was truly hers. More importantly, she suddenly got the idea of what it meant to write from inside herself, her own experience. She began to understand what a difference it makes. In a similar example another student had written a personal narrative describing her feelings when her mother left her for three months to go on an extended honeymoon. It was the best work this student had done. I made a point of stopping her before class to tell her how much I enjoyed reading the paper and to ask more about her relationship with her mother and how it was going. After this short conversation this young woman's writing improved considerably. She seemed to feel she had an audience who was interested in what she had to say and who she was. It is a fascinating irony that when a teacher helps a student to feel less alone, the student is able to write from a more alone place as an individual becoming more in touch with themselves and more self-actualized In a more sophisticated psychological 24

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interpretation the student is clearly encouraged to pursue their own agenda instead of the teacher's. This is what psychological separation and self-actualization are about. In this chapter I would like to explore further how a teacher might create a classroom that nurtures self-actualization as a primary goal in hopes that better writing would be a concomitant. I would also speculate that this type of environment would be better for many other types of learning, but given the possibility of a special relationship between better writing and self-actualization the results in a writing class would be more profound. Most writing teachers would agree that some of the best writing shows an integration of form and content. Form and content work together to create an integrated and more powerful effect. Marshall McLuan said, "The media is the message." In the same way I believe that the tone of the writing class must reflect or mirror the qualities of the best writing The thinking here is that there would be more meaning, authority, voice, development, design, and clarity in papers produced in classrooms whose environments contained these elements, as well as nurtured them. The task of this chapter will be to describe what it might mean for a classroom to reflect these elements and to nurture them. Since I that self-actualization and better writing contain the same qualities, nurturing these qualities in the person or in the writing would yield better writing and greater personal growth. Perhaps the most critical quality in any classroom is meaning. Murray says 25

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meaningful writing has content. This is also true of a meaningful classroom. The student must leave feeling she has more than when she came. If the classroom is a meaningful place, the foundation for authority, voice, development, design and clarity has been laid. The challenge to the teacher is not to somehow give the student meaning because this is impossible. The role of the teacher is to create a classroom where the responsibility for meaningful thoughts and ideas rests with the student. Patrick McGee in his article "Truth and Resistance: Teaching As A Form of Analysis," writes: A teacher who would teach his or her student a relation to language must come before them not as a master, even though he or she knows and even uses their presumption of the teacher's knowledge. He or she comes before them as the learner, the analysand, the subject who speaks more than it knows. Since students usually assume themselves to be the analysand vis-a-vis the teacher, the teacher must reverse the situation and hand their questions back to them in a way that reveals a rhetorical function (676). Students often come to class expecting the teacher to fill them with knowledge. They essentially want to be given meaning. Paulo Freire writes, "Liberating education consists of acts of cognition, not transferals of information" (60). For most of us, the majority of our education has been a transfer of information. A classroom that has as its primary goal personal growih can be revolutionary. For example if a teacher in a writing class puts a paper on a transparency for a class to analyze she would not be enhancing the personal or writing growth of her students by 26

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telling them the problems inherent in the paper. She would not be directive, especially at first. Instead she would ask open-ended questions designed to help students think. She herself would not know the answers. She might ask how the conclusion might be improved or what grade the paper deserved and why. These are not questions that have clear right or wrong answers. The student would be forced into a kind of cognitive chaos by the teacher's refusal to be simply a conduit of information. Gregory Jay, in his article, "The Subject of Pedagogy: Lessons in Psychoanalysis and Politics" believes that the "teacher must seek to make the student illunsettle complacency" (790). He goes on to write, "Our job in the classroom, then, is to teach criticism, and this ought to be the fundamental principle underlying the constmction of the syllabus, the arrangement of readings, the direction of discussion, and the assignment of papers" (799). In the same article Jay writes about the student's superb ability to ferret out what the teacher wants. Constance Penley, in her recent work in psychoanalysis and feminism, observes that, "the student, like the child with the parent, is almost clairvoyant when it comes to understanding the desire of the Other and how best narcissistically to milTor what the Other desires. This transference effectively stymies critical thin.l.;:ing by inculcating a relationship of identification instead of analysis. It fixes the position _of knowledge rather than questioning assumptions or displacing privileges" (785). As long as the student feels he is giving the teacher what she wants, the classroom will be devoid of meaning for either student or teacher. 27

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Eric Fromm defined the necessary relationship between student and teacher that best serves personal growth in The Art of Loving. It is interesting to note that personal growth for the student must also mean growth for the teacher. Real education is a win-win proposition for both student and teacher. He says, "The teacher is taught by his students, the actor is stimulated by his audience, the psychoanalyst is cured by his patient provided they do not treat each other as objects, but are related to each other genuinely and productively" (21 ). In meaningful classrooms the teacher is not just listening to her students because that is what good teachers do. She is listening to her students because she truly likes to learn from them and has no doubt she will. Her genuine openness to her students can be unsettling to them, but also refreshing. In its most ideal form it serves the process of their creation of meaning, not only in the classroom, but in the text of their writing. The meaning they are forced to create in their own minds by a teacher who consistently refuses to do it for them is transferred to the text. This issue of genuineness or integrity is very important as we move into Murray's second quality of good writing, authority. Our students cannot write with authority unless they are able to say what they really.think. Murray uses the words honesty, integrity, commitment, and non-conformity to describe authority in writing. Eric Fromm writes in The Art of Loving, "Most people are not even aware of their need to conform. They live under the illusion that they follow their own ideas and 28

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inclinations, that they are individualists, that they have arrived at their own opinions as the result of their own thinking" (11). Classrooms that nurture personal growth simmer with conflicting ideas. The teacher in such a classroom is able herself to see meaning in opposite points of view and encourage her students to do so. The creative act is rebellious. Authority in writing takes personal power. To write with authority a student must be able to see the cracks in the authorities he has previously either admired or followed unquestioningly. Rollo May writes in The Courage to Create, "To create a person must fight tonfonnity, apathy, material success, and exploitive power" (26). The most self-actualizing classrooms must provide students with a refuge so they are not afraid to articulate ideas that may seem dangerous or stupid or simply different. Ronald Schleifer writes, "the job of the teacher is to make ignorance present in the surface of discourse in order to effect an interplay of meanings constructed, fonned, realized somewhere else, in students, in silence, in the fact that the received ideas of students are different from those of the teacher" (812). It is worth noting here that all rebellious ideas, all questioning of authority does not turn out to be sensible or . meaningful, but in classrooms where greater self-actualization is the goal, every idea offers an opportunity for expanded consciousness and discussion. This is why the teacher must want, more than anything else, the student to think. Let's say a teacher gives students two sample essays to read. Both essays are excellent. The teacher asks 29

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students which one is better and why. The teacher and students will learn new perspectives from what anyone says about the essays. The classroom becomes not a place to say what pleases the teacher because the teacher is not looking for any specific answers, but rather for evidence of critical thinking on the part of students. Whenever I ask a question in my classroom that I know the answer to I feel instinctively that I have asked a lousy question. There is no room for me to learn. There is no room for my students to think critically. A weak comment is not so much a mistake as an opportunity. We've all said, thought, and written things we later regret. Authority in writing is not found in the assurance that we are finally right, but in our commitment to be honest with ourselves at any given moment. What this means is that we say what we are really thinking rather than what we think someone else wants to hear. In self-actualizing classrooms this is a central requirement. I once heard Jim Lehrer, a well-respected PBS journalist say he tried to help his guests express their ideas in the best, most convincing light. This is in contrast to many journalists who interview someone with the goal of showing their weakness or stupidity. In classrooms where self-actualization is the goal, the teacher believes in the logic of the student asking her to further explain her thinking rather than showing her why it's wrong. The worst thing we can do is silence our students. I once told a student I felt his paper was beautifully written as far as the metaphors he chose and the words he used, but, in my opinion, it just didn't say very much. He disagreed 30

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vehemently and explained why he believed the paper deserved an A instead of the B I had given him. I repeated what he said so he would know I heard him and understood and then I changed his grade to an A. I told him I stood by my original feelings and asked him to continue thinking about my position on the subject. The openness and nondefensiveness of the exchange caused him to seriously analyze what I said. Later he told me he agreed and would show me more content and stronger ideas in his next paper, which was also beautifully written AND had an important point. Essentially, I helped him find a way to be more honest with himself. Being honest with yourself is a concomitant of being yourself and no writer can have a distinctive voice unless she is being herself. Murray believes a "writer's voice may be the most significant element in distinguishing memorable writing from good writing" (66). Earlier in his book, Learning bv Teaching, he says, "Our students want to be seen and understoodsome of them never have been" (44). Classrooms where students are truly seen and understood are classrooms where individual voices are nurtured. Being seen nurtures confidence. It is very self-actualizing. A voice truly heard in the classroom becomes a stronger voice in the text. Murray also uses the words "aliveness" and to describe voice. These attributes are the antithesis of Paulo Freire's "banking" concept of education, which he believes kills any real learning. He says, "The narrative character of education causes it to become lifeless. The idea of filling the students causes the 31

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contents to become detached from reality" (52). In classrooms where spontaneity is lacking either because the teacher talks the whole time or the lessons are to heavily planned and prescribed, students cannot develop a voice. There is no room for a sense of aliveness. For teachers who are terrified of surprises these classrooms eliminate the possibility. However the possibility for students to find their individual voice is also greatly reduced Students lacking in confidence do what Nancy Welch describes in her article, "Revising A Writer's Identity". They write not only what the teacher wants to hear, but with the tone and voice that's expected of them that is, until they move on to the next teacher. Then the process begins anew. The voice in their papers changes, but it is never natural because it is never their own. The classroom environment that lends itself to the development of voice is what Maslow calls Taoistic. He writes about this type of teaching in The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. In the first place, unlike the current model of teacher as lecturer, conditioner, reinforcer, and boss, the Taoistic helper or teacher is receptive rather than intrusive. I was told once that in the world of boxers, a youngster who feels himself to be good and who wants to be a boxer will go to a gym, look up one of the managers, and say,"I'd like to be a pro, and I'd like to be in your I'd like you to manage me." In this world what is then done charact1tristically is to try him out. The good manager will select one of his professionals and say, "Take him into the ring. Stretch him. Strain him. Let's see what he can do. Just let him show his very best. Draw him out." If it turns out the boxer has promise, if he's a natural, then what the good manager does is to take that boy and train him to be, if this is Joe Dokes, a better Joe Dokes. That is he takes his style as given and builds on that. He does not start all over again, and say, "Forget all you've learned, and do it 32

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this new way, which is like saying, "Forget what kind of body you have or forget what you are good for." He takes him and builds upon his own talents and builds him up into the very best Joe Dokes -type boxer that he possibly can. (181-2). The teacher's goal is to uncover and then help. One of the ways a teacher can tell how well she's doing is how different individual portfolios are . If the subjects, styles, and voices of her paper are very distinctive she can take heart. The student feels comfortable becoming more herself. This is why Murray's philosophy of accepting the individual is so important to the writer as well as to the psychological growth of the individual. This is also why the idea of being receptive to the student and accepting of him contributes to the development of the text, as well as the development of the students. Robert Brooke, in his article, "Lacan, Transference and Writing Instruction" says, "The sequence of connections I draw as I explore an idea, as I meditate, is a sequence which changes me" (688). As the student changes so will the text. The more the student writes, the more she elaborates, the more the text develops, deepens, and changes. The revision of the text and the revision of the writer occur simultaneously. Both the text and the writer begin process in chaos. The empty page creates a sense of anxiety in the student. Students often say they don't know what to write about or how to show what they think. Teachers who care about personal growth may ask students about their interests or feelings but never give them 33

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ideas. I once asked a student to make a list of all the things she loved to do with her grandmother. It was all I said, but it served to help her create a very powerful paper. The teacher should not try too hard to illuminate the anxiety. It serves as motivation for the student to find herself as well as her text. In every assignment the process begins anew, but hopefully the student and the text reach higher levels of integration and more profound levels of meaning. Ann Berth off knew the importance of beginning in chaos. She quotes I.A. Richards who said that 11ambiguities are the hinges ofthought11 (Making of Meaning 75). He also described a 11model that does not oppose skills and personal growth but makes them contingent upon one another11 (58). Teachers who contribute to the development of the student along with the development of the text 11do not expect the student to know what he means until he hears what he says11 (Making of Meaning 57). The text develops slowly through thinking, revising and talking to others. The journey in such a classroom is towards greater meaning and coherence in the text as the journey to self-actualization is toward greater meaning and coherence in the person. In school as in life there is never enough time, but the brief camaraderie of the classroom does offer the student <('";. others who will help him refine and develop his ideas. Rollo May wrote in The Courage to Create, 11Both solitude and solidarity are essential if the artist is to produce works that are not only significant to his or her age, but that will speak to future generations11 (12). Also, the opportunity to work with peers ameliorates some of the 34

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teacher's power, a problem in any journey of self-actualization that was discussed in detail earlier in this chapter. We cannot discuss the development or substance of a text without also commenting on form. Ann Berthoff in The Making of Meaning said, "Whatever research has been done corroborates what every experienced writer knows, that the form of what is being written helps discover the substance; that intention and representation are mutually contingent" (55). In classrooms where personal growth is a priority, the goal is not to help the student create order immediately in the design of the text but to let order emerge from the limits the substance of the text imposes on the writer Ifthis sounds magical perhaps in some ways it is because so much of the writing process is unconscious and inexplicable Sometimes the teacher must create chaos in the student's mind in order to help them write a better paper. A student once asked me how she should approach a paper on the evils of procrastination. I told her that whole approach to the subject was overdone. There were great advantages to procrastinating and she should think about them. Often we must destroy predictability to encourage spontaneity. For this student that comment was enough. Rollo May in The Courage to Create tells us that, arises out of the tension between spontaneity and limitations" (137). Peter Elbow also knew this when he commented that, "logic and order do not create anything new" (31 ). In the taoistic sense Maslow described, the teacher's responsibility is to let the student struggle with 35

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design in the text in hopes that some elegance will emerge. Even though the student has been taught the fundamental design of academic forms, struggling to create the form for themselves will produce anxiety. May knew that "anxiety is understandably a concomitant of the shaking of the self-world relationship that occurs in the creative encounter" (1 07). Anxiety is also a concomitant of achieving higher, more elegant levels of personal integration. James Moffett, in his book, Teaching the Universe of Discourse saw the relationship between language and growth. He said, "Intellectual stimulation is far more likely to accelerate syntactic growth than grammar knowledge" (163). A classroom based on a belief in the value of personal growth is a place where time is not spent on grammar exercises. Basically, the goal is to free the student as much as possible to complete his paper and himself. There is a very high level of trust evident in such classrooms. Certainly when the teacher believes an appropriate text design does emerge the credit will go to the student. This type of thinking emphasizes a philosophy of education where truth and knowledge are believed to be brought out of the student rather than put into him. Maslow's belief in "uncovering" as a primary :. responsibility of the teacher and the therapist is germane here. It is ultimately a very optimistic teaching philosophy. The optimism, however, must be tempered by patience Growth is slow and painful. This includes growth as a person as well as growth as a writer. The teacher 36

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trusts that meaning, design, and clarity will eventually be revealed to the student. However, the cycle is repeated in the next assignment. Robert Brooks compared the writing process to the talking cure in, perhaps, the best article I have read on the subject of psychological growth and better writing. The similarities between writing and psychoanalysis were graphically revealed. He said in his article titled "Lacan, Transference, and Writing Instruction" that both involve language. He compared free writing to free association. Both are the chaos and ambiguity from which we trust meaning and form will appear. He describes both as a search for truth . In the therapeutic process the cornerstone is the idea that the truth will set you free. There is no truly excellent writing that does not have a quality of integrity, a voice of authority. Brooke goes on to characterize both writing and psychological growth as a movement from darkness to light, a journey towards greater meaning and coherence. For those of us who encourage our students to revise, both are a journey without a destination. Brooke believes the teacher and the analyst share similar goals. Both are interested in helping others explore the self. Both should be receptive rather than intrusive. Perhaps composing is a method of forming the self. And, finally, Brooke believes writing is like analysis because both are long term efforts. Maybe the most gratifying example of success for those of us who teach writing is knowing our students continue to want to do it. Abraham Maslow wrote in The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, "Ultimately the best way of teaching is to make students aware of the 37

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beauties involved" (183). For that, we have to be aware of them ourselves. That awareness clearly involves humbling ourselves to the mystery of the writing process. Berthoff quotes lngmar Bergman in her book Reclaiming the Imagination, "Such an awful lot of things go on between me and the actors, on a level which defies analysis" (274). For those of us who believe our students' growth as people is critical if they are to become better writers, that mystery is an important part of the beauty. One of the keys is to get out of the way and let it work. 38

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CHAPTER4 LIMITATIONS AND PROBLEMS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH Over the many months, perhaps years, that I have considered the relationship between personal growth and better writing there have not been many times when I believed that the whole idea was ridiculous and not worth the time and effort of studying it. However, there have been many, many times that I recognized, with despair, how slowly students do grow (as people and as writers), how difficult growth is to measure, and how much skill it takes to be a teacher who furthers self-actualization and writing improvement in students. We would all like to believe that our students will write their weakest paper first and their strongest paper last with only steady consistent improvement in between. But we know this type oflinear growth rarely happens. Instead our students falter and stumble. It is not uncommon for the worst paper of the semester to appear AFTER the best paper. Students have left my class at the end of the semester feeling like worse writers than they were when they came. Sometimes, I'm embarrassed to say I agree with them. I hope I'm not just deluding myself when I believe all of this is not necessarily bad news. James Moffett VvTote in Teaching the Universe of Discourse, "Nothing less than the growth ofthe whole human being requires a new integration of learning" (215). This new integration, this change in a 39

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whole person that I have advocated in this thesis is not easy or smooth. It's downright painful and unsettling. Sometimes it requires that students temporarily take a step backward before there is a noticeable improvement. We must be patient. This is part of the problem with adopting a strategy that tries to avoid filling the student with our pointers and hints and ideas and knowledge. We feel so helpless and useless. It's almost un-American. In a country where profit is the motive and it can be easily measured, we look for quick results. Our government, our corporations, the families who send us their members ask for and expect immediate results. We are conditioned to the speed of microwaves, computers, and space modules. We always look for better, which often means faster. In education that means new methods, new technologies. I am not totally unsympathetic to this. In school as in life the one thing we are shortest on is time. H. Douglas Brown criticizes Carl Rogers, whose theories on education are similar to mine. Rogers' theory is not without its flaws. The educator may be tempted to take the nondirective approach too far, to the point that valuable time is lost in the process of allowing students to "discover" facts and principles for themselves. Also a nonthreatening environment may become so nonthreatening facilitative tension needed for learning is removed. There is ample reseru:.
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order. Faster is not always better, but too slow will not accomplish our goals effectively either. In the last chapter I made some comparisons between the psychoanalytic process and the writing process. I said at one point that both go on over a lifetime Although this is true, it is also true that I want my students to be able to write a basic, clear, cohesive essay when they leave my class. It is not too much to ask. The accomplishment of this goal is questionable for some students. I believe that this is unacceptable. For some students the thesis here may not be enough or may not solve the problems. Certainly one of the most critical issues inherent in trying to improve student writing by linking it to psychological growth is the slow pace of progress. In teaching writing we must continually look to speed the process without creating other more serious problems. While keeping self-actualization and creativity in the forefront we may also identify other areas in the process that are imperative for more speedy results. These include, but are not limited to, ways of working on basic skills. The emphasis on the self-actualization of the student the importance of creativity, the slowness ofreal growth and the possibility of stepping backward before significant growth as a writer and a person raises the greatest problem in my investigation. How will we measure growth as a person, growth as a writer and the possibility of a connection between the two? Can any of this be measured at all, let alone in the course of one semester? Does the possibility that some or all of my 41

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theory is untestable make it worthless? These questions are very disturbing to me. I am not the first person to concern myself with the difficulties inherent in teacher research. Ann Berthoffwrote in The Making of Meaning, "To speak of mind could represent an unembarrassed recognition of the fact that everything we deal with in composition theory is fundamentally and unavoidably philosophical" (60). Philosophical theories can never be totally proven. Moffett tries to illuminate the problems of proving educational theory when he writes, "If someone were to describe lovemaking by charting relations of heartbeat, electrical potential, skin temperature, and brain waves I would not therefore classify this description as humanistic, however dear the activity may be to human practitioners" (Discourse 182). Finally, the best response to the problem may be Lous Heshusius' in a recent edition of Educational Researcher "Given the inseparability o( ourselves as researchers and as persons, the questions we must ask are no longer on the order of epistemological ones like, Are my results correct in the sense of accurate? but rather on the order of moral ones like, What kind of person am I or do I become? or What kind of society do we have or are we constructing? (20). I honestly believe that my thoughts about the importance of personal growth to better writing, as well as to education in general, hold up under ethical scrutiny. But Heshusius also asks the last and perhaps most pressing question my investigation has raised for me. When she asks, "What kind of person am I or do I 42

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become? (20) that becomes perhaps the most central question to be directed to the teacher. John T. Gage writes, "Socrates condemned the art of rhetoric, then, as a false version of dialectic, because even though it seemed to use the same techniques of argumentation, it disregarded the thing that mattered most: a desire to "know oneself' (Petrosky 1 0). H. Douglas Brown emphasizes the same precept in his book, Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. when he discusses Carl Rogers' views on education. Teachers, to be facilitators, must first of all be real and genuine, discarding masks of superiority and omniscience. Second, teachers need to have genuine trust, acceptance, and a prizing of the other person-the student-as a worthy, valuable individual. And third, teachers need to communicate openly and empathically with their students and vice versa. Teachers with these characteristics will not only understand themselves better but will also be effective teachers" (86). Finally Maslow points out in The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, "Since the children imitate the attitudes of the teacher, the teacher can be encouraged to become a joyful and self-actualizing person" (181). I have written a great deal about the importance of the self-actualization ofthe student. But in the end the question that .. returns to haunt me is, do I know myself? Can I expect to help anyone else become more self-actualized if it is not my own priority? How important is the degree of self-actualization demonstrated by the teacher? This raises many other peripheral questions. Do older teachers who have had more time to grow as people make better 43

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teachers? Does method or technique of teaching matter as much as the basic maturity of the teacher which may appear in the classroom more powerfully than any method? Are we entering dangerous psychological territory in education to even ask these questions? Even if we could measure the degree of self-actualization of the teacher would it be wise or even ethical? The ethical, moral, psychological, educational, and even spiritual implications of positing a relationship between self-actualization and better writing are daunting. There is a viable argument that composition is a skill that takes much practice and drill and any emphasis on the individual personality of students is more of the fleeting fashion in psycho babble. Once we pursue a line of thinking that speculates on any relationship between psychology and w-riting we leave firm ground and veer off into what some rhetoricians believe is risky and unprovable. Education, however, is not an exact science. We have always been forced by its very nature to study the student and teacher, as well as the subject. The thesis here would force rhetoricians to unite with psychologists. Some of us would run from the idea. Given the state of some of the most specious reasoning in psychology today this would not be surprising. But _, neither psychology nor composition have a monopoly on questionable research We see it everywhere. Certainly some of our students or their parents will question the connection between better writing and self-actualization. We can tell them we question it too, but our questions, rather than precluding further research, demand it. 44

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There was a time when I believed I would get better and better as a teacher until I thought of myself as a master with nowhere to go. Instead the questions and possibilities for improvement have become more and more complex and feel less and less possible. I do believe that increased self-actualization is a worthy goal in any classroom, particularly a writing classroom. When I say this I am thinking of self-actualization for both teacher and student. I do not believe the promise of education can begin to be realized without an emphasis on psychological growth, as well as intellectual and academic growth The responsibilities of being a teacher weigh heavier on me every year, but their burden is greatly lightened by the rewards. I still dream of running a classroom so challenging, so hard, so invigorating that time is transcended and in the end my students and I will be better writers and better people. I still believe there is a direct relationship between the two. I also have grown to trust my students more and more to find the way In psychologically healthy classrooms teachers and students find the way together. That is really the only possibility for everyone to grow in significant ways. The task is not fast or easy Success is never guaranteed and some failure is inevitable. But sometimes for a brief ., shining moment the classroom works the way you want it to. Abraham Maslow would call it a peak experience. I'm a poet, so I would say sometimes teaching becomes a poem. When that happens we're all more self-actualized. 45

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Berthoff, Ann E. The Making of Meaning. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1981. Berthoff, Ann E. ed. Reclaiming the Imagination. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1984. Brooke, Robert. "Lacan, Transference, and Writing." College English. 49.6 (1987):679-690. Brown, H. Douglas. Principles of Language Lear:ning and Teaching Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1994 Coles, William, Jr. The Plural I And After. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1988. Davis, Robert Con. "Freud's Resistance to Reading and Teaching." College English. (1987):621-627. Davis, Robert Con. "Pedagogy, Lacan, and the Freudian Subject" College English. 49:7 (1987) 749-755. Elbow, Peter. Embracing Contraries. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. Freire, Paulo. Pedagogv of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 1970. Fromm, Erich. The Art ofLoving. New York: Harper Row. 1956. Hays, Janice, ed. et al. The Writer's Mind Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 1984. Heshusius, Lous. "Freeing Ourselves From Objectivity: Managing Subjectivity or Turning Toward a Participatory Mode of Consciousness?" Educational Researcher 23:3 (1994) 15-21. Jay, Gregory. "The Subject ofPedagogy:Lessons in Psychoanalysis and Politics." College English. 49.7 ( 1987) : 785-799. Maslow, A. H. The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. New York: Penguin, 1 971. 46

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May, Rollo. Man's Search For Himself. New York: Dell, 1953. May, Rollo. Psychology and the Human Dilemna. New York: Rheinhold, 1967. May, Rollo. The Courage to Create. New York: Bantam, 1975. McGee, Patrick. "Truth and Resistance: Teaching As a Form of Analysis". College English. 49.6 (1987) 667-677. Moffett, James. Detecting Growth In Language. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1992. Moffett, James. Teaching the Universe ofDiscourse. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968. Murray, Donald. Learning bv Teaching. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1982. Petrosky, Anthony R. and David Bartholomae, ed. The Teaching of Writing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986. Rogers, Carl. On Becoming A Person. Boston Houghton Mifflin, 1961. Schleifer, Ronald. "Lacan's Enunciation and the Cure of Mortality: Teaching, Transference, and Desire." College English 49:7 (1987). Sugarman, Leonie, ed. Life-Span Development. New York: Routledge, 1986. Tate, Gary ed, et al. The Writing Teacher's Sourcebook. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. Ueland, Brenda, If You Want To Write. Saint Paul: GraywolfPress, 1938. Ulmer, Gregory. "Textshop for Psychoanalysis: On De-programming Freshman Platonists". College English 49.7 (1987) 756-769. Welch, Nancy. "Revising A Writer's Identity: Reading and Remodeling In A Composition Class." College Composition and Communication 4 7.1 ( 1996) 41-59. Zinsser, William. On Writing Well. New York: Harper PerenniaL 1990. 47