Should We Force People to Write?


I admit in Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing, that I never made my daughters write (they are home-educated, and I do it how I want).

In our education experience together, we've done a lot of other things that I believe turned my girls into writers, but mandatory writing was not one of them.

I am thinking about this today especially, after reading a quote at this wonderful place:

But what if the reading problem isn’t as simple as forcing students to read and write more (which we should also do)?

Really? Should we force students to write? Here's a poem from Sara, age 14, which she handed me today. She made up her own form for it. This, from a girl who has never been forced to write...

The Pirates and the Sun

Once upon a long ago time
When lemon trees fell in love with lime,
And all the fairy tales were true (if only in your mind)
A pirate sailed the seven seas to find the treasure.

The treasure sat on the rim of the sun,
At the edge of the sea, number 101,
At the edge of the night, just before it’s done,
And there sat the treasure, the only one.

The pirate’s flag was big and black,
It billowed and whipped and sometimes lay slack,
It was made of (don’t tell) a regular sack,
But it was the flag of a pirate.

The pirate smiled and twirled his moustache,
He grinned and rubbed his hands at the sight of the stash,
And one gold tooth in his mouth did flash,
And every pirate got gold, from the first to the last.

Now the pirates sailed back, for a year and a day,
And they met an old monk, who taught them how to pray,
And they had many adventures, don’t ever say
They weren’t the greatest pirates who lived.

Yes they sailed away, and now they came home,
With a bag of gold, and a horse from Rome,
And a parrot, a stick, and a wrinkled old gnome,
A drum and a harp and a broken trombone.

But the world had changed when they sailed to the sun,
To the last ever sea (number 101)
And the pirates’ fleet was sunken and gone,
And the world was round in the minds of everyone.

So the pirates took one look at the cities of the day,
From London to New York to the coast of Malay,
To the skyscrapers high and the waters grey,
And they turned right around, and went back where they came.

And now they do sail, past the coasts one by one,
Forever looking for the treasure, the only one,
And the edge of the sea right next the sun,
And the time they left behind long ago.

For what use is gold if your world is gone?
What use is a ship when it’s old and down-run?
What use is a crew of pirates who come
To the deck always looking for the thing which they long?

If we shouldn't force students to write (and I believe we shouldn't), what is the key to getting them to a place of excellence in reading and writing? Well, perhaps to answer to that question, you'll need to read the book. ;-) But I'd also love to hear your ideas right here today.

Labels: ,