The friends and family God has given me in life are a bunch that (for the most part) dislike reading, and definitely dislike writing. My father was a business education major, my mother was an accounting major, my younger brother doesn’t care much for school in general but REALLY does not enjoy English class (boo hiss), and my best friend would much rather work on cars and drive big machines than write. It’s funny, both to them and myself, that I ended up choosing the career path that I did as an English educator.
I always thought that our differences were due largely in part to the way our minds were wired, and I still do. I’m not completely removed from their logical ideologies, but I consider myself more of an abstract thinker. Whereas my loved ones are more grounded in concrete concepts I often find myself taking a step back and looking at the big picture. However, after being exposed to a brief history of writing this past week, I’ve begun to rethink exactly why those close to me have such a distaste for writing like they do.
I know it might seem like a stretch. What on Earth does the history of writing have to do with personal preference? As it turns out, quite a lot. My Theory and Principles of Teaching Writing professor provided those in his class with a compelling history beginning well before Christ’s time taking part in the hypostatic union, expanding my mind on a subject that as far as I was concerned never really had a solid beginning. Reading it has led me to this conclusion; writing has never been truly accessible for everyone.
This might seem obvious at first. Many people are aware of how priests in the Middle Ages abused their power of being literate by specifically not letting anyone else learn how to read, write, or speak Latin. What many people don’t know is how often similar scenarios have occurred throughout history, well before and well after the Middle Ages. One of the most fascinating truths I learned from this history on writing in regards to this is how one of the first authors ever was actually a woman named Enheduanna. I’d be willing to bet a generous sum of money ($20, in college student speak) that not many outside of those firmly entrenched in writing academia had ever heard her name before this post, which is sad. Enheduanna is the first of a long line of people that have been excluded from learning something that should be a right, literacy.
That is precisely how she relates back to my own friends and family. Although personality and interests certainly play a role, one of the major reasons most people don’t enjoy writing is because it has never been made accessible to them. From the scribes allegedly keeping the first alphabet under wraps in order to preserve their high status in society, to slave owners forbidding slaves to learn how to read and write in an attempt to keep them powerless, to teachers who only teach how to write properly instead of exploring the craft, writing has been kept from the public both intentionally and unintentionally for ages.
As a result, my biggest take away from learning more about the history of writing is that I want to do everything in my power to make sure that I do not keep writing from any of my future students. For my parents, my brother, my best friend, and all those in history who did not have the privilege to explore such a wonderful medium in a way that was meaningful to them, I will do my best to make writing accessible in my classroom by making it a personal experience for each student. I desire nothing more than for all to believe in their own written word, and use it to share their unique ideas with a world that might otherwise try to silence them.