Assignations and Assassinations. Hate assignments? You’re not alone.

Status: Seeing as I don’t know when I might have time again to get to work, I’ll be getting onto this first. If I have time, I’ll come back to edit it again. If not, we’ll just deal with this as it is.

Dear Reader,

Assignments and writing as your heart desires. One so confined, the other defined by the limits of your imagination. One where you have to play the to the tune of a tutor and teacher, the other almost a waltz through the page. One where you are worried about the grades, and the other worried about what you can bring, and whether you can impress others (and most importantly, yourself). It really is kind of hard to look at assignments and at the freedom of writing without immediately dismissing the former.

But sometimes, you have to take a stand. And my stand?

I toss the assignments out onto a trash heap, and immolate them in a flash of fire.

If you can’t tell, I hate writing for assignments.

As I have mentioned many times and will probably mention again and again, unlike my esteemed colleagues on the Silver Pens blog, I reside within the continent of Asia – which is also known as the continent of schooling powerhouses. Students in many countries in Asia (Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and China come to mind almost instantly) are subjected to intense drilling. And by intense I mean intense. It isn’t rare for a student of my age to complain of waking up at six in the morning and subsequently staying in school till six or seven.

((Just as a personal example, I run a schedule of waking up at five-thirty in the morning and don’t begin the journey home till four or five at the earliest. By the time I reach home, it is already late, and I rush a dinner before drowning myself in paperwork and studies. Worse still are the days where I only leave school at six. I effectively devote more than twelve hours of my day to school.))

And with my personal experience with how people are taught English in my country’s education system? It is one that has largely failed.

When one engages in essays that are narrative in nature, that requires you to learn through experience and a feel (or flair) for words, the grading system that is used cannot be rigid and inflexible. Creativity cannot be taught as easily as mechanics, and this is one of the largest reasons why I am critical of the Asian-model of schooling. With a policy that emphasises mechanics and accords little leeway for creative interpretation, writing as a whole within our system has failed. Many of my peers, and younger students, have become afraid to write what they want, and automatically censor themselves. Worse still, they throw themselves at articles, idioms, and dry  books that ‘guarantee’ that with a ‘method’, one will score an A.

I have nothing but disdain for that. Because that is not learning how to write, that is merely learning how to circumvent a system that is unfortunately, highly mechanised, and thusly unable to foster a creative spirit within students.

While I of course, do believe strongly in absorbing content through reading widely and deeply, I still however hold deep reservations with regards to forms of writing that require creativity as a criteria for evaluation. A cursory check on the goals of the Ministry that oversees education would reveal that overseers are concerned with ‘how can we do better’, with little to no debate by what we mean by ‘creative writing’. And this is what I feel about education as a whole – that the Ministry is not concerned with creativity, but rather with mechanics.

Logic, form, arguments can all be taught. In fact, language itself can be osmosed if one reads regularly and engages in consistent and intelligent conversation with others. Achieving mastery of a language and its various technicalities is simple – it is the creativity that comes along with it that is the defining characteristic which separates a good writer from a great one. And great thinkers are sadly lacking within our society, whose alarmist tendencies and policies tend to stifle creative expression, commonly seeing it as an avenue that can encourage dissent. How sad, isn’t it.

My main problem with assignments? It’s that it replaces the determination to be creative and instead confines us – replacing our self-determined goals with the threshold of marks.

Some writers, myself included, write because we want to. We don’t commonly write serious posts like these, or publish gloomy editorials every other week. I can be informative at times, but sometimes I write for a laugh, sometimes I write things that I feel like writing. Sometimes, I write because I want to surprise a friend with a gift, and sometimes I write because I want to share my view of the world with others. These are goals I set myself, these are goals that I’m willing to work for and to apply myself to, these are goals that are flexible and have no set criteria.

While assignments have a set number of rules and have their merits, such as for a teacher to check in on a student’s grasp of content and therefore troubleshoot what is there needed to cover once more, or for students to gain an extra perspective on how their writing could improve, but certain areas of writing simply cannot do with such a mechanical and inflexible grading system. And though I note that certain persons will not be suited for narrative and creative writing because of the level of their writing, I will however reserve my opinion that writing and the concept of creative writing and how it factors into grading and assignments must be overhauled.

Assignments? I loathe them with a passion. Give me creativity to write, and I will show you the world.

Jas

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