Creative Writing Should Be Optional

November 29, 2007
By Bahij Chance, New York, NY

At my high school, after the 10th grade art class became an optional course and those students whose specialty isn’t art rejoiced. Any bad grades that they might’ve received in art from then on would be avoided and no longer be factored into their average. Not to say that our art teacher gave bad grades to bad art. Teachers who teach an art form must not take prior artistic ability too much into account. However, when assessing something that is as subject to opinion as art, it is almost impossible to grade completely objectively.

If art is changed into an optionally graded course, then why is English class still mandatory? Like art, creative writing should not be graded and factored into a student’s average because of its subjective nature. Just like visual arts, skill in literary arts does not come easily to some people. Not only that, but the English language has so many different forms and functions that it is unfair to grade everyone under the same category: standard written English. This is not to say that English should not be taught in schools. It is a necessary tool in life to be able to articulate your thoughts and opinions, and it is our common language. However, assessing it under one guideline limits creativity and puts some students at a disadvantage.

The English that is taught in schools, SWE (Standard Written English) is just one, of the many types of English that exist. Students come from a variety of different backgrounds, and therefore speak many different variations of English. If you take a person who has grown up all their life in a community that speaks in Ebonics, and a student that has always spoken in a southern dialect it does not promote literary creativity to grade both student’s works under a guideline of SWE when both works might be great in their own way. To study SWE in schools is fine. It’s the same as studying Escher in art class. You can learn from and admire his work, but you’re not necessarily graded on your ability to draw like him. On the contrary, in English class you both study, and are expected to write in one style: Standard Written English.

James Baldwin argues that standard written English can not acclaim itself the only form of English, and that by ignoring other dialects it hinders their ability to be recognized as forms of English, and therefore insults the cultures from which they derive. He goes on in his essay to say that “People evolve a language in order to be able to describe and thus control their circumstances…”(Baldwin par 2). This shows that by neglecting a persons derived language and refusing to accept it as a legitimate means to literarily express themselves, the facility that is supposed to be teaching control of a language, would ultimately be putting the writer out of place, and limiting his or her ability to command their thoughts and opinions. If limiting the writing forms taught in school to a single type will inherently do this, then is it fair to grade creative writing along a single English form’s guidelines?

Now I hope that you will understand that there is a difference between the study of a language, and creative writing, so much so that they cannot be considered as one topic. That is why when assessing any student’s creative writing it is unfair to assess it from the perspective of only one form of English. In respect to this, creative writing should be treated as an optionally graded class, and those students who are willing to write in this form can be graded on it, as an art form. However those who do not wish to submit their works to be scrutinized under the principles of SWE after having studied it, are not forced to.

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This article has 1 comment.

on Jul. 15 2009 at 5:10 pm
kiwi12 PLATINUM, Austin, Texas
28 articles 10 photos 365 comments
Art should not have been changed to optional course, obviously. Everyone has a bit of creativity within themselves, but sometimes the only way to bring it out is force by making it required.

At my school, creative writing is a seperate class and is an optional course you can take. For english class in general, you can't stop the teacher from making you write a creative assignment, it's the class and her job.


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