Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Monday, July 28, 2008

Me, Myself, and I

The other day I was asking myself, "Self, why do these scholars always use "you" and not "I"?

The reason, I discovered, was that they were taught, told not to use "I." Why on earth would they be told that, I wondered. In conversations with teachers, I hear "I don't allow the use of "I" in essays. They have to use the third person." I understand this argument when the author is writing about another person or a character in a piece of literature or non fiction. The third person has its place as does the second person. However, the forbidding of the first person is astonishing especially in a personal essay, an essay about the thoughts, beliefs, interpretations of the writer upon the subject, topic of said essay. So what do I see more than I'd like to talk about is the abuse of the second person.


What is wrong with the first person in an essay? I am reminded of what Montaigne has told us about the essay, it is personal, it is written from the first person point of view. No wonder our scholars are confused when they are forbidden to use the first person and then on the other hand instructed to provide their thoughts, ideas, beliefs in their own words in their essays. Certainly when a scholar is reporting about another person or character, the use of the third person is appropriate and correct. When the scholar uses dialogue the second person is correct. When a scholar is writing an essay, the first person is appropriate to express personal opinions.

I am reminded by Zimmerman and Keene's Mosaic of Thought about the seven habits of a proficient reader that includes "Text to Self." The reader is asked to assess how the text relates to the reader. What does the reader bring to the text as in prior knowledge and what does the reader learn about self? As the reader reports on this, using "I" is obvious and necessary. When I consider reasons why we write, I consider that we write to learn what we know and to communicate with others. In both cases the use of "I" is necessary. I am confused why teachers would not allow the use of "I" in their scholars' writing. I encourage my scholars to use "I" when they write.

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