One of my beloved clients Yael Nyholm, sent me this article from the Atlantic: “The End of High School English,” by Daniel Herman, which almost broke my heart. The article suggests that students will no longer have to learn how to write due to the arrival of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. In his article, he deliberates on the power of these applications and their ability to create essays with incredible efficiency and accuracy.
I was the little girl who spent most of my time curled up in books and had a flashlight under the covers to read into the night. I carried sharp pencils and journals with little golden locks and aspired to be a poet and novelist. The power of writing a personal narrative has saved my life. When my dad died, I was 19, and I wrote poetry that addressed my confusion and loss. When I adopted my first baby, I spent hours contemplating, in prose, the loss her birth mother must have felt when we parted at the hospital. I got divorced after thirty years, my writing got me out of bed to face my conflicting feeling of grief and joy. Writing saved me.
It’s no mistake that I have dedicated the second half of my life to working with students to find their voice as writers. The college admissions process invites students into a rigorous process of self-reflection. We work with students to “dig deep” into their hopes, dreams, and losses. We believe that the writing these students do is the Capstone Project of their high school experience.
Last night I met with a student who has written over 35 personal narratives for college admissions. His reflection comforts me:
“This process has been really hard and time-consuming. But the result is that I know more about what I want out of college, what I want to study, and how I want to be when I get there!”
I believe that the work we do at Emerging gives our students a glimpse into the power of writing personal narratives. I hope our students will continue telling their stories, making connections, and writing about their insights. So far, no AI can replicate the stories that lurk deep in our hearts.
As our students launch in this big wide world, they will need lots of tools to propel them forward!
Is it possible that a pencil and paper may be the armor that saves them?
I hope so!
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