Argh! A quick vent: who is the idiot who chose this exceedingly stupid comp readings anthology? Oh, yeah. Me. Grr. The sucky part about being allowed to choose all my own books is, of course, that I have no one else to blame.
My complaint is this: I want medium to long length examples of good writing (5-10 pages). I hate assigning two-page essays when I have a hard minimum of four for my own students, and I hate teaching essays that are interesting conceptually but that replicate the exact same informal writing and bad habits that I am currently trying to beat out of my own students. And how can I model good MLA or APA documentation style if not a single essay in the book cites anything??? Argh!!
Since I had the freedom to pick whatever I wanted, I chose a subject near and dear to my heart: pop culture. But a lot of this writing is bad, bad, bad. I hate using a piece as a model when it uses "you" and skips over important chunks of the argument with a flippant, "amirite, amirite?" comment. Conceptually, there are a lot of pieces that work well together in this book --- there are a lot of repetitions and bad overlap, too, unfortunately. But my students are right when they notice that an author has put the thesis --- what passes for a thesis --- in question form at the very end of the essay, or that he pulls evidence from his ass rather than actually sources and cites an argument.
There are also some personal essays in this anthology --- you know how I loathe personal essays as academic models! --- and I have found that, surprisingly, the students like these and they teach well (I guess Alice Walker shouldn't be much of a surprise). Also, the indirect, exploratory style of the personal essay is good for analysis and for practicing uncovering themes; it works much less well for modeling argument and sources. And I am also frustrated with how little the different essays "cover" the topics, often having a strong stance against an issue in one essay and none of the others really addressing the issue at all, much less showing that there are other sides in addition to the "opposite" side. That said, some of the essays from different thematic chapters basically repeat each other.
Somewhere there has to be the perfect comp anthology out there for me. Anybody have any titles to suggest?
I am also using Brenda Spatt's Writing From Sources, which I really really like but haven't quite figured out how to teach with it yet, and also, while it does have lots of sample readings, possibly enough to use as the readings as well as a "how to think about writing" text, I don't feel like teaching those themes (mostly education). Still pondering. And still ordering sample textbooks, so please make some suggestions! Save me from my own bad choices!