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Chris Pasley chimes in on pen-and-paper debate

'I find it flattering that my article has become quite the topic of conversation. At the same time, I find it frustrating that the major point of the piece--that the traditional five-step writing process must be preserved--has somehow been lost in translation.'

Our report (titled "Should kids go back to pen and paper?") on Chris Pasley's opinion piece, "Computers Distract from Craft of Writing" (originally published in The Philadelphia Inquirer), inspired a number of reader responses and a rebuttal by Chris Dawson, "Should kids go back to papyrus?". Pasley responds:

"I find it flattering that my article "Computers Distract from Craft of Writing" has become quite the topic of conversation. At the same time, I find it frustrating that the major point of the piece--that the traditional five-step writing process must be preserved--has somehow been lost in translation. Although in my original commentary I state that high school students should use a pen and paper when brainstorming and writing rough drafts of essays, nowhere in the article do I suggest that they should totally scrap computers and word processors and go back to writing everything by hand.

"Yet somehow the question, "SHOULD KIDS GO BACK TO PEN AND PAPER?" was listed as the topic for discussion in conjunction with my article. As a journalism teacher, I understand the power of headlines, as well as the sneaky business of innuendo. The question "SHOULD KIDS GO BACK TO PEN AND PAPER?" is suggesting I'm trying to rid academia of technology, and this is unfair. The phrasing of this headline is clearly used to spark controversy, to elicit responses from readers.

"And it seems to have done a great job. Again, I am flattered that my commentary is the topic of this discussion. However, those who have responded to it (and particularly Christopher Dawson who wrote "Should kids go back to papyrus?"), must be aware of the "whisper-down-the-lane" effect of such discussions. If you go back and read my original commentary, read it with an open mind in its original context, you will find that it's more concerned with preserving the traditional writing process--prewriting, drafting, revising, editing and publishing--than it is with criticizing word processing programs or condemning technology. I don't have a problem with technology, I just feel there should be a healthy balance between computers and the creative process, especially in the high school classroom."

Editor's Note: Perhaps it would have been more accurate to say, "Should kids go back to pen and paper for pre-writing, research and first-draft writing?" In any case, Pasley makes a strong argument that the computer and Internet are short-circuiting the five-step writing process, and his recommendation is that the computer should be withdrawn from the early stages of paper-writing (granted, not *all* stages), in order to preserve those steps. Thus, the headline does not appear to misrepresent Pasley's major ideas. Let us continue the debate not on the straw man of whether kids should use computers at all but on Pasley's proposition that it should be dramatically scaled back until after the first draft is complete.