Connors, Robert J. “Personal Writing Assignments.” CCC 38.2 (May 1987): 166-183.
Connors investigates at the history of the writing subjects teachers assign students from ancient times until today by looking at how textbook assignments evolved over time. He discovers a shift in the mid to late 1800s from impersonal assignments that asked students to comment on an issue in the public sphere to assignments that narrowly focus on personal feelings, ideas, and experiences. Personal writing never completely took over writing instruction, he argues, and he points to the rise of the research paper, the use of literature in composition classrooms, and the emphasis on argumentative and expository writing as proof. Connors claims that instructors must find a middle ground between personal and impersonal writing assignments, tasks that allow students to start from what they know but to branch into an larger public conversation.