Saturday, April 18, 2009

Teaching Editing by Editing Moby Dick

Education cannot be aimless, it must have a goal. I have put forth a vision for a better future for the children of Texas: the Texas Ascendant Campaign.

Writing is vital for education and for the future of Texas, as I touch upon in these blog posts:
TBAR and the Texas Journalism Project, Thursday, November 27, 2008
The Texas Publishing Project, Sunday, December 14, 2008
Publishing Business Novels, Thursday, February 12, 2009

Publishing needs editors, and one great way to teach editing and combine it with a literature study for a one-semester course would be to edit Moby Dick by Herman Melville. It is a fabulous book with many powerful sentences, but entire chapters should be cut.

An advanced class could study the book, discuss and vote first on what chapters to cut entirely, next discuss what chapters should be thinned by deleting slow sections or slow paragraphs. So many sentences are masterpieces, it seems dangerous to even consider rewriting sentences, but it could be a topic for discussion.

When the editing of Moby Dick is completed, it would not cost much money to publish it electronically. It could be distributed on as Moby Dick, the Plano Edition. The book could contain a description of the project and perhaps could contain an essay or two from project members. There are not that many abridged versions. That it was abridged by high school students would make it distinctive. Obviously, our kids would do great job and the Plano Edition of Moby Dick would increase the stature of our high schools on the national level.

Art students could submit illustrations for the book. Art students could use computer graphics and create an animated version of the Plano Edition of this work. Theater students could record Moby Dick, the Plano Edition, and the audio version could also be sold.

Done well, an "Editing Moby Dick" project would bring more distinction to our schools. It could raise revenue for the district and give our children an introduction to the business side of publishing. Moby Dick is a classic in American literature. Spending serious time and effort with Moby Dick could be a great joy and a good learning experience. Perhaps a graduate of such an editing project might start a highly successful publishing company in Plano that would sell on the national and international markets.

Notice how a project like this could use technology without being only about technology. This is one way we can prepare our children for the future with skills that can be learned in a highly rewarding manner and that could lead to a career in publishing.

Robert Canright