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"United Van Lines" was created in 1998 in response to a task, one I no longer assign, called "the educational autobiographic." The task, a variation on the literacy narrative/autobiography, asked students to focus on one moment (or a series of linked moments) in their histories of learning and to re-present for others, using whatever genres, materials, or media, what they learned, how, why, etc.

"United Van Lines" was composed by an engineering major enrolled in my first-year composition course. "UVL" was the student's first attempt to produce a piece of writing for school that wasn't modeled after the genres most often associated with school writing practices (i.e., the linear essay, a lab report, an essay written in response to a test question, class notes).

The piece was turned into my campus mailbox, and it was housed in a manila file folder. There was no name on or in file, but there was an invoice number on the tab of the file folder.

To date "United Van Lines" remains one of my all-time favorite texts. Since 2000 this text (along with "How Schools Suppress Creativity in Students") has been required reading in the courses I teach. Taken together, "UVL" and "How Schools" have fostered some of the most compelling (and often the most heated) discussions of the semester.

click on image to read "United Van Lines"