Friday, December 4, 2009

Topic: Teaching College Composition

10-second review: What’s wrong with college writing classrooms is that the readings which are supposed to provide models of how to write take center stage and are not used to teach writing but to expound on literature.

Title: “Opinion: Composition Studies Saves the World!” Patricia Bizzell. College English (November 2009), 174-187. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary/Quote. “ ‘…the clearest example’ of what’s desperately wrong in the academy, [is that]… in writing classrooms… ‘more often than not the anthologies of provocative readings take center stage and the actual teaching of writing is shunted to the sidelines.’ ” Quoting Stanley Fish on page 174 of this article, taken from his new book.

Comment: The writer of this article takes issue with this statement. I do not.

Way, way back in 1952, I took my only college writing course and in it I learned nothing about how to write. My classmates and I were given an anthology of writings meant to be used as models for writing and we spent the entire class time listening to the instructor expound on the items in the anthology as literature As a writing class, it was a complete waste of time. I thought that six decades later (2009), we had learned something about teaching writing. If Stanley Fish is correct, we have not.

Closely allied to this problem in teaching writing at the college level is one in which the teacher expounds a cause like Feminism or some other do-goodism. Disagree with the instructor and you will be penalized. I know of at least one case in which a friend of mine failed a composition because the instructor disagreed with my friend’s ideas and he stated clearly that that disagreement was his reason for failing my friend.

For heaven’s sake, in a writing course, teach students how to write! And instructors have no business forcing their ideas on the students. If there is not a statement of ethics opposing this practice in the writing classroom, there should be.. RayS.

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