Monday, December 20, 2010

Topic: Indoctrination in Teaching English

10-second review: Book review of Stanley Fish’s Save the World on Your Own Time. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008, 208 pp. Teach skills, don’t indoctrinate with your personal activism.

Quote: “In his latest publication, Save the World on Your Own Time, Stanley Fish asserts that we instructors should have only one goal in the classroom: intellectual inquiry. We should not think of ourselves as agents of social change. According to Fish, our job is not to indoctrinate our students with any moral thinking or even to provoke sympathy and compassion. If we stick to, as he calls it, ‘academicizing,’ then we only ‘introduce students to the disciplinary materials and equip them with the necessary analytic skills’ (153). In the case of first-year writing, this focus would be on language, not readings or outside ideas of any sort (especially those that are politically charged).”

Quote: “…Fish bluntly accuses those of us who do not have a grammar-focused classroom as irresponsible activist who place our ideologies before our actual jobs as writing instructors.”

Comment: I couldn’t agree more. Students are captive audiences. I have read articles in professional journals in which instructors have said that students either agree with the teachers’ activist positions on such themes as sex-fairness or they will suffer penalties like close reading to find mistakes. That is wrong, wrong, wrong! Students sign up for writing courses to learn how to write. That’s the teacher’s job. Injecting activist positions with which agreement is mandatory is miles out of line and should be forbidden by a code of ethics, which, in the teaching of English, I understand, does not exist. RayS.

Reviewed by DR Shank. Teaching English in the Two-Year College (September 2010). Pp. 85-87.

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