Even Stanley Fish . . .

26 August 2009 at 8:36 am 1 comment

| Peter Klein |

. . . recognizes that politicizing the basic English composition classes — one of the crowning achievements of literary and cultural postmodernism, the movement once championed by Fish himself — wasn’t such a good idea (via George Leef):

A few years ago, when I was grading papers for a graduate literature course, I became alarmed at the inability of my students to write a clean English sentence. They could manage for about six words and then, almost invariably, the syntax (and everything else) fell apart. I became even more alarmed when I remembered that these same students were instructors in the college’s composition program. What, I wondered, could possibly be going on in their courses?

I decided to find out, and asked to see the lesson plans of the 104 sections. I read them and found that only four emphasized training in the craft of writing. Although the other 100 sections fulfilled the composition requirement, instruction in composition was not their focus. Instead, the students spent much of their time discussing novels, movies, TV shows and essays on a variety of hot-button issues — racism, sexism, immigration, globalization. These artifacts and topics are surely worthy of serious study, but they should have received it in courses that bore their name, if only as a matter of truth-in-advertising.

As I learned more about the world of composition studies, I came to the conclusion that unless writing courses focus exclusively on writing they are a sham, and I advised administrators to insist that all courses listed as courses in composition teach grammar and rhetoric and nothing else. This advice was contemptuously dismissed by the composition establishment, and I was accused of being a reactionary who knew nothing about current trends in research.

Quelle ironie!

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Education, Pomo Periscope. Tags: .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. REW  |  26 August 2009 at 12:32 pm

    It is even more ironic that the little blighters in the composition classes cannot appreciate irony, since they do not know what it is. Nor do they know much of the other rhetorical devices that make the written and spoken language a joy to read and hear.

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