Teaching writing

by Jess

I find it no small coincidence that the day after I applied to teach English Comp at a local community college, I happened upon Stanley Fish’s article “What Should Colleges Teach?”  He discusses the alarming problem of American college students’ inability to write correctly and coherently, and he discusses the ACTA white paper on gen ed requirements.  He agrees with ACTA’s opinion that “credit for requiring composition will not be given for courses that are ‘writing intensive’ (there is a significant amount of writing required but the focus is on some substantive topic), or for courses in disciplines other than English and composition (often termed ‘writing in the discipline’ courses), or for courses in public speaking, or for remedial courses. In order to qualify, a course must be devoted to ‘grammar, style, clarity, and argument.'”  Some of the comments on the article make a good point, though, that these basic building blocks of writing should be taught in middle and high school, and if students still need this type of instruction at the college level, they should take remedial courses.  I don’t know which is the better way, but if I get this job, I suppose I had better figure it out!

I certainly agree with one commenter, though, a certain Robin T., who says, “Moreover, learning to write is learning to think: to describe, compare and contrast, reason, argue and persuade. Young people who can’t write can’t think analytically or critically, either. They have never used to use language to identify and develop ideas.”  Holla back, Robin T.