Stanley Fish sticks to his "core"
Every time Stanley Fish ventures into the god topic he fails miserably and he aggravates me beyond belief. But to show I’m not a bigot regarding him I have to applaud his latest piece in the New York Times. He often writes on educational policy and I often find myself agreeing with him. Here he argues that writing courses should teach students how to write. I know it seems obvious but if only more colleges thought so.
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.