Fish is at it again, in a third installment of his “What Colleges Should Teach” series. And here is another response:
Once again, Dr. Fish, you ignore the fact that writing — real writing — is always writing *for* and writing *about*. I agreed with your first post’s implication that college writing courses often focus too much on “content”, in the form of literature, or cultural studies, or whatever. I also agree that there were certain excesses associated with the whole “Students’ Rights to Their Own Language” thing, although I would point out that learning a “new language” isn’t a value-neutral exercise. Teaching students to write academically changes them in profound ways.
But I have trouble believing that what you describe here is actually all you do in your writing courses, nor do I believe that if that’s the case, your students are learning anything worthwhile. You have described a setting in which students have no motivation to write, no content to wrestle with, and no audience to persuade or enlighten. You seem to assume that students must first work on *how* to write something, before they can move on to the *what* and *why*. In other words, you have reduced the entire rhetorical situation to stylistic exercises.
I suspect that much of your posturing here is the result of a self-manufactured literacy crisis. That is, I think you have become appalled by what you consider to be student writing that lacks the stylistic niceties you associate with good prose, and you’ve decided that it’s the job of college writing courses to fix the problem. I’m sorry that I can’t oblige you. I’m too busy trying to give my students reasons to write and guiding them toward more and more academic ways of framing their ideas in writing. If you’ll forgive the expression, I’ve got bigger fish to fry.