More Stanley Fish At The NY Times Blog: ‘What Should Colleges Teach-Part 3’

Full post here.

Perhaps it’s necessary to teach (drill?) a series of highly abstract rules that deepen a student’s understanding of his/her own language?
Fish points out:

By all the evidence, high schools and middle schools are not teaching writing skills in an effective way, if they are teaching them at all

There’s a lot of truth to this.  Fish, of course, goes after the usual targets:  The people who have put ideology above what may be higher goals:

‘“We affirm the students’ right to their own patterns and varieties of language — the dialects of their nurture or whatever dialects in which they find their own identity and style.”’

Yet, how do you pursue those higher goals?  Aren’t there the forces of excessive egalitarianism and individualism at work here as well?(we’re still a young, fairly uncivilized nation with a lot of open space).

Fish’s answer is pedagogical:

You have to start with a simple but deep understanding of the game, which for my purposes is the game of writing sentences. So it makes sense to begin with the question, What is a sentence anyway? My answer has two parts: (1) A sentence is an organization of items in the world. (2) A sentence is a structure of logical relationships.


As a side note, a commenter (the 3rd comment) notes:

Your arguments make sense, if one wants to become a secretary. But if I want to write well, then being forced to write by the rules destroys my creativity just as much if not more than what it teaches me.”

Yet, maybe housing creative writing in universities doesn’t help creativity much either.

See Also On This Site:  Conservative Briton Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgments apart in the humanities: Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Fish suggested keeping politics out of academia during the Ward Churchill affair:  From The Stanley Fish Blog: Ward Churchill Redux

Does it have to be political, or is that putting the cart before the horse?  Martha Nussbaum tried to tackle the humanities problem a while back: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

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